Brickhouse BBQ (see here for location and hours) has finally opened their doors in downtown Madison. Featuring Memphis/Kansas City style barbecue, this establishment is brought to you by the same people who bring you Samba Brazilian Grill, The Churchkey and Badger Liquor. We gave the place a first look for lunch recently, with very mixed results.
As is always the case, we start by using the following disclaimer – a first look at a place is just that – giving it a try before they may have worked the kinks out. It takes a while for a restaurant to settle in and show its true colors, both good and bad.
We intended to start with an appetizer of the BBQ Ribs ($9.75). The menu billed this item as individual pork ribs served on a bed of crispy onion strings with Brickhouse Original BBQ sauce. We say we intended to start with that, but that isn’t the way that it worked out. We watched as the server took our order on a nifty electronic device, and then disappeared. We then waited for our appetizer for around 40 minutes — all the while envying the tables around us who had ordered after we did and were already eating (and finishing!) their entrees.
After around 40 minutes, our server reappeared and told us that there had been a problem “getting the ticket to the kitchen” or some such thing. After about 50 minutes everything came out of the kitchen all at once – our appetizers, sandwiches and sides all made a joint appearance. To make matters worse, all of our food was at best room temperature, and at worst, just plain ole cold.
We’re not sure how the food could have been served to us at this temperature, logistically. We also would have appreciated it if we would have been consulted about the timing of the appetizer in relation to the timing of the sandwiches. But, it was what it was.
On to the food though. The ribs were not individual, as promised by the menu. If you had intended to share this appetizer with a group rather than with an close friend, it would have been a little awkward given that the ribs needed to be manhandled to be pulled apart into an appetizer to be shared with more than one. It is possible that the kitchen knew that there were two of us at the table and so they divided the appetizer up into two portions. This would have been a showing of remarkable thought and organization however, and it would have been the only one experienced on this trip — so we doubt that this was the case. The “bed” of crispy onion straws was pretty sparse. But the ribs were good. The sauce was not cloying or sweet. We’d order the ribs again, but probably as an entree.
Also ordered was the Sausage Sandwich ($8.25), described by the menu as Smoked sausage, grilled, and served with Brickhouse Mustard BBQ sauce and pickled peppers. This sandwich would have been excellent had it been served warmer than room temperature. It was overflowing with slightly smoky, slightly spicy sausage with a really very good tangy mustard sauce.
Cheddar Grits had been ordered as the side, and while we understand that grits are a down-home rustic food, these had too many large clumps of grits to allow us to rave about them. Still, the flavor was what one would expect.
The Pulled-Pork sandwich ($7.75) was described as slow smoked pork shoulder, shredded, and topped with coleslaw and Brickhouse Original BBQ sauce. We dubbed this sandwich the “Poorly Pulled-Pork Sandwich”, and not only because of the tongue twister opportunity. There were very large clumps of pork in the sandwich which made it somewhat awkward to eat. The flavor was there, once again – it was the execution that needed attention. The coleslaw should have made more of an impression than it did, but it was okay.
The fries were good – crispy and tasty, and the homemade pickle slices were really very good.
The interior of this new restaurant clearly shows that they are going for more of an urban BBQ restaurant versus a down-home bbq joint. They did a very good job at remodelling the place, and the three floors (with a very good sized rooftop outdoor deck) will easily handle the crowds that will inevitably make their way there before Kohl Center events.
So, to wrap it up, our first look at Brickhouse BBQ turned up a lot of execution errors that we hope will be worked out in the upcoming weeks. If not, we are not convinced that, while the food is good, it is good enough to overcome the execution.