Restaurant review: Brick is a solid addition to the Brewery District

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From the May 29, 2014 edition

Brick: An American Kitchen has the kind of serious-sounding name that might lead you to believe it sees itself as an IMPORTANT eatery. Well it doesn’t, and it isn’t. In fact, though it’s housed in a Columbus landmark, Brick’s ambitions don’t exceed “friendly sports bar/restaurant with flavorful mainstream food served in a historic setting.” On these counts — as well as offering good value — Brick succeeds.

Formerly Handke’s, McCasky’s, Jack Whitney’s, Schlee Brewery and who knows what other doomed things, Brick — which isn’t affiliated with those previous businesses — inhabits a uniquely inviting building erected in 1883. Fortunately (and paraphrasing Faulkner), the past isn’t dead at Brick, because it lives on in the place’s quirky contours, barrel-vaulted downstairs space, and striking upstairs tiles, which spell out “Pete’s” opposite a long and classic-looking wooden bar (Brick was also once Pete’s Steakhouse). Actually, about the only visual indicators new restaurant owners currently control this well-preserved old edifice are swaths of red and the letter “B.”

Also in the house now is a perplexingly pedestrian wine list, a good (if not exactly local-loving) bottled beer selection and six taps whose sole hometown representations (unless you count Bud Light, and I don’t) are Four String Brass Knuckle and CBC’s IPA. These drafts go for $6, unless you happen in during Brick’s generous happy hour (4-7 p.m. Tuesdays-Saturdays), when they — along with all appetizers — are half-priced.

Speaking of can-be-discounted-during-HH starters, Brick’s Meatballs ($7; all prices given will be non-HH) are hardly revelatory, but they are big, inexpensive and flavorful — and characteristic of the place in general. They were also swamped in a sweet and simple red sauce and, though not at all full of filler, had pleasant accents of garlic, cheese and herbs.

Other solid starters were an above-average Shrimp Cocktail ($9), crunchy Pretzel Bites ($6; served with zippy mustard and perfectly fine cheese sauces) sliced like thick coins and eating more like toast chips, plus Brick’s “Little Buns” (2/$7), i.e. sliders. The mini-sandwiches can be mix-and-match (pork, beef and/or meatball), and I’d score the extra-tender and zestily sauced pulled pork over the straightforward (but conscientiously hand-formed) “cheddar burgers.”

Since opening day, Brick’s paper-placemat menu has touted what it self-designates its “Famous White HOT Pasta” (was “fame” ever so gratuitously granted?), and that stuff ain’t bad. Strewn with spinach and topped with “blackened” shrimp or chicken (I went poultry; it was OK), it’s cheesey, oily and, yes, spicy. Best of all, like everything I tried here, this spaghetti dinner didn’t commit the cardinal sin of tasting bland.

Ditto for Brick’s good 7-ounce Baseball- Cut Sirloin ($15; see my CheapSteak article for a description) and two other also-served-with-a-side entrees (try the persuasive loaded potato casserole or the sharp and cuts-above mac-n-cheese). One of these main courses was the seared, sausage-y and comforting homemade Meatloaf Sandwich ($8), arriving on red-sauced Texas toast and with dark, crispy and un-greasy housemade potato chips.

The other was Tilapia in a Parmesan cheese crust ($12). A large, baked filet had effectively steamed into extreme tenderness beneath its cheesy-bread-crumbed shell. Sure, the tilapia got a bit lost beneath its flavorful crust (though tilapia as an eating fish is sorta lost to begin with), but neither it, nor its garlicky sauteed spinach partner were boring. And that’s pretty much the story of not-bad-if-you’re-in-the-area Brick: An American Kitchen.

Photo by Meghan Ralston