Good pubs, Good Beer, Good People

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Where the Boys Are

By Kurt Epps—The PubScout

March 26, 2010

Fifteen months ago, there was not a single Brick House Tavern and Tap in the US. Now there are eight, the most recent having opened in Plano, TX. And if what I experienced at the brand new South Plainfield location is typical, there will be many more very soon, and they will all, like this one, be packed.

If not, the eight that do exist will be even more crowded than the South Plainfield Pub I visited Friday night. My favorite drinking buddy (the missus) and I arrived at about 5:30 PM in order to beat the dinner crowd.

Wrong. I was astounded at the number of cars already there. After dropping her off to secure a table which I was sure entailed at least an hour's wait, I had to park ¼ mile away.

Walking in, the dearth of parking in close proximity to the BH became immediately explainable. With a sizable footprint, overstuffed chairs and couches, more than thirty flat screens (no news is EVER broadcast on them—only sports), a roaring fireplace, a huge beer and food menu—all huge food portions designed to clog every artery in your body and those of the folks at the table next to you-- and winsome, scantily-clad waitresses to attend to your needs, this place is quite simply a giant Man Cave. In fact, those words adorn one wall, along with other guy-type sayings (i.e. Alcohol…the cause of, and solution to, all of life's problems).

The pub hubbub (noise) is pleasantly deafening with good rock music serving as a backdrop to a few hundred conversations. These were also loud of necessity to compete with the aforementioned music. But this place is decidedly different than your normal loud club, because the noise works. To my great surprise, we were seated immediately. Hey, there are perqs to being a famous, though impoverished, beerwriter.

But there's more different about the BH than the overstuffed chairs. For starters, the gorgeous, scantily clad, bare-midriff waitresses are actually encouraged to sit down with you and chat. Their free time stems from the fact that they have no "side work," like bussing and cleaning up, as those duties are handled by the male "stage hands." Most places frown on such fraternization with the customers, but the BH management encourages such interaction. The place employs 120 staff, but the gals are clearly the main event. Check out the pictures on the top right or here.

Our comely waitress Marie said that such conviviality with the customers was "my favorite part of the job," and another BH girl just passing by, a stunning Diane Lane look-alike named Autumn, allowed that for a working waitress, "this place is Restaurant Heaven." The friendliness of the gals was not forced or "put on" at all, as each one who stopped by was genuinely friendly and seemed very happy to be there. That approach probably yields rewards in the form of tips at night's end, too.

I had a chance to meet and chat with Bob Ross, Director of Operations for all the BH houses in the country, and the Boston native was every bit as cordial as his waitstaff. From explaining the BH's philosophy ("We think Brick House is sexy"), to the philosophy that selects the BH girls ("We want them to be the girl next door") to their passion for quality victual ("We really care about the food"), Ross was a gregarious, if self-deprecating, representative of the company. "We take the Brick House [concept] very seriously. We don't take ourselves very seriously." Such candor was evident in his admission that they sell PBR (Pabst Blue Ribbon) and Yuengling in cans for $2—and they serve them in brown paper bags.

Which brings me to the beer. BH has a beer menu that is so vast and varied, it would take more space than I am allotted to list them all. Just go to the website yourself and check them out. I had an Allagash White for starters, a Victory HopDevil with my Man Burger and a Duvel—in an authentic Duvel goblet with center etching, no less—to end the night. The beers are also available in Beer Bongs, a giant tube of beer, the price of which is determined by the beer that goes inside. A full bong of Bud (if you consider Bud beer) for example, goes for $18. You need to have four drinkers at the table to order one, but they are quite an impressive sight to behold. BH's quality bongs are shipped from Slovakia, and apparently other chains are emulating BH's model in offering them. But BH came first.

On this night, they even had Sly Fox's Pikeland Pils on the hand pump. Somebody, it's clear, knows their beer here.

They also sell mini "kegs" of beer, complete with red Solo cups so those who have fond memories of their college (or high school) days can reminisce in a similar ambience. The BH modus operandi is to simulate a giant, noisy house party, and the model works flawlessly. Huge, soft recliners in the Rec Room face more flat screens and you can be served there as well. There's a well-heated outdoor patio with a huge firepit to sit around while jawboning and quaffing, and even on this chilly March night, it was packed with jawboners and quaffers seemingly oblivious to the temperature of the outside air.

Quite simply, the Brick House Tavern and Tap is a guy's place, and they're proud of it. Even the clever menu is sexually suggestive. One section is dubbed "Gotta Have My Meat and Potatoes." Another is called "I like Big Bowls." And with one of those denim-shorted, cleavage-revealing beauties taking your order and smiling, it's not hard to see that this place is Guy Heaven. Even the name Brick House evokes memories of "that lady's stacked, and that's a fact, she ain't holdin' nothin' back."

Back in the 80's and 90's the clubs would cater to the ladies with gimmicks like "Ladies drink for $1.00" or even "Ladies Drink Free" The idea was that the guys will go where the ladies are. The BH takes the opposite approach with the novel idea that the ladies will go where the boys are. They sure did on this night anyway. There is no children's menu and there are no high chairs, however. A young family place it's not.

The food was outstanding and reasonably priced and the portions are huge. Try the incredible Deviled Eggs with a touch of Tabasco for a real treat. There's a breakfast menu called The Cure available all the time. A collection of manly named burgers provides great variety. I had a hefty Bleu Cheese Burger in the shape of a brick, naturally, that came with a pile of fries. The Missus allowed that her Sam Adams battered Fish and Chips were the best she's ever had, and she had to leave behind a "bazillion" French fries in order to ingest the four massive pieces of perfectly done pollock on her plate. She's not usually a fan of loud, noisy places, but she positively loved the BH.

Except for the paucity of toilets (just 3) in the ladies' loo. That was her only negative, and the BH girls we spoke with concurred, albeit fetchingly. If the ladies come en masse where the boys are en masse, and they drink beer en masse, they're going to need "outlets" en masse.

But since when do us guys care about lines in the ladies room? There's never a line in the men's room. All we care about is ourselves. We're loud, selfish, boorish, sexist Neanderthals.

It's about time a restaurant recognized that and played to it, and the Brick House does a masterful job. If you're a man's man who likes good beer, good food and eye candy who provide superb service, you need to get there.

Especially if you ever watched The Man Show and envied Jimmy and Adam.

Brick House Tavern and Tap

4905 Stelton Rd.

South Plainfield, NJ 07080


© Kurt Epps 2010 All rights reserved

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