It’s no secret that I like chain restaurants, and I kind of get excited when a new one springs up from the dust of some freeway-adjacent retail development. If I were a little kid in 2014, I’d probably grow up thinking that bar and grill franchises are actually tied to road construction. As an adult, however, I frame that association in the context of having a place to stop for a drink while I wait out rush hour. Since it seems to be rush hour all day long, seven days a week on I-35 near Fossil Creek, b-and-g places come in very handy. That’s how I found myself eating lunch at The Brick House Tavern and Tap, because it was an early afternoon on a Monday and the freeway was clogged worse than Ron Jeremy’s shower drain.
Brick House is part of a chain of high-end, fast-casual beer-and-burger joints spread across 21 locations in 10 states. Eight of them are in Texas, and another is in a place called Downers Grove, Ill., which sounds more like a nickname than an actual municipality. Having driven through the rural Midwest recently, I can only hope Downers Grove isn’t as big a bummer.
Of course, bummers are relative. I think anywhere within five miles of where Western Center Boulevard crosses I-35 is easily one of the top 3 most frustrating places to be in Tarrant County — what should be a five-minute drive from Meacham International Airport to downtown can easily stretch to 20 or even 30 minutes, largely due to a construction scheme that will never, ever, ever, ever end. Does it even occur to civil engineers that the highway additions planned today will likely be outstripped by population growth by the time they’re completed? And, if so, when you become specialized in highway construction planning, does that idea make you disillusioned with your job from day one?
When I went to Brick House, the traffic was as bad as ever, and the bar’s business was kind of slow, though I chalked that up to my showing up at the tail end of a weekday lunch, right before happy hour started (2 p.m.). Had the traffic been thicker, I would have arrived in time for $1 Lone Star cans, $3 craft drafts, and $5 appetizers. (It’s weird to think that the slog up I-35 can actually save you money.) Rather than sitting around drinking water for 15 minutes, until the specials started, I ordered a Coors Light draft and a Philly cheesesteak, made with “real” Cheez Whiz and served with a polenta cake.
I guess a chain joint offering upscale pub grub like duck wings, zucchini curls (fried in panko crust and served with sriracha ranch dressing), and a Kobe beef burger has to deliver. My sandwich was pretty good — it might not be the same as a Philly grilled in Philly, but who could prove even that without the aid of a highly developed palate and a supersonic jet? If my sandwich was any indication, the food at Brick House is worth the depressing crawl up the freeway and the confusing exit into Western Center’s maze of ruined asphalt and orange cones. The service was great. The bartender knew every detail on the menu. Besides that, the draft selection was pretty impressive (and so was the drink menu, which features some interesting beer and liquor combos like a Bass Ale/Red Bull/Jack Daniels concoction called a Jacked Up). On Fridays and Saturdays, Brick House is open until 2 a.m., indicating that it wants to be a weekend destination at least for people who live in North Fort Worth. –– Steve Steward
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