If The Brickyard Downtown were an online date, it’d be a handsome professional with a snazzy car and a six-figure salary.
Sure, he’s had a little work done – the circa-1912 former newspaper office was renovated to expose brick walls and concrete floors. And there are red flags such as the “shared plates” affectation (typical translation: tiny servings, full prices) and gastronomy buzz phrases like “lemon foam” and “wasabi-scented.” But despite the hints of cheesy self-consciousness, The Brickyard has a good soul and is definitely worth a repeat date.
Owners Gavin Jacobs (of Vintage 95 wine bar) and Elliott Hall work hard to balance style and substance. This isn’t just another historic building turned hipster lounge. The cocktail program is sophisticated yet fun, and chef Aaron Rickel, who worked alongside Beau MacMillan at Sanctuary on Camelback Mountain, delivers innovative and beautifully presented tapas. Every dish looks picture-perfect, down to the last edible flower garnish or artistically placed soy droplet. Consider the tuna appetizer ($15). Lightly seared, with a zingy pepper crust, the cleanness of the fish is brightened by citrusy ginger foam. Granny Smith apples provide crunch and a hint of sourness, while avocado purée grounds the dish. The shishitos ($8) are similarly addictive. Piled in a bowl edamame-style with a soy-caramel glaze, the petite peppers are as snackable as buttered popcorn.
The Brickyard’s focus is on shareable nibbles; thankfully, there’s not a bad one in the bunch. Fried artichokes with creamy butter sauce are crisp and tangy, charred octopus tentacles are fork-tender, and the vanilla aioli of prosciutto-wrapped prawns is downright decadent, which also goes for the pork belly skewers with honey-soy glaze. Each dish is $12. Even the steak and quail egg carpaccio ($13), a scary prospect for non-gourmands, has universal appeal with its tender marinated beef slices and silky truffle sauce. The only stumbles are a few trendy accompaniments – “green tea powder” with the pork belly kebabs, for example – and uncreative starters like gyoza and beef street tacos ($12 each).
Entrée selections are limited to just four choices and a trio of salads, and Rickel hits his spots. Block-cut strip loin ($24) and roasted chicken ($21) succeed thanks to a scrumptious creamy Southern jus. My dining companions hoovered the plump pink steak like it was their last supper, and even the drier poultry meat thrives in the jus.
Both the endive and pear ($8) and beet and goat cheese ($9) salads are worthwhile, the latter busting conventions with fluffy, beet-flavored marshmallows, nutty fried cheese balls, and grapefruit segments for an acidic contrast. Pair either with mixologist Bobby Kramer’s Root Beer Flip ($10), a frothy, whiskey-infused version of the dessert float. Another childhood treat, housemade churros ($7), are served with tart raspberry sauce so delectable I continued spooning it into my mouth even after the pastry had disappeared.
Everything isn’t perfect. Wait times can be long, seating is limited and you’ll have to pray for a patio booth if you don’t want to shout at your date. But the tight presentation of each dish makes up for any industrial-chic trend travesties, and The Brickyard proves more than a player with a nice pick-up line.
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