- SOLID: The Brick House in Hot Springs.
Don’t be fooled by the name. Although steaks are spotlighted on the Brick House Grill’s menu, odds are slim you’ll enjoy a complete meal here without eating something straight from the deep fryer.
Don’t misunderstand: We’re not saying that’s a bad thing. And if you really wanted to, you could probably leave with your diet intact. But we wouldn’t advise it. Although it’s not the most adventurous menu we’ve ever seen, from what we tasted, the Brick House does a pretty damn good job with the basics: catfish fillets, chicken fingers, onion rings, pretty much what you’d expect from a no-airs American restaurant.
Located in Spencer’s Corner, a little complex of restaurants on Central Avenue in downtown Hot Springs, the Brick House aims for comfort — the familiar alternative to the “world cuisine” place upstairs and the German fare served up at the garden-level Brau Haus. There’s a bar area just inside the front door, with one dining room off to the right and another in a kind of low-ceilinged loft space up half a flight of stairs behind the bar.
We slid in for a late lunch on a Saturday afternoon, so we can’t attest to what kind of wait you’re likely to encounter for a weekday lunch or a weekend dinner, and while we didn’t have to wait for a table, there weren’t many going empty, even at that hour.
We started off with an appetizer combo plate ($8.89): chicken tenders, potato skins, onion rings and fried mozzarella. It seemed to take a little long getting to our table, but definitely not because our waiter left it sitting under a warming plate: that stuff was fresh from the grease, hot and crispy. We could have tried the barbecue shrimp — probably more of a signature offering than our battered smorgasbord — but sometimes it’s more telling how a restaurant handles the basics: Do they coast, or actually put a little effort into it? We’d go for the latter here. We’re pretty sure the onion rings were hand-battered, and we’ve eaten enough potato skins in our time to know how easy it is to screw them up — charred bacon or undercooked potato. The Brick House’s were just right. And between the four appetizers, there was enough food to have fed us and our companion, no entrees needed.
But we soldiered on to the next course. The Brick House’s menu has a decent number of entree options: steak, seafood, burgers and several chicken dishes. Bacon and cheese feature heavily in the preparation. There are also several entree salads, including one served with steak tips.
We chose the catfish plate ($10.69) — two nice-sized pieces of fish, breaded in a nicely textured, if a bit bland, cornmeal coating. From an unusually long list of side-item choices (how many other restaurants give you the option of a baked sweet potato?) we picked the sugar snap peas, served plain except with a generous, but not overly so, dose of black pepper. The plate also comes with a side salad.
The Brick House’s menu all but requires you to order a beer with your meal, so we were pleasantly surprised to have more than two or three wine options, most from familiar names: Kendall Jackson, Clos du Bois, Smoking Loon. We tried a glass of King Estate pinot grigio ($5.75), which suited our meal fine.
Our companion, a man of few words, pronounced his Brick House Burger ($7.39) “decent,” but seemed more impressed with the french fries: long, on the thick side, skins still on, just like God intended.
By this point, he was almost too full to continue — thanks in part to the “large” glass of Boulevard beer ($5.75, and Brick House has it on tap, along with Fat Tire and others) he drank with his ’tater skins.
We, on the other hand, still had room for dessert, so we ordered a slice of apple pie a la mode ($4.15). It was worth the pain we felt after eating almost every bite: warm and sugary, heavy on the cinnamon. The caramel sauce poured over the whole thing didn’t hurt, either.
If we had one complaint, it’s that the upstairs has its own table-busing area, and it’s a small room, and there’s nothing at all separating diners from the sight of piled-up dirty dishes. A small point, maybe, but it’d be easy enough to fix it with a simple folding screen.
Brick House Grill
801 Central Ave., Suite 24
The menu’s full of basics, but there are surprises to be found: Try a baked sweet potato along with your entree. And don’t miss the apple pie.
11 a.m.-9 p.m. Mon.-Sat., 5 p.m.-9 p.m. Sun.
Moderate prices. Credit cards accepted. Full bar.