There must be an artist running the brand-new smoker at Brick House Kitchen
By Richard Foss (Richard@RichardFoss.com)
You might figure that there’s no better way to get the feel of Venice than to walk down Abbot Kinney Boulevard. The excitement of the area is reflected in the constantly changing restaurant scene — year in and year out there are new chefs, new names and new ideas.
Or you can get in touch with the real neighborhood — the one with a more easygoing, bohemian vibe — by heading a block west and visiting Brick House Kitchen. This café has been in business for more than 20 years and hasn’t changed much; the biggest news in over a decade happened about two months ago, when they stopped serving pizzas and shifted to offering barbecue.
But you better move quickly. The restaurant announced this week that it will close by the end of the month, with hopes to return someday at another location.
Unlike most restaurants near Abbot Kinney, Brick House Kitchen has its own parking lot. On a recent morning we got a cheery welcome from a server who handed us menus and then raced to serve another table. We soon figured out that she was so busy because she was working alone on a Saturday morning. Perhaps someone else didn’t show up for work, but she sure put a lot of mileage on her sneakers serving the inside and outside tables by herself.
The rest of my party was fixated on breakfast and ordered a breakfast burrito as well as a tomato, spinach and feta omelet, and eggs Florentine — a common variation on eggs Benedict that, at Brick House, is poached eggs with spinach, ham and mushrooms in mushroom cream sauce on olive bread. I always find it difficult to resist barbecue, and after our server checked with the kitchen she told me they could serve me a half-rack of ribs. I couldn’t resist and added a bowl of baked beans with chorizo on the side.
Whether the kitchen was as understaffed that day as the front of the house, went well out of its way for my request or simply moves at a leisurely pace, it took some time for our meal to arrive — but when it did everything was hot. The chips with the burrito were freshly made and warm, the greens on the Florentine fresh, so things had not sat under a heat lamp.
The Florentine was the best of the breakfast-style items, the sauce flavorful and the egg poached to the standards of the very-picky-about-these-things person who had ordered it. We liked the hashed browns, too — they’re made to order and can be ordered with or without bell pepper and onion.
The breakfast burrito was huge and stuffed to the structural limits of the tortilla with hashed browns, eggs, black beans, bacon and both cheddar and mozzarella cheese. It was decent if slightly bland — salsa was available on the side, but a dash of sauce or spice in the burrito would have been welcome. As for the omelet, it came with fruit and toast and was big, fluffy and nicely stuffed, which is all one can ask for.
While there are relatively few ways to make an omelet (you either do it right or you don’t), there’s a lot of latitude for both creativity and regional expression when it comes to barbecue. Whether the meat is rubbed with spices before cooking, what type of wood is used, the decision to smoke it before going to full heat, the amount of chili and vinegar in the sauce — many books have been written on this subject, with too many variations to mention in a single review.
At Brick House they rub the ribs with spice and slow-smoke them, adding a thick, peppery sauce just before serving. This style of barbecue is usually associated with Texas, and as someone who has enjoyed a lot of Lone Star State ‘que in its native habitat, I have to say that they got it right. The rack was meaty and substantial; the meat had been rubbed with mild spices, then slow-smoked so that it was tender but not quite falling off the bone. The sauce had a kick of red pepper, black pepper and other spices but wasn’t hot just for heat’s sake. All in all it was surprisingly good and authentic, certainly in the running for the title of Best Barbecue West of the 405. I’ll get the sauce served on the side next time so I can sample the meat on its own; I’d certainly have this again. I’d order the beans too, because the subtle hint of chorizo flavor was a nice touch.
We finished with a berry crepe, a delightful extravagance that was dusted with powdered sugar and served with freshly whipped cream. The lacy pancake stuffed with fresh strawberries and blueberries was a delightful finish.
The bill for the four of us with one dessert and coffees was $75. Had we ordered this at one of the places on Abbot Kinney I would have expected to pay rather
more for it. I certainly hope to try their other barbecue items and sides, because based on this experience there’s an artist running their smoker.
Brick House Kitchen 826 Hampton Drive, Venice (310) 581-1639 brickhousevenice.com
Note: The menu posted online is not current.