When you venture into Brick’s Smoked Meats on State Street in downtown Sarasota, have you ever noticed that the moment you pop your head in the door Big Red says “Gotcha! Now sit down and enjoy some real-deal American BBQ.”
Big Red, in case you didn’t know, is the massive smoker that’s worked tirelessly 24/7 at 200°F since Brick’s Smoked Meats opened last year. And ever since then, the entire neighborhood is treated to the irresistible aroma of smoked barbeque, making Brick’s the dining hot spot that it has become.
The room itself is an open & stylish yet rustic space that beckons individuals, families, and large groups to “set a spell and relax.”
Jill and I came in for lunch, and I was especially excited to try the new collaboration brew produced by local rockstar producers Darwin Brewing Company – Brick’s Big Red Ale. (Perfect! I mean, what else would you call it?) The new brew was commemorative of Brick’s one year anniversary and has proven to be quite popular! They sell out quickly, so don’t miss a chance to try a pint . . . or two!
So naturally, I ordered Brick’s Big Red Ale while Jill was drawn to the new Paloma, billed as Mexico’s favorite cocktail. I don’t doubt it. Patron Reposado Tequila, fresh squeezed ruby grapefruit juice (in lieu of sour mix,) fresh lime, and club soda make this a healthier version of “traditional” tequila refreshers. Jill offered me a sip, and the ruby red grapefruit literally jumps front and center of your taste buds, followed by the refined flavor of the tequila and the fresh lime.
We started our lunch extravaganza with a trio of starters, because, well, while any one choice would have satisfied us, why take a chance of second guessing ourselves and missing out on one of the other tempting selections?
The Smoked Poblano Queso with its Blanco cheese, tomato, and candied jalapeño was, is, and will continue to be my all-time favorite cheese dip. Creamy, lightly smoked, and deftly spiced the Queso is served in a small cast iron skillet, which helps hold the temperature and surrounded by fresh ‘n’ crispy tortilla chips sprinkled with salt flakes. Honestly, it is difficult to stop eating once you take a scoop or two, or three . . . You get where I’m going! The fried candied jalapeños are such a tasty touch to this creamy queso.
The Bacon Burnt Ends had Jill and I almost dueling with toothpicks to get at them. Our affable, knowledgeable server, Weston, patiently explained that the thickly cut pork belly pieces are first tossed in a house dry rub, smoked for a full 2 hours, then flash-fried, before finally tossed in Brick’s sweet house-made BBQ sauce. The whole process takes about 3 hours, so the kitchen has to be on their culinary toes to always have an ample supply on hand of this enormously popular item. (Random thought – Are you hiring a full-time Bacon Burnt Ends quality control guy? Just asking “for a friend,” mind you.) While we enjoyed them as a shared appetizer, you can also order them in the “Bently of Tacos,” only at Brick’s.
Our third starter was the Fried Pickles & Peppers that were lightly dusted with cornmeal and fried to a crispy glorious perfection. Served with a hatch chili ranch dip, and a creamy horseradish sauce, I had to slap my own wrist to stop eating them, knowing that we still had the “main event” items coming.
Jill and I both ordered the Meat & Meat trays, with Jill’s being Smoked Turkey Breast and Pulled Pork. She pronounced her turkey to being absolutely perfectly moist and full of flavor, and the pork was a definite smoky “win.” She squirted a dollop of each of Brick’s barbeque sauces, curious whether she preferred one over the other. In the end, she was a fan of all three, though, she noted, both proteins were pretty special on their own.
The two sides she ordered were Brick’s Pit-Smoked Beans – a sweet bite of Texas goodness complete with house smoked bacon, roasted jalapeño, crispy onion, and cotija cheese. No “flavor stone” unturned here!
Jill’s Smashed Potato Salad had me reaching across the table as well. This staple dish incorporated horseradish, mayo, grainy mustard, onions, and celery was definitely a winner, and something I will come back for (and lie that I made it,) for our next pot-luck dinner.
My main course was a veritable stack of Smoked Baby Back Ribs and USDA Prime Brisket, itself an 18-hour process!
Low and slow wins the race here my friends. Each meaty bite was as delicious as its bark (pun intended) and the aforementioned Big Red Ale paired perfectly with the robust, smoky, and insanely delicious Texas-sized feast. I think I’ll order another!
My sides included the Lone Star Caviar, shown at the bottom of the photo. This crunchy salad is built on black beans, black-eyed peas, corn, peppadew, jalapeño and onion and then tossed with a lime vinaigrette. There are a few different takes on this Texas classic, but none locally that can beat Brick’s version.
The Pimento Mac’n Cheese also made it on my tray, this being one of the three hot sides available at Brick’s. Cheddar, smoked gouda and pimento cheese blend with jalapeño and macaroni, making for a gooey mac’n cheese with just a hint of spicy hotness.
Now, of course, it was Weston’s sworn duty to offer dessert, and even as sated as we were, we didn’t offer up much resistance to agree on two Banana Pudding Brûlées. All I can say is . . . Yum!
The only thing that would make these better is … nothing! They were appropriately sized even after I (sort of) convinced myself that I was full. A graham cracker base in the small Mason Jar, banana pudding and topped with sliced banana, and sugar torched to a lovely crispiness was just the exclamation point I needed to end this beautiful meal.
In closing, kudos to the Brick’s Smoked Meats team on their first anniversary, and for keeping it real with everyone’s favorite All-American eats. You can count us as huge fans for years to come!