I get around downtown quite a bit. I live here, work here, and most of my business comes from downtown. I eat around downtown on a regular basis. This is inclusive, most days, of breakfast at The Breakfast Club where I am a regular, lunch just about everywhere, and dinner much the same. In fact, I can’t remember the last time I ate something in my condo that didn’t come from somewhere down here!
I most recently paid a visit to my old stomping grounds at Church Street Station. My fondest and cloudiest for that matter, memories came from this place. I frequented this downtown jewel on a regular basis for, um, er, nickel beer nights etc… with my friends while attending UCF. Most times, a free bus ride home gave the night a “last night on earth, so drink til you can’t walk” feeling, without fear of reciprocity. I’m certain I don’t have to elaborate the empty feeling I had inside when the place went tumble weed.
Some context to this review…
Up until two years ago, there was not much to sustain the old station. The comedy club, Club Paris – which we will not go into, The Pearl Steakhouse, and a place called Absinthe. After frequenting this location numerous times, I got to know the chef. He wanted to do something that no other restaurant in town could do, offer unpretentious, I say that as that was his statement – “good times, good food, good booze and unpretentious French cuisine”. He said that when you think French, you think of a snooty service and a stuffy dining room. Absinthe was the opposite, under-culture if you will, and his food was fantastic. With Lou Pearlman in bankruptcy, Absinthe was forced out of business by the judge overseeing the case. Cameron Kuhn bought the property and the Chef chased him down to save his business. Absinthe was not invited back as a tenant. From what I understand, Chef Mark handed Cameron a new business plan and had a lease for the same space a week later.
The Brick & Fire pizza and Wine Company was born. Good thing too, as I abhor just about every “pizza by the slice” place down here. They make pizza, it sits around until someone orders a slice, then its reheated. Um, I can do that at home. Brick & Fire makes their pizzas to order. They have two separate pizza ovens, one that burns wood for hand tossed pizza, and one - actually two, deck ovens, which they use to make deep dish pizzas.
The menu is huge. Every pizza they make can be prepared hand tossed or deep dish. I have had both styles, and the crust is unreal. The Artisan pizzas are crazy. I had the Bourbon Street $13.75, which is topped with Andouille sausage, crawfish, okra, tomatoes, and pepper jack cheese. Never in my life have I had such toppings on a pizza. Innovative flavors there, plus my guest picked all of the crawfish off my pizza and ate them for herself… Not fair.
I also have had the Pulled Chicken and Brie Pizza $12.75 with Marinated Fennel and Pesto. The server said the pesto is made from the green tips of the fennel and it is added on at the end. A brie pizza, who would have thought? My guest of that evening, same gal that ate my crawfish, has ordered it twice now.
The Chipotle Barbeque Pizza is good and from what I gather, the ingredients including the sauce are all made in house. But, its a BBQ pizza - its been done.
I have also had the Hawaiian Pie, $12.75, which is topped with Grilled Pineapple, Red Onions, Pulled Pork, Mango Barbeque Sauce, Macadamia Nuts and Gouda Cheese. Nothing Canadian about that eah?
The menu continues in great detail, but I have to mention the Pulled Chicken and Penne $19 – a little steep for pasta but the portion is huge, with tender chunks of artichoke, chicken and grilled tomato sauce. There was a zig zag of oregano pesto over the top of this pasta which was then garnished with tons of shaved parmesan.
Something to note about Brick & Fire, they are neighbors with the Dessert Lady. The desserts at the Dessert Lady Café are truly fantastic, but Brick & Fire makes theirs to order. They take a chocolate chip cookie and bake it to order in a little cast iron skillet, which is then topped with vanilla ice cream and chocolate sauce, much the same as the brownie, and apple pie. Brick & Fire has only three desserts, all done well for $7 to $8 each.
One other dish worth mention, The “Cioppino” of Clams, Mussels, Shrimp, Scallops, and Calamari Stewed in Grilled Tomatoes Diavolo – text taken directly from the menu – was unreal. This is a San Francisco dish that has been done many times, literally a stew of seafood goodies. The price is a little steep at $29, but again, portion was big.
They have an underground wine cellar in which they seat couples for dinner and an unbelievable bar which is completely wood, with the exception of the marble inset. The beer list, wine list, and cocktails are as good as when they were poured at Absinthe. Different bartenders although. I miss them.
Brick & Fire has been open for about five weeks now, and I have been there almost every other day. They had a rough time getting open as they had issues with the landlord, and dealing with construction on all sides I’m sure is, and will continue to be a pain for them. Regardless, I ordered a pizza for delivery the other night - sometimes being inside when you live downtown is a good thing, and it’s just as good on day two. A note to the reheating crowd, use your oven to reheat pizza and pastries. The nuker does just that to good food, destroys it. You can see their website at brickandfire.com The full menu is there and some stories that are amusing, well, to my crooked lawyer ears anyhow…