Let’s just say for the sake of argument that while negotiating the holiday season you ate too much and spent too much and now could maybe use some comfort for your system and your wallet. I’ve got the place for you.
Brick Kitchen & Bar in downtown Carlisle is a comforting kind of place that there are just too few of in Central PA.
Located in the heart of the borough along High Street, Brick has a low-key kind of look outside but is plenty energetic inside. The atmosphere is an eclectic mix of rustic rowdy and urban chic.
I’m not going to lie to you, it can get loud. Not everybody likes that. But it’s the kind of noise one encounters in a hopping, happy diner where the service is fast and the food is fresh.
I think it’s named “kitchen and bar” because both are noteworthy: This is a kitchen that knows what it’s doing; this is a bar that’s downright inviting.
There are hardwood floors, small tables in the front of the house, drop lighting, some banquettes, a nice round table for four on the way back to the open kitchen and that bar, a large U-shaped affair under a high ceiling, with big artwork on one wall and a wall of windows on another overlooking an outdoor patio.
Brick, of course.
The seasonal menu is small, always a sign that everything is made to order, and nothing comes pre-mixed.
There’s a separate drink menu with special house cocktails, beers on tap, white or red sangria and a very nice selection of moderately priced wines, most in the $7-per-glass range and none more than $8.50.
A traditional Manhattan was small but well-made and only $7.25. And a bighearted pour of a Mark West California pinot noir, a really good-tasting wine, was just $7.
To the food.
There are, as is prevalent in oh, so many newer restaurants, small plates, salads, large plates and sandwiches; there also are blackboard specials.
During my visit, small plates — all in the $8 to $12 range — included lollipop lamb chops, roasted beets, steamed shrimp, Parmesan meatballs, housemade fried mozzarella, tuna poke and a wonderful, truly wonderful octopus dish — so good that I’ll go back to Brick just to have it again.
A very generous portion of octopus was perfectly grilled and served with olives, chives, capers, lemon and a little simple balsamic sauce. It was nearly a meal and only $11. I nearly placed a second order.
But I also had a large-plate offering: an 8-ounce baseball cut of sirloin (a baseball cut, for you nonsports fans, is a thick, round piece from the upper part of a top sirloin) which was flame-grilled and served with excellent fried potatoes and a fresh side salad for $19.
Other large plates included grilled salmon, Asian sea bass, short ribs, a veggie stir fry and a house specialty, trottole pasta (cute little curlicues) served with slices of chicken chorizo sausage and red sauce with a little cream.
A blackboard special during my visit won raves from a dining partner. It was pork tenderloin with a mulled-cider reduction, wrapped in bacon and served with Yukon mashed potatoes for $22, a more than fair price for the quality of the dish and its portion (I made a lovely sandwich out of leftovers the next day).
Speaking of sandwiches, Brick offers a Reuben, a lobster roll, fish tacos, a “cheesy beef melt,” a salmon club and more, all in the $9 to $12 range.
For those into batters, there are baskets of chicken tenders, fried fish and fried shrimp, all, of course, served with fries.
And for the, shall we say, slightly more health-conscious, there are salads: baby spinach, grilled steak, Asian chicken, blackened chicken Caesar, priced around $10.
Point is there’s a lot of variety on what is really a fairly compact menu, and all of what’s offered is house-made and well-priced.
Plus, there’s that octopus.
The whole idea of dining this way is customer-friendly. It allows patrons to eat as much or as little as they want. It offers very good food that’s good for you (and some that’s not). And it’s easier on your post-holiday wallet than many other restaurants serving dishes made with this level of attention and care.
Not everyone will like the plainness of the place or its noise level. But everyone will likely find something on its menu that’s, well, comforting.
BRICK KITCHEN & BAR
113 W. High St., Carlisle; 717.462.4567; www.brickcarlisle.com.
Hours: 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday; reservations recommended; takes major cards; street parking out front or lot parking behind the building.
THE PHANTOM DINER HAS BEEN A LONGTIME RESTAURANT REVIEWER FOR CENTRAL PA MAGAZINE.