LATHAM — “There are some really good parts and some really bad parts,” said my friend Lisa, who accompanied me for lunch at the Brick House on Route 7 at Latham Farms. That sums up the food and our visit.
Brick House replaces Joe’s Crab Shack, another restaurant brand owned by Ignite Restaurant Group. This one feels like a gastropub, a bar and restaurant that serves high-end food, but also like a chain. We are not short of actual, very good gastropubs in the Capital Region.
It’s got the poured concrete floors, exposed infrastructure and cavernous, industrial feel of, say, Druther’s in Albany or 2 West in Saratoga. Tables and booths rub elbows in one large open space, and there’s a very pleasant outdoor room with second bar as well. It bustles.
Brick House Tavern + Tap
WHERE: 579 Troy Schenectady Road, Latham, 785-0472, www.brickhousetavernandtap.com
WHEN: 11 a.m. to 12:30 a.m., Monday to Thursday; 11 a.m. to 1:30 a.m. Friday; 10 a.m. to 1:30 a.m. Saturday; 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Sunday
HOW MUCH: $37.88 for food before tax and tip
MORE INFO: Credit cards: Visa, Master Card, American, Discover. Children’s menu. Wheelchair accessible. Large parking lot.
Our booth looked comfortable but Lisa had to perch on the edge of the seat to reach the table; if she sat back, ambient noise precluded conversation. Over drinks, we studied the food menu and a photocopied drinks menu reduced to microscopic type.
The menu is clever, with soft pretzels and duck wings and your choice of pizza, burgers, salads, sandwiches and a few comfort-food entrees. A house cheeseburger is $10.50, grilled salmon $15.50, chicken pot pie $13, prosciutto-wrapped meatloaf $14.
You can get locally produced Druther’s brew on tap, and Brown’s and Ommegang, but Budweiser drinkers won’t be disappointed. A decent variety of wines had familiar, respectable names like Simi from California.
The meals came out briskly as you’d expect at the lunch hour, but then service slowed to a crawl.
Lisa’s towering Southern Fried Chicken sandwich ($11.50) was really good (the chicken) and really bad (the fries). “I’ll have to deconstruct it,” she said.
“Try this,” she said, handing over a piece of spicy, crunchy breading you could eat all day. The wedge of juicy white meat chicken was “Amazing,” but the salt-and-pepper fries were barely warm. They tasted like they’d been made hours earlier. The bacon ranch dressing and the shiny brioche roll were OK. She left most of the fries.
The filet mignon salad ($14.50) was really good (the beef) and really bad (they ignored my request for dressing on the side). The greens, not at their best, were soaked in creamy green peppercorn dressing which puddled at the bottom. The roasted tomatoes were delicious but there weren’t any brioche croutons. The candied bacon tasted like plain old maple bacon.
The filet mignon was heavenly, cooked perfectly, crispy and blackened in places and tender within, juicy from just a little fat. It was so good, but it was hacked into clumsy chunks which is no way to treat good beef.
There was no follow-up from the server until much later, so I reluctantly picked at the sloppy greens. When she returned I asked about croutons. She reappeared shortly with a bowl containing small pieces of torn sliced bread. “They didn’t have any so I made you some,” she said, which earns her points for trying, at least.
We shared a small cast-iron pan of homemade apple crumble ($6.50), which was cold in the middle. The crumbles were soggy but I liked the fresh-tasting apples.
The meal probably took twice as long because of the time spent waiting to get the check, have the server come back for the credit card, and bring the bill back. Meantime, we busied ourselves shooing three houseflies that intermittently landed on our faces and our uncleared food.
The manager who told me they opened five months ago said that opening the windows to the patio brings in bugs. He apologized for any problems we had with the meal.
The tab for our meal, including a lemonade and soda, came to $37.88 before tax and tip.
Lisa is generous, willing to give it another try. After all, some things were really good. I grumpily recommend any of the actual, very good gastropubs in the Capital Region.