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Brick & Mortar

d
dfan Dec 16, 2011 05:56 AM

This is the new bar in Central Square in the old Enormous Room space (569 Mass Ave, just to the left of Central Kitchen) and I can confirm that they are open for business.

I stopped by Thursday night (their third day of operation), at around 10:30. There were a decent number of people there, given that it doesn't even have a sign yet (although maybe some of them came in thinking it was still the Enormous Room) - the bar was mostly full, with scattered people at the tables.

Decor seemed possibly a little sterile but it will probably warm up with more people in it. The bartop is copper and in an interesting arch shape. Ziggy Stardust was playing on the turntable (yes, a turntable), slightly loud for my middle-aged ears.

I had a Teardrop (Cardamaro, Ransom Old Tom gin, Averna, absinthe) and my companion had a Bullet For Fredo (aged grappa, dry vermouth, campari - apparently premade, since it was poured from a bottle); both were excellent. Bartenders were friendly but didn't really engage beyond handing us menus and taking orders. I didn't recognize them from elsewhere but I don't tour a lot of bars beyond Cambridge. Misty was hanging out but wasn't tending bar.

The cocktail menu itself was a little smaller than I had anticipated but everything looked interesting - I don't remember anything that was just a slight Manhattan variant or something. I assume that ad libbing is not a problem but everyone seemed to be ordering from the menu. There were around 5 beers on tap, all local. Cocktails were all $10.

The food menu was bigger than I had predicted, with over a dozen items that looked pretty interesting. Sadly I don't remember any of them and didn't take a picture. Everything's app-sized but if the execution is good I could imagine making a meal of them.

My stay was very enjoyable. I imagine that Brick & Mortar will release a little bit of the pressure from Craigie, which is great (I would like to be able to go to Craigie without worrying that there's a long line for the bar, and I'd also be happy to go here instead!).

My hopes for the future:
- Atmosphere warms up a bit with more patrons
- The cocktail menu expands a little and/or rotates frequently
- Bartenders turn out to be into dialogue with customers
- The food turns out to be good

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  1. d
    DoubleMan RE: dfan Dec 16, 2011 06:28 AM

    That Bullet for Fredo should have a 2 drink max warning. It's premade and chilled because it is completely undiluted for service - no stirring, shaking, rocks, etc. - just pure booze.

    9 Replies
    1. re: DoubleMan
      Bob Dobalina RE: DoubleMan Dec 16, 2011 07:19 AM

      I don't understand your comment. Why would it get a warning vs. say a martini?

      1. re: Bob Dobalina
        d
        dfan RE: Bob Dobalina Dec 16, 2011 08:26 AM

        Most mixed drinks (martinis included) are diluted from the ice used to chill them. A typical cocktail is 1/4 water by the time it ends up in your glass (which is a good thing).

        1. re: dfan
          Bob Dobalina RE: dfan Dec 16, 2011 09:13 AM

          Thank you - I capece.

          1. re: Bob Dobalina
            d
            DoubleMan RE: Bob Dobalina Dec 16, 2011 11:26 AM

            It's a pretty unusual approach and surprising for people used to dilution.

            Overall the menu is definitely for serious drinkers. There are only a couple cocktails with citrus on the entire list, everything else is liquor and some sort of bitter. I prefer that style, but many people will not (and I will be fine if they continue to crowd Drink and ES instead).

      2. re: DoubleMan
        yarm RE: DoubleMan Dec 17, 2011 04:53 PM

        It's 2 parts Grappa at 100 proof, 2 parts Noilly Prat Dry Vermouth at 36%, 1 part Campari at 48 proof = 64 proof total. Not sure how big the glass was but I'd reckon it's a 4 ouncer (perfect for a 3 oz drink shaken/stirred to 4 oz final). Since a normal unit of alcohol is 1 1/2 oz at 80 proof, this comes in at 2.1 units packed with deliciousness. Or about the strength of a 3 oz pre-chill 4 oz final volume vodka/gin Martini with almost no vermouth.

        The drink should be tried if only for the grappa which spent 5 years in oak and has a tobacco-chocolate note to it! My write-up about it will be forthcoming (perhaps next week)

        http://cocktailvirgin.blogspot.com/

        1. re: yarm
          barleywino RE: yarm Jan 10, 2012 05:00 PM

          That is a delicious drink!

          1. re: barleywino
            MichaelB RE: barleywino Jan 10, 2012 08:11 PM

            I agree - that is a seriously delicious drink, though I also agree with DoubleMan above that it packs quite a punch, especially for something that goes down so easy. But those chocolate notes are fantastic. I went there with some friends last week and really liked the place overall. The fried brussels sprouts were tasty, as were two crostini we tried: eggplant with fried capers and a white anchovy/"burnt" tomato/goat cheese combo. (Tasty but rather boutique-priced at $9 for an order of two crostini.)

            Very solicitous service and the crowd, at least on a friday right after work, was pretty low-key, although it was picking up as we left sometime after 8. I'd certainly go back for drinks and also to see if the duck hash on the menu is as delicious as I hope it could be.

            1. re: MichaelB
              jgg13 RE: MichaelB Jan 11, 2012 05:51 AM

              When I had the duck hash it was pretty tasty but VERY salty, and I'm a salt fiend. Worked well considering that I was a few drinks in, but not sure I'd have enjoyed it as much otherwise.

        2. re: DoubleMan
          StriperGuy RE: DoubleMan Dec 26, 2011 08:03 AM

          Of course Campari and vermouth are lower in alcohol, so even accounting for dilution, your are probably still below say a dry martini in alcohol content.

        3. barleywino RE: dfan Dec 16, 2011 11:30 AM

          Enjoyed the Sentimental Gentleman and the Low Rider. Thought the Teardrop was somewhat overpowered by the absinthe, but i'm sure that's just me. Fritto misto was good. Bone marrow portion was tiny. Noodles were OK although meatballs were pretty dry. Apps were not cheap.

          1. rlh RE: dfan Dec 16, 2011 12:37 PM

            I too enjoyed stopping in much earlier last night - enjoyed the drinks from the short menu I had but wasn't blown away by either - enjoyed the custom Bols Hanky Panky more - Misty was warm and friendly as always and the other two bartenders were fine given that it was the first time I ever met them.

            The bar itself is an interesting shape and covered in copper - and several taps with interesting drafts were a very welcome sight not so common at "craft cocktail" bars. It's a dark and unfinished, sort of divey feel - which I liked. The vinyl-based music is also unique and interesting.

            The food was good to great - tasty chips and garlicky dip (not enough of it for the amount of chips), single fried oyster mini po' boy (really bready but it was good brioche), and awesome spicy fried brussel sprouts - a big serving of Indian-influenced crispy nuggets - definitely a repeat.

            1. yarm RE: dfan Dec 17, 2011 05:02 PM

              The night I was there, Evan Harrison (ex-Independent & Deep Ellum) was one of the bartenders and there was a tall woman with tattoos who I did not recognize. Emily Stanley bartends there (ex-Deep Ellum, Green Street, etc.) also but she is less tall but with more tattoos.

              The copper bar top is quite beautiful but it already showed signs of tarnishing. It will probably be an effort to maintain. The oval shape is kind of good since no seat stares at a wall of booze 6 feet away from you. Lots of tables with waiter/waitress service. The bottles are visible but not prominent. They do have to work on a workable storage system so that they don't need to fetch a flashlight to get Cherry Heering or other. The decor is stark as brick and mortar is also a visual besides a name. I hadn't been in that space since it was an Indian restaurant (never made it to the Enormous Room).

              The drink menu was small, but it is comparable to the two other bars that opened this month -- Hawthorne and Backbar (both of which have 10 drink menus or so). Knowing Misty and how she and Dylan expanded the Green Street menu to 6 full pages, I expect either a highly rotating list of drinks or an expanded menu in the future after the kinks are worked out. When I spoke to Misty, it made it sound like she had many drinks worked out. She makes the recipe and picks out a name from Patrick Sullivan's name book which seems to make both of them happy.

              Overall, the vibe was lowkey and non-pretentious. Evan had no problem crafting a vodka-pomegranate drink for the guy to my left with zero sign of attitude. I liked that the music wasn't blaring and I could hear people a few seats down without a problem (has been a problem at Drink, Eastern Standard, Bukowskis, and elsewhere).

              http://cocktailvirgin.blogspot.com/

              1. m
                mrsx RE: dfan Dec 18, 2011 09:15 AM

                ha - i was there for ziggy stardust too. i like the idea of the vinyl behind the bar but i was wondering about the feasibility of keeping it going when they get busy... tho i'm sure there's an ipod dock lurking nearby.

                tried the sister mary off the cocktail menu and it was good but too sweet for my taste... followed with refreshing margarita. friend enjoyed a few moscow mules. i thought a lot of the snacks sounded promising; we tried the warm raclette app, which was good except that its cornichons and pickled onions weren't the best match for my beverage - my fault, not theirs!

                i don't think the decor is the *least* bit divey. "spartan chic" maybe. it was great to see misty and patrick alongside gary and i'll be back but my first visit didn't leave me with the warm cozy "i'll be a regular here" vibe...

                1 Reply
                1. re: mrsx
                  yarm RE: mrsx Dec 18, 2011 10:44 AM

                  Flipping a record every 25 minutes and putting a new one on every 50 minutes is 20 seconds and 60 seconds, respectively, assuming that they have the next record picked out. DJing with records isn't that hard from what I recall from my years of being a college radio DJ, and doing it with full album sides is easier than with 2 minute punk songs.

                  I was curious about the SIster Mary but it did read like it was going to be rather sweet with two liqueurs to one citrus (depending on the proportions).

                  Warm and cozy wasn't what I got either, but solid, no nonsense, quality craftsmanship bar akin to Misty's work at Green Street or Evan's at the Independent was what I walked away with.

                2. Dave MP RE: dfan Dec 19, 2011 02:39 PM

                  Anyone know if they have a website and/or a phone number? Looking for info, but can't find anything....

                  Thanks!
                  Dave MP

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Dave MP
                    yarm RE: Dave MP Dec 19, 2011 04:02 PM

                    No website and no phone number that I can see. Considering that they don't even have a sign on their door, I wouldn't be surprised if they are just working off of word of mouth and the media alone. It opens at 5pm and closes either at 1 or 2am.

                    http://cocktailvirgin.blogspot.com/

                  2. d
                    dfan RE: dfan Dec 26, 2011 07:31 AM

                    We went back exactly one week later (also 10:30pm on a Thursday) and it was completely mobbed (people were walking in, taking a look around at the crowd, and walking back out), largely by a non-cocktail crowd (beer and shots). I certainly don't begrudge them success, but I hope for my own sake it calms down a bit or I'll have to start going at 5:00 on Mondays. I thought Brick & Mortar might relieve the bar pressure at Craigie; looks like instead it relieved the pressure at Middlesex and Phoenix Landing. Our drinks were excellent again and it looked like the menu had already turned over slightly.

                    8 Replies
                    1. re: dfan
                      jgg13 RE: dfan Dec 26, 2011 04:00 PM

                      I went on Friday and it was pretty empty, granted that was xmas eve-eve. I had a really good time but if it's consistently crowded I'm not going to bother, I don't do packed bars anymore, even ones that have people like Misty & Evan working there.

                      1. re: jgg13
                        jgg13 RE: jgg13 Dec 31, 2011 06:25 AM

                        Went again last night and it wasn't quite as empty but was "about right" for what I'd want in that the bar was about 95% full and most of the tables were taken but people weren't milling around. One exception was that a Bustonian rolled up and deposited a few dozen people which got annoying, our drink order that had just been placed took over 30 minutes (I understood why, but some sort of acknowledgment on hteir part would have been nice).

                        Overall I like the place.

                        1. re: jgg13
                          yarm RE: jgg13 Dec 31, 2011 09:52 AM

                          I was there last night too but on the early side. The drink that Evan made me was on the money. I didn't quite appreciate the other bartender's making my batched-in-bottle drink by stirring 2 oz of mix instead of 3 like the recipe I was given reads and all their other drinks are (I watched her use the 1 oz jigger twice and then compared photos of the first and second drinks in same rocks glasses which confirmed it). Maybe their training program isn't up to snuff yet, so I'll be a bit pickier about who I order a drink from next time.

                          The bar was mostly filled around 6pm and people only began to sit at the tables by the time I was leaving at 7:30pm.

                          1. re: yarm
                            jgg13 RE: yarm Dec 31, 2011 12:56 PM

                            We got there not too long after you left. There were a few single spots open at the bar, and just a few table spaces left. We were at a table so it was always unclear who was making the drinks. Some were better than others, even compared to the same drinks last week.

                            Last week there was one bartender that I didn't recognize that was definitely the culprit of the lesser drinks.

                            All in all I've liked the place so far, just so long as it doesn't fill up with folks like the bustonian brought in.

                            1. re: jgg13
                              yarm RE: jgg13 Dec 31, 2011 01:32 PM

                              Oh dear... I had to google "bustonian" and it brought up a Yelp review of, "30 friends...beer (lots of it)...music...BUS? STRIPPER POLE?? ...DO IT!!!"

                              I don't usually go to bars on Fridays, but I was let out of work early and decided to hit Backbar and B&M on the early side. Probably the Sunday-Tuesday crowd will be less annoying overall.

                              It was also odd hearing Patrick Sullivan (the owner) overhear a conversation a patron had with the bartender about wanting to pace themselves since their friend was showing up and they didn't want to get too far ahead. The owner blurted out that they should get drunk. True, that's the way they make money, but it came across as less humorous to me.

                              1. re: yarm
                                jgg13 RE: yarm Dec 31, 2011 03:18 PM

                                Yeah, they rolled in hammered, raised a ruckus and peeled out of there. Not to mention causing the aforementioned 30 minute wait on my drink, not that I'm bitter or anything :)

                                I'm assuming that Misty & Evan aren't intending a broseph type of place, but I wonder to what extent it'll become that if ownership sees it as the best way to turn a dime. That's good for him, but not what I'm hoping for. Already there are some Yelp reviews that make me cringe - complaining about no DJ, lack of vodka drinks, etc.

                                If I go out on Fridays it's typically to spots that I know won't be insane, and earlier in the night. yesterday and last week were exceptions as I figured both would be lighter than a typical Friday.

                      2. re: dfan
                        r
                        rlee21 RE: dfan Jan 10, 2012 08:36 PM

                        I've been twice: once at 8 on a Sunday and once at 10 on a Saturday. During the former visit, we found the bar pretty empty and had no problems having a seat at the bar. During the latter visit, there was a line at the door with a bouncer checking IDs. The clientele was also predictably different, with an older group on Sunday and a mid-twenties group on Saturday. I would second the thought that it felt more like a Middlesex crowd.

                        The drinks though were solid both nights. As mentioned by others, the Bullet for Freddo is a standout. The Sentimental Gentleman was also quite good; the Prince of Donegal was good, but not memorable. Lastly, I asked Misty make one of her mezcal signatures: Viva la Vida.

                        1. re: rlee21
                          yarm RE: rlee21 Jan 11, 2012 07:49 AM

                          All three full time bartenders (Evan, Misty, and Kenny) are all solid. The only problem I had was with a part timer. When we spoke to Kenny on Sunday, he explained how he worked with Patrick Sullivan opening 3 bars at Legal Seafood and was tapped to follow him to the next venture. His bar manner and jiggering abilities were just as good as Misty or Evan's.

                          http://cocktailvirgin.blogspot.com

                      3. m
                        mkfisher RE: dfan Jan 2, 2012 06:06 AM

                        I was so focused on how awful the Bustonian crowd was in my previous post, I forgot to comment on the food. We've had the chips and onion dip twice now. Really nice and thin cross cut chips. It's a pretty perfect salty bar snack. We also had the fried brussel sprouts on our first visit. It was an interesting preparation - had some Indian spices.

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: mkfisher
                          yarm RE: mkfisher Jan 2, 2012 12:48 PM

                          This is the 2nd bar in town to serve fried Brussel sprouts. I had the ones at Citizen in the Fenway and they were rather good! Is this something I've missed in past Brussel sprout seasons?

                          http://cocktailvirgin.blogspot.com

                          1. re: yarm
                            l
                            LeoLioness RE: yarm Jan 2, 2012 12:58 PM

                            Highland Kitchen has been doing deep-fried buffalo brussel sprouts for a couple of years, too.

                            1. re: yarm
                              p
                              pollystyrene RE: yarm Jan 2, 2012 01:37 PM

                              I've always disliked brussels sprouts, but I could eat the fried ones at Citizen every day. I wasn't wowed by the place in general (especially the waitress, who seemed to want to be our friend more than serve us, as opposed to our server last night at Foundry, who wanted nothing to do with us in either regard), but I'd go back to Citizen just for the fried sprouts.

                          2. jgg13 RE: dfan Jan 14, 2012 06:07 AM

                            I've now eaten my way around a good chunk of the menu after a few trips:

                            Steak sandwich: Really tasty. The sauce they have on there is great. Wish it was cut in half to assist with sharing, but not a big deal.

                            Duck hash: Was really good, fatty & rich. VERY salty (which I don't mind so much), but that could have just been a heavy hand.

                            Crostinis:
                            - the chicken salad I very much enjoyed, she thought was just ok
                            - the anchovy one she really liked, I thought was just ok

                            Chips & dip: Reminded me of the chips & dip at Drink, albeit the chips were thin waffle fries. Both of those statements are a godo thing in my book.

                            Brussels sprouts: Really liked these. Had a curry type seasoning on them, light breading. Perfect for popping in your mouth :)

                            Mixed nuts: I don't remember the seasoning on these but remember thinking it was good/interesting.

                            Polenta sticks: Pretty bland. If it wasn't for the grated cheese on top, this would have been a definite miss

                            Pickle plate: Didn't like this. It's a bowl of mixed pickled vegetables (green beens, carrots, onions, cauliflower). We both found them to be *way* too vinegary. It'd be nice if they went an interesting route w/ the pickling brine, but at the very least they should have a more balanced acid/sugar ratio.

                            Last night was the first time I'd been there on a "real" night. It was more crowded than I'd have preferred but better than I expected. We eventually got seats at the bar, at which point I no longer cared. A few observations:

                            - multiple drinks are now premade, not just the bullet. Teardrop for sure, and there appeared to be a few others. The double wide shot is premade (With a big "F*** YOU" label on the bottle, hah), and I'd be surprised if the others weren't as well.
                            - when we left there appeared to be a line, which could explain why it was a bit less of a mob scene and always seemed to stay at a steady crowd level.

                            On both of these points, I wonder if they've heard the complaints of slow service & such and are trying to speed things up.

                            1. rlh RE: dfan Aug 20, 2012 05:18 PM

                              Big fan of Brick & Mortar since opening day, but was a bit disappointed last Saturday night - the place was full with great tunes and lots of energy, but the drinks were not up to the usual level of excellence.

                              The cocktail menu is virtually unchanged from our last visit at least a few weeks and I think a couple of months ago.

                              The Last Word and Aviation were served up in large rocks glasses instead of cocktail glasses, and while the Last Word was perfect, the Aviation was bitter and sour with virtually no taste of Maraschino. I know they would have remade it for us and we should have asked but it was peak time and they were slammed and we were ready to go. Also, the Mai Tai was tasty but super overwhelmingly limey. We were at a table, but I am guessing the drinks were not tasted prior to serving as they were that far off balance.

                              The servers for the non-bar seating were amazing as two of them efficiently handled so many orders and remained totally charming!

                              The bar has been very high here, and so we just expect the drinks to be be perfect every time - because they typically have been. We love the place, and we'll be back again soon with fingers crossed that it was just one misstep due to the crush of crowds.

                              5 Replies
                              1. re: rlh
                                c
                                Canadian Tuxedo RE: rlh Aug 20, 2012 09:54 PM

                                Big crowds equals the occasionally poorly made cocktail, no matter the lineage of the staff.

                                It always confuses me why people are surprised when _____ (insert craft cocktail establishment here that doesn't restrict the crowd) fails to live up to standards built upon experiences when they were just opened/not so popular.

                                Hell, I had more than one poorly balanced cocktail from Misty in her Green St days...(gasp...the horror....).

                                1. re: rlh
                                  yarm RE: rlh Aug 21, 2012 12:18 PM

                                  RLH, while the menu hasn't changed much, they do have a good library of recent creations from their Monday Night Spin the Bottle events if you ask them about it. Or you can probably ask them about any drink I've written about there via the blog (link below).

                                  CT, I definitely agree, especially when I hear critiques about the service on a Friday or Saturday night at peak hours. Although I cannot recall a poorly balanced drink from Misty or anyone at Green Street over the last 5 years (but we often went on Sunday and other off nights when it was less crowded).

                                  http://cocktailvirgin.blogspot.com/

                                  1. re: yarm
                                    rlh RE: yarm Aug 21, 2012 04:09 PM

                                    Thanks Yarm - I will definitely make it a point to return on a night at a time when it would actually be feasible to sit at the bar and ask about the library you highlighted.

                                    I don't buy the idea that standards should be lowered because it's too busy, but it seems the solution is to head to the places that stay consistently excellent even on peak nights - for me, Eastern Standard, The Hawthorne, Green Street, and Backbar meet this lofty expectation...

                                    1. re: rlh
                                      MC Slim JB RE: rlh Aug 21, 2012 04:29 PM

                                      I'd add No. 9 Park to that list, though admittedly its peak nights don't look that different from slow nights, it's so small.

                                      http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                                    2. re: yarm
                                      c
                                      Canadian Tuxedo RE: yarm Aug 25, 2012 10:08 PM

                                      My first experiences with Misty behind the bar was near the end of her Green St. tenure. That was before she became renown for her Mescal drinks and instead when asked for something off menu or a general suggestion (at least in my experience) it was Green Chartreuse heavy.

                                      Don't get me wrong, I very much enjoy Chartreuse. But it is also a powerful taste and can be overwhelming. Sometimes the drinks she made were not balanced in this regard. I'm not sure what nights this occurred, though it was almost certainly not a weekend night as I was likely to drop by after work during that period.

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