By Kurt Epps—The PubScout
What do you get when you transplant an Edison, NJ boy with a feel for the restaurant business to North Carolina?
An appealing eatery with a rustic feel, award-winning food—and FIFTY beers on tap.
Jerseyan Nick Lyssikatos , an unassuming, unpretentious fellow, looks more like the guy at the next bar stool than the owner of a booming restaurant business that has been on a ten-year growth spurt. Of course, its location, menu, beer list and ambience have much to do with that. Established in a former 120 year old cotton mill, where the original beams and stone are still visible, and set in the picturesque college town of Davidson, NC, The Brick House Tavern (not affiliated with the national chain that has the words "and Tap" appended to its name) is actually two eateries in one. There's an airy dining area which is quieter and which houses and sells the original artwork of promising Davidson College students, and there's the noisier, pubbier bar area with wide screens—and FIFTY quality beers on tap.
Manager Dan Chilton, a southern gentleman in every aspect of the word, made it clear, though, that the Brick House Tavern is not just a college drinking mecca, except maybe for Thursday nights during the school term when every beer is available for just $2.50 a pint. Indeed, my visit was on a Monday night, customarily the slowest night of the week in the beer bar/restaurant business up north, and the Brick House had a line waiting to get in at 7:30. The clientele is as diverse as the beer list: young folks, families, singles, couples, seasoned citizens. And the place is a local hangout for the hungry, thirsty employees of the nearby—and massive—Ingersoll-Rand complex, so I'm betting the crowds at lunch are just as impressive.
And why wouldn't they be? Owner Nick was beaming with pride as he clutched a glossy copy of the August 2011 issue of Charlotte magazine, wherein his original Carolina Burger had been selected #2 of the top 21 "Must Try" foods in Charlotte. After moving to NC ten years ago, and being an alert Jersey guy, Nick noted that many Carolinians "have a thing about cole slaw on their burgers."
The rest, as they say, is history. Had I known that the Carolina Burger was an award-winner, I'd have ordered it, but my waitress, Mila Kunis lookalike Jasmine with the Svengali-like hypnotic eyes and smile, told me her favorite was the Blue Ridge, so, pretty much under her mesmeric influence, I went with Jasmine's suggestion, which went very well with my Skull Coast Maelstrom IPA. I'll have to go back for the Carolina Burger now. Jasmine did allow that it was their best-seller, but she hypnotized me.
But that will give me a chance to taste more of the beers Nick has added to his ever-changing, ever-growing stable. Red Oak Brewing (NC) makes the transitional House Light and the Irish-y House Red, and the Red is quite tasty. Manager Dan Chilton shares the responsibility of keeping the beer menu current, and Nick pays much attention to what his customers want, though sometimes those beers are not distributed in the area. Jasmine , who by this time, could have given me a Natty Light to try (and I'd probably have agreed eagerly), delivered a sample of New Belgium's 1554—one of her favorites—and for good reason. Malty and complex, yet light enough to be a session beer, it was delightful in every category—nose, mouthfeel, flavor and color. This dark beer has quite a history at New Belgium, and it's worth visiting their site to read about it. Me? I'm just going to go back to the Brick House Tavern and investigate a full pint…or two. Or three.
In fact, anyone who enjoys quality beers and award-winning food in a rustic, historic and friendly atmosphere would do well to hit The Brick. And tell Nick Lyssikatos and Dan Chilton that the PubScout sent you.
Just beware. If Jasmine makes a suggestion, you, too, may be powerless to resist.
Don't forget to check out the pics on the right.
©Kurt Epps 2011 All rights reserved