Everything About Brick, in Rittenhouse, Is Lovely—Except for the Food

By Brian Freedman
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 14 | Posted Jun. 13, 2012

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Try the brunch: Brick's stuffed French toast is made with cannoli cream and Baileys.

As a committed omnivore, I make it a policy never to apply human feelings or emotions to the flesh I eat. Give a cow pasture to wander through, a chicken all the space and freedom it requires. But when it comes to their slaughter, I chalk it up to a food-chain sort of thing: We’re higher up than they are, so we eat them. It’s the circle of life. Hakuna matata. Cue the Elton John.

But I have no hesitation when I say the following: The skate that I had to gnaw my way through at Brick gave its life for no apparent reason. Because I could have derived as much pleasure from a baseball mitt, or an under-hydrated flank of salt-cod. This wing was so overcooked that it had taken on the texture of dried-out chicken, was seasoned unevenly, and plated, amateurishly, with barely-roasted grapes, bland cauliflower, and a brown butter sauce as characterful as Celine Dion singing “No Sleep Till Brooklyn.”

It was just one in a series of vaguely depressing missteps. Our waitress kept on forgetting which beers were out of stock, which resulted in our having to order multiple times. The list itself is inconsistent, with some selections noted in their entirety and others simply with the brewer’s name. So which Sly Fox will you have? Which Lagunitas? You’ll have to ask; it’s not specified in writing.

The space itself retains a sense of neighborhoody sophistication, with enough light coming in from the sidewalk to brighten up the tables near the windows—as well as cozier, more indirectly lit corners to sit in that offer a greater sense of intimacy. In this sense, its balance of conviviality and romance is thoughtfully achieved and is one of the highlights of an evening there.

But the food really burrowed into my soul and elicited a deep, break-up-style depression. An order of duck nachos was a plate of—wait for it—four chips. Each was topped with a forgettable duck confit, a glop of crema, and pedestrian avocado mousse. The chips were straight from a bag and heading toward stale, and seasoned with a spice blend as electrifying as an afternoon at the DMV. There also was no perceptible acid or other sign of life in this overpriced hillock of mediocrity. Chicken fried rock shrimp were encased in a gluey carapace that was made additionally repellent by a buffalo-wing-style sauce and “Maytag aioli” whose juxtaposition of funkiness and high-toned heat did a disservice to actual Buffalo-style anything I’ve had recently.

A bowl of clams with remarkably dull chorizo proved that the addition of lots of butter does not, in fact, make everything better. Rather, when it’s unaccompanied by enough acid or seasoning (even given the white wine in it), it merely makes things heavy. The sad kernels of corn, the pieces of tomato, and the sporadic clove of roasted garlic did little to lift the occasionally gritty clams beyond the level of the piddling. Lamb burger, ostensibly a signature dish (it’s set apart from the surrounding items by a square frame on the page), was overworked to the point of meatloafiness in texture. Its crown of mahogany-toned “spicy onion jam” leaned far too heavily on an almost molasses-like sense of sweetness that obliterated the Manchego and all but a whiff of the meat’s gaminess. The fries, which I’d been hoping would redeem this Hindenburg of a sandwich, were underfried and floppy.

Desserts demonstrated the same sense of confusion in concept and carelessness in execution. The so-called “Brickwich” was a slab of flavorless ice cream slapped between two thoroughly generic chocolate-chip cookies. The brownie, also devoid of much flavor, was served in a martini glass, a trend I’d thought had mercifully died five years ago. And serving a square-edged brownie in a triangular martini glass makes the physicality of eating it unsurprisingly difficult.

This, unfortunately, seems to be a restaurant nearly devoid of a sense of guiding culinary principle. As it stands now, Brick isn’t just the name of the restaurant; it’s also a description of what you may feel like resides in your stomach after a meal here. 

1708 Lombard St. 267.639.9440. brickeatery.com

Cuisine: American.

Hours: Sun.-Tues., 5-10pm; Wed.-Sat., 5-11pm; Brunch, Sat.-Sun., 10am-3pm.

Price range: $1.50-$22.

Atmosphere: Attractive and clean-lined.

Food: Serious issues from conception through execution.

Service: Very sweet, but confused and not terribly professional.

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COMMENTS

Comments 1 - 14 of 14
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1. Anonymous said... on Jun 13, 2012 at 11:57AM

“So tell us what you really think...”

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2. Agreed said... on Jun 13, 2012 at 12:09PM

“Had a similar experience and will never go back”

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3. Disagreed said... on Jun 13, 2012 at 10:39PM

“I loved the Skate! I hope you give Brick another try. The atmosphere is so laid back and the Food amazing. This article must have been written months ago, because the "Brick" I know is great.”

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4. Modest Chef said... on Jun 13, 2012 at 10:55PM

“I don't know where you folks ate, but my wife and I just had a very good, late-evening experience at Brick. The duck salad had four large hunks of duck, perfectly cooked, moist inside, a little crust of skin on top--totally satisfying. The tuna wontons had four beautifully seared rectangles of fish, raw in the center, on large fried wontons. The greens in both cases were fresh. The only flaw was excess dressing. Overall, the kitchen at Brick knows what it's doing, and we expect to be returning.”

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5. Completely Disagree!! said... on Jun 14, 2012 at 07:39AM

“I believe the comments about the food posted in this article are completely bogus and unfair. I have eaten at Brick on MANY occasions and was never less than in love with everything I ate. If I didn't know any better, I would think Mr. Freedman had a personal vendetta against someone working at this restaurant. I, in fact, love the skate wing, and it is usually what I order. I have also enjoyed the tuna wontons, the crabcake dish, many of the brunch menu items and various specials. My friends and I consider ourselves "foodies", and try restaurants all around Philly. Obviously, there are some we don't like and some we'd like to go back to again. Brick is a restaurant that all my friends were satisfied with. I simply cannot wrap my head around the negative comments in this article, when I find the food to be so good. The song analogies aren't working for me either.”

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6. Obvious said... on Jun 14, 2012 at 10:08AM

“we can all be pretty sure that Completely Disagree = Jolly

Goto the Foobooz blog on Brick- every review negative

Face it the food stinks”

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7. Completely Disagree!! said... on Jun 14, 2012 at 03:35PM

“Actually my name is Andre DiCicco. Nice try though..”

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8. Completely Disagree!! said... on Jun 14, 2012 at 03:35PM

“Actually my name is Andre DiCicco. Nice try though..”

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9. JRS said... on Jun 15, 2012 at 04:00AM

“Hey Brian,
Brick must be giving their food away for free, either that or they sponsor an Idiot Convention everyday, because everytime I drive by there , the place is packed, YOU MORON !!! If you want to complain , go to Birra at 12th & Morris, they will give you plenty to complain about!!!





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10. Anonymous said... on Jun 15, 2012 at 11:22AM

“I disagree. I have been there twice and the fOod has been great. The service is spotty but we enjoy the food very much. Harsh review but everyone has an opinion.”

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11. Dan G said... on Jun 15, 2012 at 12:19PM

“The bias of this author of this article should be clear to anyone who has dined at Brick. Immediately, anyone with an iota of common sense should be tipped off by the glaring disparity between the article's headline and the picture of stuffed French toast. Everything is lovely except the food? Please.
I've tried just about everything on the menu and have never been disappointed. The food is always exceptional in terms of preparation and presentation. Furthermore, as a number of people posting have already pointed out, Brick is constantly packed. All those Philadelphians can't be wrong. Eat there and decide for yourself; don't rely on internet ramblings full of disappointing puns.”

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12. Anonymous said... on Jun 16, 2012 at 10:55PM

“I have to be honest while the article is a little harsh the food is marginal at best. With a location like that, the fact that the kitchen gets overwhelmed and puts out minor league, simplistic cuisine is a shame. Even though I was not impressed and neither were any of my colleagues, room for improvement is always possible and negatives can become positive. The service has been okay both times I was there but again this gentleman lacked knowledge of wine and food pairing when someone from my table asked for suggestions. This was the last time I have eaten at this establishment as there are so many in Center City that you can dine in without an issue. Perception is everything and its a madhouse in there and no managers were able to be found. Hopefully when and IF I eat there in a year or so again, management will be relevant and the food will improve.”

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13. Anonymous said... on Jun 22, 2012 at 02:19PM

“Maytag aioli is an aioli made with Maytag blue cheese - why is it in quotes here? Google had 624,000 results for Maytag aioli.”

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14. SOS said... on Jun 23, 2012 at 01:54AM

“Recently had dinner with my wife and her father. The server was very nice and considerate albeit somewhat unpolished. However, the food was terrific. I had the tuna wontons and the steak sandwich. My father in law the skate and my wife the scallops. We all tried at least a bite or two of each dish and liked every single one.

The only lasting effect of this review will be that moving forward I'll be skeptical of anything Brian Freedman writes.

As for Brick, I've spent the last week thinking of an excuse to return (with all of the amazing restaurants in Philadelphia, we try to spread the love) and will surely find one soon.”

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