Brick and Mortar: A Local Restaurant Review

Once upon a time, there was a charming Italian restaurant on the outskirts of a college town where locals could get very good food at a relatively reasonable price. The restaurant was semi-conscious of its vegan and gluten free patrons, offering dining opportunities for each that were both satisfying and tasty. Then one day the owners of that delightful little neighborhood stronghold decided to go “trendy” and changed the restaurant format to poorly executed, ready- to-descend -down-the-bell-curve-of-current-food-trend dishes in an unimaginative atmosphere.

I speak of the tragic transformation of the beloved Pizza Bella on Mill Creek Road in Charlottesville to its new incarnation, Brick and Mortar. Same owners yet a total abandonment from the formula that made Pizza Bella successful.

Let’s start from the beginning…

I entered the half full restaurant and no serving staff greeted me. Strike one – all guests should be warmly greeted in a restaurant. OK, I am not the Queen of England so why should I expect to be noticed -except that I might be a paying customer- whatever.  Once I have the bartender’s/hostess'(?) attention I ask about a table for two but self-select seating at the bar. There is no hook for my purse. I remark on it. The bartender informs me that many people have commented on the lack of purse hook but the GM has ignored the request. How horrifying that such a simple request has been ignored. Strike 2- customers are paramount. I order a Moscow Mule that is presented to me with mint in it which totally screws up the ginger/vodka/lime harmony. It is undrinkable so I ask for a blush vino verde instead. $8 for a few ounces of a consumable yet much less-than-fabulous wine. OK, to be fair, I have probably paid more for worse wines but this is a neighborhood hang out not a four star establishment.

The burger I ordered came with grilled onions, pancetta and cheese (I fail to even recall what type of cheese it was, it was that unmemorable- maybe a swiss?) The onions, watery rather than actually grilled and luke warm rather than hot. The burger was cooked the way I requested and was just fine yet a bit dull in taste (I had to request salt and pepper). The salad that came with it (because there are no gluten free bread options offered) was refrigerator warn, meaning, slightly dried and not exactly fresh. It was served with a common ranch type dressing I could have easily  purchased from the Food Lion next door. When the burger was served, I had to request cutlery even though we had been at the restaurant for at least 20 minutes by that time. Strike 3. The fries…obviously from a previously frozen batch with a smattering of parmesan semi-melted atop were…well….. boring. They reminded me of a very poor version of the amazing parmesan crusted fries drizzled with truffle oil at Keswick Hall. I wonder if the KH fries were the inspiration…?

My dining companion ordered the same burger with the sweet potato wedges. The burger “was a bit bland,” according to her while the wedges were prepared with the skin on and, “mushy with uncooked bits throughout”. The most interesting thing about the meal was a spicy mayo served with the wedges, which my dining mate had to request, even though it is listed on the menu as condiment served with the dish. Strike 4- it is important not to make assumptions about your clientele. I am guessing that the server thought that a kid would dislike a condiment with a kick. Either that or the it was improperly plated in the kitchen.

Overall: My dining experience at Brick and Mortar was as exciting as staring at a brick and mortar wall. It seems to be simply copying the hot items on other successful restaurants in town without the culinary talent or the level of service to complete with them. I hope the owners quickly end this game of dress-up and go back to the yummy Italian food they do so well.

I also felt undervalued as a customer, something that is deadly in a town jam packed with good restaurants.

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7 thoughts on “Brick and Mortar: A Local Restaurant Review

  1. Well, an interesting review. So sorry that your dining experience was so dismal. I hope it was just an “off” day you came in. We take service very seriously and these specific comments you made will be addressed, since we strive for the highest quality, customer satisfaction and great food!

    I feel the need to clarify here on our menu. None of the menu was inspired or “copied” from anywhere remotely near Charlottesville, Keswick? included.
    Try Portland, Oregon and Santa Barbara, California both bastions of culinary greatness and foodies.

    Secondly, the cheese on the burger you could not identify was actually Havarti. The spicy Mayo? Garlic Asiago, and again hoping this was just an off day that it was forgotten.
    Great feedback on “purse hooks” but hardly indicative of the quality an any establishment and since Brick just opened two weeks ago, an excellent suggestion which I’m sure can be implement right away!
    Silly construction men! They just don’t think of those things like purses!

    As far the breads and buns we get all of our bakery items from Albamarle Baking and they are not refrigerated.
    Our House Ranch dressing is not from Food Lion and is no different from that served on salads at the “beloved” Pizza Bella. I’m sorry you don’t care for it.
    The Moscow Mule cocktail is made with Tequila for a twist and many a Mule’s are commonly garnished with a Mint sprig. Just google Moscow Mule garnish.

    As far as service, it is disappointing you felt you didn’t receive the level you would like and again Brick strives for optimum in customer satisfaction, so thank you for your valuable feedback.
    It does appear sadly there wasn’t one good thing about your visit and that is a shame.
    I know being a food critic myself that dines out and travels extensively taste in food is individual. It appears Brick may not be your cup of tea and that’s ok!

    Fortunately, we are taking off beautifully after a slow start out the gate and we have had an enormous amount of comments and feedback on the food- and they have have been excellent!
    The fries are being changed to hand cut… because we agree, those that we have always served are not up to our standards.

    As far as the Italian restaurant that existed for 16 years? Well, like all establishments, it had run it’s course. The owner needed to retire and it was either close the doors or revamp the family business. It wasn’t sustainable in a climate where food trends have changed dramatically to “craft”, local, and casual. Nor for that location specifically.
    The demographics in the area on the outskirts of this part of town are predominantly between 18-35. I’m guessing you don’t fit into that group?

    Brick & Mortar is a bar- gastropub serving craft beers and casual American food. We did a much research on the food scene in Cville to be able to carve out an establishment that would fit more appropriately in the “neighborhood”.
    We continue to serve signature pizzas and hope you will come on back in and give us another try!
    Tracie Snyder

    • Hey Tracie,
      Thank you for your response. It is great to know that you are concerned with customer feedback and respond to it favorably. I will quibble with you on two counts, however…
      Firstly, I did not order a bun since I eat as gluten free as possible so I am confused about the comment about the breads being unrefrigerated. Do you mean to inform about the choice to omit gluten free bread options because you use that particular bakery and/or because gf breads are usually frozen to preserve them?
      Secondly,it is my understanding that a Moscow Mule is made with vodka rather than a different liquor- thus the Russian reference. It is made with spicy ginger beer, vodka, and a splash of lime and served in a copper cup. If the liquor is changed it turns into a different drink. For example: ginger beer + rum + lime juice = A Dark & Stormy.

      Next time I go to Brick & Mortar I will be sure and request specifically vodka in my Moscow Mule.

      All the best to working out the kinks. It will be fun to see how the restaurant grows over time.

      Mozel Tov,

      The Culture Maven

      • Hi Mary,
        Thanks for responding.
        Ah, I read the comment wrong. It was the salad you were referring to as “refrigerator worn” with an o, which is interesting because we have been getting our greens fresh from the Farmer’s Market. We do offer GF bread as well as GF pizza crusts so not sure if we were out that day. I’m guessing you happened in rightt when we opened?
        Yes, You are correct on the traditional Moscow Mule is made with Vodka but our Cocktail menu clearly states our “Craft Cocktail” with tequila as a twist! Lots of places are doing alternative and creative Mules, and of course we offer the classic as well.
        Maybe a bit too much Cali for Charlottesville!
        Yes, the kinks are being worked out.
        Anyways, hope your next experience is much better!

    • Thank you for the clarification. I did not look at your cocktail menu. I simply ordered a drink that I like so I suppose that is why I expected the simple version.

      I hope people will check out Brick & Mortar and make their own decision.

    • With all due respect, Jay, Calamari is not on the Brick and Mortar menu. You must be referring to the old Pizza Bella, which closed in June.
      🙂

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