The Brickhouse – paying homage to Hooters.

The Brickhouse
1102 N. Dale Mabry (1100 Block, not sure of the exact address as it’s not published on their website or in google maps)
Tampa, FL
33607

Visiting the Brickhouse was basically an accident.  My coworker Mike had a doctor’s appointment in the area prior to lunch and happened to drive past this joint.  There were girls out front with signs stating that “We’re Open”, or something to that effect, and surprise surprise pretty girls caught his eye.  When the  matter of lunch was brought up he mentioned this place, and after a quick jaunt to Google we saw on their online menu that they had Chili Cheese Tater Tots. With thoughts of greasy, cheese-laden, potato bits dancing in our heads we loaded up the car and headed over to the Brickhouse.

We showed up not knowing what to expect.  From looking at their website, we thought that maybe they’d have an emphasis on scantily clad servers or broads in general (with a desert entitled “Double D Cupcakes”, and references to “Man Food”), but the website was fairly oblique. After walking in, our suspicions were confirmed.  The place looked like Tim Allen and Christian Audigier popped a couple boners and went around getting all “Home Improvement” meets “Ed Hardy”-style zealous on this place.  There is a large and very unnecessary fireplace, open air ceilings, gothic script announcing the restrooms, and lame “inspirational” phrases on the walls.  The only inspiration I derived from that was wanting to take a blow my nose on their decorations.

To our surpise (and chagrin) the Brickhouse had just opened up today (June 22nd).  All of the servers were new, and likewise their cooks were all brand new to the Brickhouse way of doing things. They weren’t doing their full menu when we showed up, but instead a pared down version of their menu.  Oh, did I mention that all of the food (and non alcholic beverages) are all FREE?  Oh, I didn’t?  Well they were, and are until Friday June 25th 2010.  As much as I don’t like the thought of TimAl-Stianidigier’s renob all up in my face, it’s hard to thumb my nose at free food.  We ordered the Buffalo Wings for our free appetizer.  I would’ve taken a picture but I forgot to due to being endlessly interrupted by a never ending stream of servers asking fairly inane questions.  I can appreciate pretty girls as much as the next guy, but when you keep hearing “What are you drinking?”, “Have you heard of Brickhouse before?”, “How is everything?”, again and again and again and again my eyes start to glaze over.   In writing it doesn’t sound nearly as annoying as it was in person.  We literally had a girl come up asking, “How is everything, how are you guys?” and literally as she was stepping away from our table another girl came and asked the exact same thing.  As I’m writing this, I feel like I sound like a complete asshole because I’m basically saying, “Oh man, it was so annoying how these girls were being very attentive and basically waiting on us hand and foot.”  The thing is, when I go to a restaurant I don’t want to feel pressured into talking, shooting the shit, or doing anything aside from ordering my food and eating said food.  As peculiar as it sounds, I think a good server is nearly prescient or just very observant.  They keep an eye on your drink getting low and then offer you a refill, or they see that you’re just sitting around picking-at/not-eating your food and offer to take your plate.  If someplace is very busy I of course scale back my expectations, but when the reverse happens it’s fairly startling and somewhat unsettling.

After all of my bitching we’re onto a highlight.  The food.  They served up very large portions, and the prices on the menu were very reasonable for what we received ($7-$10 for most entrees).  All 3 of my coworkers ordered the Prime Rib Sandwich.  As you can see it appeared to be topped with shoe-string onion fries/straws.  They were given a side of au jus sauce, and from some appreciative murmurs I gathered that the samiches were alright.  They do come with a horseradish sauce, so those with a tempermental palette may want to ask for the samich sans the horsey sauce.   I ordered the Chicken Parm samich, and it was huge.  The fork and knife were apparently crafted for Paul Bunyun so you can’t really appreciate the size of the samich I received.  Within the samich were 2 filets of fried chicken, and I was unable to finish the beast. The marinara on the samich was tasty, it had hints of oregano and other ‘Italian’ spices; the flavors were very balanced.  They also heaped an order of fries on the plate. While the food wasn’t breathtaking, I would certainly eat at the Brickhouse again.

We came on opening day on a whim, despite not knowing it was opening day. The servers applied a little too much pressure as most of us felt inundated with repeated pleasantries, but I suspect as the Brickhouse breaks into the full swing of normal operations the servers will calm down and the atmosphere will be more pleasant.

If you do want a free meal and to see what this joint is all about you might as well stop by before this Friday rolls around and cop a free meal (speaking of coppers, there were quite a few officers of the law coming around to gawk and grab a free bite, apparently those radio waves aren’t just used to communicate crimes).

Food: Rating: ★★★★☆

Service: Rating: ★★★½☆ (this would be a little higher without the over-attention)

Atmosphere: Rating: ★★½☆☆ (I’m a hole-in-the-wall bar guy, so this kind of presentation is a bit over the top for me)

Overall: Rating: ★★★½☆ (I think this has a chance to go up with a second visit when they’re under normal operation)

-Matt in Tampa

Author: Matt

I now live in Clearwater, FL and from here the food shall be reviewed.

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