New Comfort Food Restaurant
Brick & Ash creates an inviting gathering spot in Newburyport.
Photo by Anthony Tieuli
Every town should have a tavern like Brick & Ash. The décor at the new Newburyport spot manages to be rustic, warm, and modern all at once, with soaring ceilings upstairs, six working fireplaces, two bars, and flattering Edison bulb lighting. Then thereʼs a pair of pool tables and a dart board, a smart cocktail program, and a roster of local beers on tap. Top interior designer and TV personality Taniya Nayak took on the task of restoring the historic charm in the space most recently home to Nix’s, while bringing in light and comfort. With two floors and experiences ranging from the cozy downstairs tavern to the bustling loft-like main dining room, the restaurant offers something for everyone, from guys’ night out to a family meal.
The menu holds the same broad appeal—the fun casual fare focuses on barbeque, but with a special section devoted to regional takes on hot dogs. “Barkers” range from a Chicago-style “dragged through the garden”—topped with everything from mild peppers to fresh tomato—to a New York style with sauerkraut and mustard. Owners Laura and John Wolfe, who opened The Poynt across the street last year, hope the menu of comfort food at gentle prices will fill a need in town for more options for locals—from families with small children to retirees to commuters getting home late from Boston.
To that end, starters focus on pub favorites, like generous portions of nachos or wings. A standout is the “Frickles”—fried house-made pickles, very lightly breaded with cornmeal. Fried pickles always sound great, but are often disappointing. These are fresh, crisp, and addictive. As with all Brick & Ash pickled products, the Frickles are made in-house, with pickling cucumbers bathed for a minimum of 36 hours in a house-made infusion of distilled white vinegar, garlic, shallots, jalapeno, black peppercorns, bay leaf, and sugar.
Executive chef Dan Miele, formerly at The Poynt, also displays a deft hand with the barbeque section of the menu. Using an in-house smoker, he turns out generous portions of pulled pork, smoked chicken, and ribs. The meats are served unsauced, with a selection of four barbeque sauces so patrons can decide if they prefer a topping that is sweet, hot, vinegary, or earthy. Entrees come with tasty fresh coleslaw, corn bread, and a choice of sides. Standouts include the creamed corn, which gets subtle heat from green chilies, the vinegary collard greens, and a thick mac and cheese, which is also available in an entrée portion.
Master mixologist Brett Henderson oversees the bar program at Brick & Ash with the same flair he brings to The Poynt—serious cocktail aficionados will appreciate the selection of barrel-aged classic cocktails, including the delicious Green Mountain Manhattan, made with bourbon, local maple liquor, calvados, and a sage-brown sugar reduction, while brave kids-at-heart might try the PB&J, a science-project mix of peanut-flavored Chartreuse, banana-infused bourbon, and house-made strawberry jelly.
While the concept and the menu are different from The Poynt, the friendly service will be familiar to regulars across the street—the Wolfes, who live in town, got their start with a trio of California-inflected Cottage restaurants—one on the West Coast and two just west of Boston, and the friendly service has become a staple across their brands.
Like sister restaurant The Poynt, Brick & Ash operates on a first come, first served basis. But as winter starts to dissolve, that outdoor patio—with its own fireplace and space heaters—will start to look more and more inviting.
Brick & Ash
10 Center St., Newburyport