He Said, She Said – Brick & Mortar

GLENN – There is no website nor Facebook page, though there is a presence on Twitter. The entrance is unmarked, though not down some dim alley, yet the stairway leading to the bar is minimally lit. Just what sort of speakeasy evocation would we find – heavily pomaded hair, handlebar ‘staches, muttonchops? Vests and collarless shirts with arm garters? Thankfully, none of those. Central Square’s Brick & Mortar is wonderfully relaxed, cool without pretension, the staff”s dress and facial hair modern. The room itself  is done with simplicity –  exposed brick  dominated by a beautiful ellipse of copper that is the bar. The ambiance accented by the music – the bartenders spinning an eclectic mix of tunes, mid-Beatles followed by funky Ike Turner. It was five o’clock somewhere and so easy to settle in for an evening cocktail or three.

KATRIN –Well, really, how can one limit themselves to trying just one of the drinks on the Brick & Mortar cocktail list?  My attention was immediately drawn to the fact that there were two drinks based on Grappa. While the Italian brandy has not been something I have sought out in the past, a drink called the “Flying Headlock” was just too much to resist. Served in a chilled glass without the benefit of ice to water down this intense drink, I braced myself. Unnecessarily, as it turns out, since the Amontillado Sherry and Dry Curacao smoothed out any rough edges, making this a complex and thoroughly enjoyable drink.  With so many other options, my next drink, “The Sister Mary” – Blanco Tequila, St. Germain, Aperol, Grapefruit –  was pretty and pink. We couldn’t help but call it “girly.” It was delicious though and went down a bit too easy.

GLENN –Brick & Mortar is part of the current efflorescence of bars in Boston. And by “bar”, I mean those places focused on craft cocktails – jettison the sour mix and Rose’s lime juice please – and not on food (gastropubs) nor on dating (meat markets). Beginning with Drink,  the creative partnership of John Gersten and Barbara Lynch, the bar scene has expanded; Brick & Mortar one of the latest manifestations. Here the team is Misty Kalkofen, one-time acolyte at Drink and founder of LUPEC-Boston, and Chef Gary Strack of Central Kitchen and Firebrand Saints; the result a superb cocktail menu and delicious updated bar food.

Mini Fried Oyster Po' Boys

 KATRIN –While the drinks were fantastic, I had a mixed impression of the food.  Clearly, it is not a place to go to have a “proper” dinner (not that I was expecting that), but rather the offerings complement the drinks, are meant for sharing and certain options serve as an excellent foil to the effects of alcohol, allowing patrons to enjoy Brick & Mortar a bit longer. And so it was that I immediately gravitated toward the Fries with Gruyere and Duck.  With its fat, salt, and starch, I can’t imagine a more perfect dish to sop up the booze. Unfortunately, the fries were just warm by the time they reached us. While the fries were not particularly crispy, the duck was super crispy, as in it had been left to bake for a couple of days.

French Fries with Crispy Duck & Gruyere

We also ordered the Oyster Po’ Boy and two crostinis, one with chicken liver pate and one with anchovies. All of these were quite tasty and far better than the fries.

Crostini - White Anchovy, Burned Tomato & Goat Cheese; Chicken Liver Mousse, Fig Jam & Spice Walnuts

GLENN – Yes, the drinks – and not the food – play the starring role here. The Oyster Po’ Boy was delicious; the fries limp and the duck frizzled.The crostini however were outstanding: great play of flavors and contrasts in each, all in all,great bar food. These are the way to go here. As for the drinks, part of the pleasure of Brick &  Mortar is watching the bartenders ply their craft. All is precision and technique. Spirits are carefully measured; ice is cracked by hand; and drinks are stirred, not shaken. All this results in perfect balance, dilution and temperature. My first cocktail was “The Teardrop” – Cardamaro, Averna, Ransom Old Tom, Absinthe. “Brown” gin, two Italian digestifs and a touch of the “fee vert” made for a most tasty cocktail. For my next selection, I let Kenny, our outstanding bartender, chose for me. Since I don’t drink mezcal, he suggested “In Vida Veritas”, a superb smoky, many layered libation. In keeping with the mezcal theme, Katrin, ever adveturous, had “The Honky on a Donkey”.

 KATRIN – The bottom line is that the drinks are impeccably made and the bartenders knowledgeable, friendly, and willing to take the time to explain the many interesting ingredients on the cocktail menu, and how the cocktails were developed. An outstanding cocktail experience! Kudos!

Brick & Mortar   569 Mass Ave   Cambridge MA

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