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Little Barn: Contemporary, Upscale Pub Fare

Special To The Courant

Fall days and nights, we want to stay outside as long as we can. Standing before the outdoor stone fireplace at Little Barn, or sitting beneath tables warmed by heat-lamps, meets that need and more — a cup of whiskey-spiked cider warming our hands.

The casual American pub opened a year ago, transforming what old Westporters remember as the old Dairy Queen into a rustic, wood-lined barn with a bar and dining room. (There's a DQ Burger on the menu, and a Swanky Franks dog, a nod to another incarnation). But this pub's menu rises above burgers and dogs, and on a recent visit, I found well-executed contemporary American food at diner prices.

Chef Jeff Spence is also the chef at the Chelsea in Fairfield, and restaurateur Scott Beck co-owns both places. Little Barn's Fall menu offers a giant pretzel with honey mustard sand spicy stout dipping sauce. The local Thimble Island pumpkin porter is a dark, coffee-scented brew that mercifully doesn't taste of "pumpkin spices."

Tacos go great by the fire, too. But warning: a lone taco ($3.95) is a sad sight. And the big flavor in this small taco will make you want more. The beef taco presented the ideal proportion of grilled filet tips, roasted pineapple, guacamole, salsa and micro cilantro in a warm, soft, corn tortilla. Bliss. The curried shrimp taco offered sweet, spicy, tender shrimp on a bed of a creamy Greek-yogurt and cucumber.

Inside Little Barn, there's a 10-seat bar and high-topped tables in a windowed room. The dining room has a fireplace too.The worn-wood walls are decorated with a collection of vintage license plates from all but two states.

Little Barn's chicken pot pie ($15.95) is served in a cast-iron pan topped with puffy, brown pastry. It smelled wonderful as I cut into it, scents of thyme and sage flavoring a rich cream sauce covering a generous serving of braised chicken. The sautéed onions and peas blended in, and I wished for more sauce just because it was so yummy. The pot pie is large enough for sharing, especially with one of fall salads, like raw shaved Brussels sprouts with apples and pumpkins seeds.

Desserts continue the homey theme with warm brownie topped with whipped cream, ice cream and caramel sauce. Cookie dough bites, filled with melted chocolate chips, served with vanilla gelato, are an over-the-top sweet, deep-fried indulgence. So we tried adult dessert drink, a Dublin Float, a scoop of coffee ice cream and caramel sauce in a Guinness. We wanted to like it, but the sweetness of the ice cream enhanced the bitterness of the stout, and the caramel sauce concealed at the bottom of the mug.

Pumpkin pie to the rescue. Little Barn's pumpkin pie was light and the bottom crust was crisp.

>>Little Barn, 1050 Post Road, Westport, is open Sunday through Thursday, 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. Information: 203-557-8501 and

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