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Brick House Grill
** 1/2
Out of a possible five
$$$
Dining Out

Potential undercut by details

The Brick House Grill, one of Huntington’s newest eateries, seemed to be going through a bit of an identity crisis.

The confusion covered every aspect – from the menu to its décor – of this creation of a pair of culinary school grads from Ivy Tech in Fort Wayne. It had some fine-dining characteristics, a little bit of tavern flair and some traits of a solid family restaurant.

For example, your appetizer choices included stuffed baby portobella mushrooms with a raspberry reduction sauce and East Coast crab cakes with a classic remoulade, and such lowbrow staples as mozzarella sticks and hot wings. The entrees included prime fed beef sirloin, filet mignon and bourbon-glazed salmon as well as meatloaf, fried chicken and pulled pork. The varied selections made varied impressions.

The crab cakes were top notch with big hunks of crab in a perfectly composed cake. The remoulade was a bit scarce, smeared on the plate under the cakes, but the ramekin of sweet, zesty Jamaican pepper relish made me miss it less. The stuffing in the baby bellas, however, had way too much jalapeño, which overpowered the mushrooms and made them nothing more than a textural element.

The salmon was outstanding. It was perfectly cooked, moist, flaky and tender, and topped with a sweet sauce that had very little bourbon flavor and seemed more like a barbecue sauce. Regardless, it was a tasty condiment. The Brick House meatloaf had potential but fell a little short. The loaf was moist and had the right mix of filler and onion to give it a straightforward meatloaf flavor. The same relish from the crab cakes was a decent accompaniment, but the serving size was smallish. The parmesan mashed potatoes with the meatloaf were tasty, but they were a bit tepid as the sprinkling of cheese on top did not even melt.

The “Wrapped and Stuffed” from the “Cluck” portion of the menu also seemed smallish. For $12, my one breast was stuffed with about half as much smoked gouda cheese as it should have been, and the applewood-smoked bacon wrapped around the breast was a bit underdone and rubbery.

The Scotch eggs appetizer was easily the worst choice when it came to value. The boiled eggs were perfectly coated in a layer of sausage that was crisp and not at all greasy on the outside and still moist and chewy inside, but I was served only two eggs for $6.

The desserts were OK but not worth getting excited about. When asked whether they were made in house, my server said, “No, they are not. The owners want to focus on the food.” I guess the owners don’t consider dessert food and would rather serve mediocre caramel cheesecake and an anything but rich or indulgent chocolate turtle cake than put forth some effort.

There seemed to be a lack of effort in several other areas, also. My booth table had a dime store vinyl tablecloth stapled over the original surface, and that textured covering had several spots and, upon closer inspection, a layer of dirt embedded in its grain. I had two of my worst martinis in recent memory during my two visits. The first arrived in a warm glass and was warm through and through. The second time, I asked for a dirty martini and received one with a twist straight up. It was colder than the first, but not what I ordered.

Although friendly and willing to answer any questions, my servers were MIA at times. During one visit, putting in my initial order was a chore, and, during both, I had to flag someone down to order dessert even after ordering a cup of coffee late in the meal and informing the server that I wanted that coffee to go with dessert.

The tiny one-room restaurant featured high-back booths along the walls, and tables scattered in the middle sat in front of an attractive antique-style bar flanked with a rustic-looking exposed brick. I could not figure out the area near the front door with its lowered ceiling that was painted black with glitter embedded in the paint. I wondered whether it was a dance-floor area from whatever business was there before. It seemed out of place, as did the small lounging or waiting area with a sofa in the back of the room instead of near the door where people would most likely congregate to wait. I also found the music loud enough to interrupt casual dinner conversation one night.

A return visit to Brick House Grill seems unlikely. The food showed potential and none of it was flat-out bad, but there was just too much of a mixed bag in terms of the restaurant’s menu and overall feel.

Restaurant: Brick House Grill

Address: 19 W. Washington St., Huntington

Phone: 260-224-6696

Hours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 11 a.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday

Cuisine: American

Handicapped accessible: Yes

Alcohol served: Full bar

Credit cards accepted: No

Kid-friendly: No; 21 and older only

Menu: East Coast crab cakes ($10), stuffed baby bellas ($8), bourbon-glazed salmon ($14), wrapped and stuffed chicken ($12), meatloaf ($12), turtle cake ($8), dulce de leche cheesecake ($8)

Rating breakdown: Food: * 1/2 (3 star maximum); atmosphere: 1/2 (1 maximum), service: 1/2 (1 maximum)

Note: Restaurants are categorized by price range: $ (less than $20 for three-course meal), $$ ($20-$29); $$$ ($30-$39), $$$$ ($40-$49), $$$$$ ($50 and up).

Ryan DuVall is a restaurant critic for The Journal Gazette. This review is based on two unannounced visits. The Journal Gazette pays for all meals. E-mail him at rduvall@jg.net, call at 461-8130, or go to the “Dining Out” topic of “The Board” at www.journalgazette.net. DuVall’s past reviews can also be found at the Web site, and you can hear Ryan from 5 to 6 p.m. every Thursday on 92.3 FM, The Fort.

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