Thursday Barlogue: Brick and Mortar, Philadelphia, PA
A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of having dinner with my daughter at Brick and Mortar after a visit to the Philadelphia Flower Show. Located in the first block north of Vine Street, the restaurant was just a short walk from the convention center. I was immediately impressed with the vibe of the place the minute we walked through the door. There was a cool industrial feel to things like the concrete warehouse ceiling with exposed pipes, but the colors, the warm wood tones everywhere, and the friendly atmosphere was warm and inviting. We had a wonderful meal with great drinks and I knew I wanted to come back to do a Barlogue.
I returned to meet with beverage director Brennan Adams, who brings to Brick and Mortar many years of experience both working behind bars and on the brand and sales side of the industry. My first thoughts when he handed me the new Spring cocktail menu was that it was straightforward, fun, and super approachable. Beginning with the names of the drinks, like Buck, Mule, and Old Fashion, and finishing with the simplicity and recognizability of the ingredients, it’s a list that anyone would immediately feel comfortable navigating. There are other cocktails with fun names like Hot Spur and Denim Tuxedo, and a trio of drinks named after regulars at the bar, each one with a story behind it. Most drinks have little to no garnish. According to Adams, removing all the unnecessary aspects of making cocktails that are overdone in many other places, creates just the type of approachability that I’d picked up on so quickly. Guests are not afraid to ask questions because the bar atmosphere is so open and relaxed. The ingredients are listed right on the menu for all the drinks, and they include a number of house made syrups and tinctures, as well as freshly squeezed juices. Adams insists that every drink be made with precision, believing as I do that it’s the only way to insure consistency and quality. My first cocktail was a Hot Spur made with blanco tequila, fresh lime juice, fresh ginger syrup, angostura bitters, and a sichuan tincture. It was a funky and spicy drink, with an intense, yet perfect blend of flavors that was nothing short of fabulous.
The wine program at Brick and Mortar is equally impressive. The “on tap” choices include a Rosé Prosecco, a Barbera, a Nebbiolo, and an Arneis, all of which are unusual, yet very food friendly wines. This trend continues in the wines by the bottle where Adams has included selections that are different from what most guests are accustomed to seeing, while remaining approachable and working very well with the food menu. There are no descriptions included on the list itself, but the bar and wait staff are knowledgeable, well-versed, and more than willing to help guests with their choices. The beer list is quite comprehensive and offers lots of variety and interesting options, as well as old standards. Some of the category descriptions on the list like “You’re Crazy … but I Like You” and “Come to the Dark Side” made me smile, and I was reminded of the fact that it’s those kinds of small touches that can make a beverage list so memorable for guests, which in turn makes them comfortable in coming back again.
Chef Michael O’Mara’a food program is very much like the beverage program in that it offers a fun, straightforward, and affordable selection of several different cuisines, using high quality ingredients and serving up impressive portion sizes. Tuna tartare is one of my favorite things in the world. I’ve had it at Brick and Mortar twice now, and both times I was wowed by the freshness, flavor, and presentation, as well as the amount of food that was in front of me. I also had the Mandarin Salad during my second visit, and I don’t think I left a single morsel behind on my plate. It was that good!
After I finished up my conversation with Adams, I sat and lingered at the bar over another cocktail, while watching the two bartenders, Josiah and Joanna work their magic. This time around I had the Denim Tuxedo made with blanco tequila, lime juice, and a lavender syrup that was absolutely off the charts. This particular cocktail could be lots of trouble because it goes down very easily and has phenomenal flavor! I enjoyed the time I spent at Brick and Mortar very much. Brennan Adams is obviously passionate about the programs he directs; it’s evident in every item on his menus. While we were talking, he mentioned the word hospitality to me and it struck a chord. Restaurants and bars often get caught up in appearances only, and forget that what truly drives this business is the way in which a guest is treated. We are willing to suffer through mediocre food and drinks if we feel like we’ve had a great experience. Brick and Mortar offers the complete package. The food and drinks are amazing, AND the service and atmosphere will make you want to return again and again. It doesn’t get much better than that.
Brick and Mortar 315 N. 12th Street Philadelphia, PA 215.923.1596