I think we all agree on one thing at least – that few things are as “American” as southern barbeque, and with the summer grilling season solidly upon us, Jill and I headed downtown to the recently launched bricks & mortar version of Brick’s Smoked Meats with a group of esteemed fellow foodies.
If you have any sort of hankering for BBQ, then the moment you step into Brick’s, it’ll grab you by the nostrils with the most seductive smoky smell imaginable, which then instantly sends a signal to your brain and puts your taste buds on notice that you’ve come to the right place. If your sense of smell doesn’t sell you on Brick’s, the interior will. Brick’s is a charming restaurant, sparkling with country chic that includes authentic wind mills as ceiling fans.
After a quick tour highlighted by an introduction by Pitmaster Mark Gabrick to “Big Red,” the oak fired custom smoker where the magic happens, we were seated in the down-home chic dining room, featuring largely “community tables” and booths where family and friends, (new and old,) are served some of the best Texas style barbeque this side of, well, everywhere.
So let’s dig in, shall we? Executive Chef Keith Doherty fashioned a menu that you’ll want to go top to bottom on, that’s for sure.
Our first bites, served family style, were the smoked (surprise!) poblano queso and the house-made guacamole. Each were standouts in their own right, perfect with the house made corn chips. I could have them as apps every night, regardless of where or what I was eating! Kinda salty. Kinda crispy. Kinda…perfect!
We also sampled the Smoked Chicken Wings. These babies are smoked, (naturally!) and then fried to the perfect texture and crunchiness, before being tossed in Brick’s house sauce with a side of Hatch Chili Ranch dip. Order ’em spicy, if you’d like, but for my taste buds, perfect as-is is as perfect does. (Credit: Forrest Gump.)
There are a number of delicious cold side dishes that would be perfect as a light lunch on their own. Jill gave an early Best in Show Award to the Kale Chicken Apple salad, with its apple sour cream dressing, (!!!!!) pickled apples, mandarin pieces, chicken, orange chimichurri, and smoked pecans. (I’ll admit, this is my new fave in Kale salad world.) No mere new age recipe mash-up, this salad is beautifully composed, and tantalizingly delicious. And big kudos for mincing the kale! It really drank up that apple sour cream dressing. For Jill it was love at first bite, and reason enough for anyone to visit Brick’s Smoked Meats!
Just as satisfying was the Seafood Salad, which you can order with shrimp or grouper. Both versions come with pickled chow chow, Texas caviar (don’t ask, just enjoy) and the lime vinaigrette on the seafood salad worked magnificently with the seasoned grilled Gulf shrimp. And who doesn’t like grilled fish against a crunchy salad?
Next up was an insanely delicious sampling of Brick’s Tacos, an excellent choice for a quick bite or a light lunch, or late night snack. Brick’s offers a number of alternatives to a heaping portion of bbq or brisket, their tacos certainly taking center stage.
From left to right, (a drumroll might be appropriate here,) may I present to you the Bacon Burnt Ends (!), Grouper Taco, Smoked Portobello, and Pulled Pork Taco offerings. Pick your passion . . . There’s a BBQ Chicken, Brisket Horseradish and Hatch Chili Rib taco offered as well, meaning you could try a different taco every day of the week! Trust me on this . . . every bite drew swoons from our fellow foodies. I could wax poetic on this elevated street food, but why don’t you taste a few and let us know what YOU think! (Let me just say a fight almost broke out when my tablemate took the entire Bacon Burnt Ends taco for himself! Just sayin’.)
Next up on this astonishing parade of deliciousness was the Turkey Bacon Melt. Easily the most popular sandwich at Brick’s, the success of this dish is all about the Smoked. Turkey. Smoked. Bacon.
Another great alternative to a bbq platter, you WILL fall in love with the smoky goodness of Brick’s turkey, which is piled high and dressed with cotija cheese and cilantro, along with a sublime mustard sauce on toasted bun. Served with a marvelous chilled slaw the Turkey Bacon Ranch is every bit a Texas-sized hug-on-a-plate kind of a meal. Seconds, pleeease!
I don’t want to miss sharing about the outstanding craft cocktails served up at Brick’s Smoked Meats. Obviously there has to be some unique whiskey cocktails . . . after all, this is a barbeque joint, and Brick’s doesn’t let you down. Their Lemon Basil cocktail was a real treat, as was the Jammin’ Old Fashioned, which features Maker’s Mark with farmer’s market orange marmalade and black cherry preserves (get it? Jammin’?) That Bacon Burnt Ends taco grabbing guy at my table ordered himself a Smoked Manhattan, and let me tell you . . . you don’t have to order this to enjoy the amazing aroma of the Smoked Manhattan when that glass cloche is lifted, letting all that smoky whisky aroma waft through the restaurant!
Back to the food, I have to congratulate Pit Master Mark on the best smoked brisket I’ve enjoyed in a long, long time. You absolutely will never, ever need a knife with any of the smoked barbeque meats at Brick’s. The USDA Prime Brisket truly melts in your mouth, offering just the ideal amount of juicy fat delicately resting between the meat and a deliciously crunchy bark. Spiced with only salt and pepper, it’s the smoky flavors of oak that season the brisket, the secret is a 14 hour long ‘labor of love’ which you’ll taste in every single bite of this amazing brisket. My eyes tear up just thinking about it!
Brick’s also offers up some seriously fall-off-the-bone St. Louis Ribs, that just beg you to order a rack or two. Again, the crunchy bark enhanced by the smoky goodness from Big Red . . . so, so good.
And the protein choices don’t stop there! They also offer thick slices of that wonderful smoked turkey, pulled pork and smoked sausages, giving you a choice of their house sausage or jalapeno cheddar version. I especially loved the way the skin snapped when I cut into Brick’s sausages, which, like everything else has that great smoky taste from Big Red.
And we would be remiss if we didn’t talk about the great side dishes at Brick’s. I mentioned the Lone Star Caviar earlier in this blog, a wonderful combination of black beans, black-eye peas, corn, peppadew, jalapeno and onion mixed in a live vinaigrette. I could honestly drop a heaping spoonful on a burger and walk away a happy man!
The hot sides deserve a little love as well, especially the State Street corn, made with a crema, chipotle, line, jalapen and scallions. This is served warm and delicious in a small cast iron dish, as are the Pit Smoked Beans and the Pimento Mac n Cheese. Got a picky eater in the house? Not here. These hot sides will charm even the pickiest of little buckeroos, not only for the taste, but the presentation. Perfection in a skillet!
As while I’m talking about delightful presentation, I’ll skip right over to dessert, where Brick’s serves a choice of a Brulee Banana Pudding, Mojito Lime Pie and S’mores, all in Mason Jar Minis. Jill thought the Brulee Banana Pudding took her back to deserts her mom made at home . . . without the torch touch, while I was gob smacked by the flavors in the Mojito Lime Pie. Wow! The tang really sets this dessert apart for other ‘key-lime pie’ recipes. The S’more dessert is one of those “Gotta have it. It’s a Barbeque!” classics. Rather than a chocolate bar, Brick’s S’more offers a luscious chocolate mouse with a marshmallow fluff toasted to gooey perfection. Just so you know, I’m stealing all these ideas for the next time I want to impress guests at home. (I’ll actually order them from Brick’s and pretend I made them. . . I’m okay with that!)
As you might guess, your SarasotaFoodies eat out quite a bit, and it’s pretty rare for us to go back to a restaurant twice in the same MONTH, let alone 2 days later. But that’s exactly what we did. The memories of that brisket was too much to ignore, so off we went.
And who would we see when we got there? That Bacon Burnt Ends- nabbing, Smoked Manhattan-ordering dude we met two days before.
“Why am I not surprised to see you here again,” he said. “This is our THIRD time this week!”
“Well, we’re ordering take out, but, ” I challenged him, “I hope you ordered a Bacon Burnt Ends taco . . . because I’m going to nab it when we walk out the door.”
But dang, he got me. I think he ordered ribs, and my hands were full with more delicious Brick’s Smoked Meats as I could handle.
Driving home I had a brilliant idea . . . someone should create a Brick’s Smoked Meats air freshener for your car. I can’t believe we made it all the way home without pulling over and diving into that brisket. Just another “grab you by the nostrils” moment from Brick’s!