Built to Suit: BrickTop's is based in Nashville, but it hits home at Plaza Frontenac

Built to Suit: BrickTop's is based in Nashville, but it hits home at Plaza Frontenac
Jennifer Silverberg
BrickTop's rosy seared ahi tuna steak.

On Cinco de Mayo, many servers at BrickTop's Restaurant wore sombreros. Now, BrickTop's isn't a Mexican restaurant — the only south-of-the-border dish on its menu is guacamole (fish tacos, too, if you grade on a curve) — but that's OK. The six-month-old restaurant outside swanky Plaza Frontenac is so bloodlessly efficient that, until I saw the sombreros, I feared the servers were androids programmed to self-destruct if they showed the slightest hint of personality.

BrickTop's is a Nashville-based chain with six locations (and counting); all except St. Louis' are in the South. It feels like a chain, but not in the way most chain restaurants do. There's no obvious branding, no kitschy bric-a-brac, no token football jersey from the local high school tacked to the wall. The place just feels purposefully generic, like the restaurant in a Sheraton, full of signs that you're dining in a Nice Place — carpets, mirrors, cushy booths, Champagne bottles as décor, miniature chandeliers above the bar — without a shred of a clue that might betray where that place is.

The menu is equally rootless, a selection of slam-dunk higher-end crowd pleasers that reads like the product of a chef, six marketing consultants and an IBM supercomputer: lobster bisque and beef carpaccio; crab cakes and meat loaf and steak frites; seared ahi tuna (as a steak, a sandwich or the main ingredient in a salad). BrickTop's might not conjure up a specific place, but you can pin down its spot on the restaurant-trend timeline somewhere between 1999 and 2003.

Shrimp New Orleans in a Creole sauce with basmati rice.
Jennifer Silverberg
Shrimp New Orleans in a Creole sauce with basmati rice.

Location Info

Map

BrickTop's Restaurant

1701 S. Lindbergh Blvd.
Frontenac, MO 63131

Category: Restaurant > American

Region: Town & Country

Details

BrickTop's Restaurant
Guacamole...$10
Trout...$22
Steak frites...$24
1701 South Lindbergh Boulevard, Frontenac; 314-567-6300.
Hours: 11 a.m.-10 p.m.Sun.-Thu. 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Fri.-Sat.

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Though the food isn't cutting edge, it's good. Some might object on principle to a restaurant that sets the ambition bar low, but speaking as a guy who eats out for a living, there's a lot to be said for spot-on execution, and BrickTop's kitchen usually hits the mark. The guacamole (brought by a sombrero-less server) is a case in point: A fist-size scoop of chunky mashed avocado with cilantro, red onion and lime juice, it's impeccably fresh and simply, sensibly seasoned. Same deal with the spinach-artichoke dip, which dials in precisely the right consistency calibration of thick and creamy and a nicely balanced flavor.

Entrées feature straightforward preparations of meat and seafood. The crab cakes are plump with jumbo lump crab meat and little else — as they should be. The tops and bottoms are dusted with breadcrumbs to provide a hint of crunch, but otherwise there's nothing to distract you from tender, lightly sweet crab meat. The cakes come with a mild whole-grain mustard sauce that skews more toward mild than mustard. A trout entrée features the entire fish (minus the head; this is, after all, Frontenac) butterflied, grilled flesh-side down and topped with a lemon-butter sauce studded with capers. The kitchen grills the trout just long enough to give its mild flesh some brawn, and the capers and lemon slice through the rich sauce. The seared ahi is more bluntly handled: cut into slabs before serving, thus robbing the steak's rare flesh of its lusciousness. The generically "Asian" dipping sauce served alongside is somewhat of a miracle, in that it appears to have teleported directly from a late-twentieth-century fusion restaurant.

The steak frites evinced the same expert grilling technique as the trout, the meat beautifully crosshatched and cooked just to medium-rare, as requested. I should have known there'd be trouble, though, when our server asked if I wanted fries with my steak frites. (I did. They're OK — thin and crisp, but not very flavorful.) The steak itself was an abomination of gristle and fat. A kitchen this professional should never have sent it out — then again, I should have sent it back.

The baby-back ribs have the texture of meat that has been steamed, not smoked. I was able to eat them with a fork, no knife or hands required. The ribs came coated in a tangy sauce that was the only vaguely barbecued thing about them.

Dishes come with your choice of a side: fries, baked potato, coleslaw, a vegetable (green beans, broccoli) or — one of the very few reflections of the restaurant's Southern heritage — deviled eggs. You can add a small salad to your meal for $5. Your server, whose programming includes a module that up-sells at every opportunity ("Would you like to start with a cup of lobster bisque?" "Did you save room for bread pudding?"), will be sure to remind you of this option. Entrée salads are also available, each featuring a protein (crab meat, grilled steak, barbecue chicken) to justify prices in the $16 to $19 range. Does that seem steep for a salad entrée? It does to me. Ditto the spinach-artichoke dip and the guac, which are priced at $10 a pop.

BrickTop's lunch selection is essentially identical to the dinner menu, with smaller portions and fewer options. Sandwiches offer the best value: The pulled-pork sandwich, a special on multiple visits, shows that the kitchen does have some barbecue know-how, featuring tender meat in a spicy chipotle barbecue sauce, topped with coleslaw. The housemade veggie burger, I'm pleased to report, is among the very best in town.

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3 comments
Yojimbo
Yojimbo

Have to agree with Shabadoo. Why is Ian the Terrible wasting his time and ours on this place? Isn't there some strip-mall taqueria in North County he should be condescending to? Looking forward to his Macaroni Grill review in the next RFT.

Shabadoo
Shabadoo

in the neighborhood? this is fucking frontenac, not a neighborhood you ignoramus. for even considering going to this place you should be tarred and feathered. can we pleasepleaseplease get a city version of this paper so I don't have to take up space in my brain with the knowledge that there is a place called brick tops in the suburban hell-scape that is lindbergh and clayton rd.

Luvtoeatout
Luvtoeatout

We've been twice and both times the noise level was very high, to the point of making the experience unpleasant. The food was good, not great (especially for the price). We will probably not be back unless it is an off time of the day and we're in the neighborhood.

 
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