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Dec 16, 2011 05:56 AM

Brick & Mortar

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. 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

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

      1. re: Bob Dobalina

        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: Bob Dobalina

            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

        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)

          1. re: barleywino

            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

              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.

        1. re: DoubleMan

          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.

        2. 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. 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. 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).


              1. 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

                  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.