In the middle of Wichita’s own craft beer explosion, which has seen a slew of local beer makers opening or announcing plans to open their own breweries, an out-of-towner sneaked in.
Oklahoma City-based Bricktown Brewery, which recently started a big expansion, opened in the former Chapada Chophouse & Churrascaria space in March. A second Bricktown will open in the former Applebee’s space near 21st and North Rock Road this fall. It’s a burger-and-pizza place that also has its own line of beers, which it ships from Oklahoma.
So far, it’s getting Texas Roadhouse-sized crowds, meaning it’s always packed and has extra-long waits on weekend nights.
During several recent visits, we fought the crowds and determined that Bricktown is a good spot for its two main menu staples – burgers and pizzas – and for people who want to sip lots of beer without feeling too buzzy. Other areas of the menu aren’t quite as strong.
First, the beers: Bricktown makes several of its own, including an IPA, a wheat, a light lager and a blueberry ale. On my first visit, I ordered a sampler and enjoyed them all, especially the blueberry beer, which is made with an infusion of fresh blueberries and is served with several floating in it. It had a crisp, fruity flavor and went down smooth. Beer fans should know, though, that the Bricktown beers have a lower alcohol content than beers served at other local breweries. Oklahoma state laws prevent brew pubs there from brewing beer that is more than 3.2 percent alcohol content by weight, which translates to 4 percent alcohol by volume. By comparison, the beers at other local breweries have about 5 to 7 percent alcohol by volume. Beers like Bricktown’s with its lower alcohol volume are known as “session beers,” and they allow drinkers to enjoy several without getting sloppy.
But session beer isn’t the only option at Bricktown, which also prides itself on carrying other locally and nationally brewed beers. The extensive tap collection also has higher-alcohol-content beers from Kansas breweries Hank Is Wiser and Free State as well as choices like Fat Tire, Guinness, Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, Nitro Milk Stout and more. There’s also a full bar that boasts many types of bourbon.
The food, however, I found to be all over the place. Though the pizzas and burgers and some of the fun appetizers exceeded expectations, our tour of the comfort food entrees was disappointing.
On my first visit, I saw a waitress I knew and asked her what I should order. She enthusiastically recommended the breakfast burger, which she said she had ordered almost every time she worked. And she was right. The burger was decadently topped with a runny fried egg, sweet peppered bacon, American cheese and hash browns. Not just any hash browns, mind you, but a hash brown cake like you’d get at a fast food restaurant. The various textures of the burger’s fillings – the warm liquid of the egg yolk, the sweet chewiness of the bacon and crunch-then-mush of the hash brown – mixed brilliantly, and my taste buds were in breakfast-for-dinner heaven. A regular bacon burger also stood out because of its thick, beefy patty, more of that sweet but not-too-sweet bacon and lots of melted cheese. Bricktown’s toasted hamburger buns have an appetizing, buttery shine, and a gluten-free option is available, too.
The burgers come with choice of salt and pepper shoestring fries, sweet potato fries or house-made potato chips, and all are excellent. I particularly liked the sweet potato fries, which were cut thin and served crisp. Too many sweet potato fries emerge a mushy mess.
Pizza also is a good choice at Bricktown Brewery, and if you take a trip to the restroom and walk past the wood-burning pizza oven and pizza-making station that’s hidden in the back, you’ll see why. We ordered a pepperoni, which was a 9-incher topped with a pile of oversized pepperoni rounds. It was fired until the crust was crisp, then topped with fat ribbons of shaved Parmesan. The rich tomato sauce, made with Cholula, had a little kick to it, and the pizza was served with a small dish of honey mixed with red pepper for crust dipping. The unexpected sweet-and-spicy combination was addictive, and we insisted that they leave the honey when the pizza was gone so we could dip everything else in it. The rest of the pizza menu is filled with interesting toppings like bacon and cashews, pork and Sriracha barbecue sauce and Finnish-style grilled “squeaky cheese.”
And speaking of squeaky cheese, Bricktown does have some pretty offbeat appetizers, including fried cheese curds. Kansas State Fair visitors know the heaven that is a melted cheese curd fried inside a puffy coating, and Bricktown’s was almost on par. Their curds are smaller, but the garlic aioli served on the side added another, tangy dimension. I also loved the Boom Boom Shrimp, a spot-on ripoff of Bonefish Grill’s popular Bang Bang Shrimp, which are flash-fried and tossed in a sweet-and-sticky glaze. And you must try the sea salt caramel fries, which come piled with chopped bacon, spiced caramel sauce and sea salt. This is dessert, not an appetizer, and your brain won’t know where to categorize all the battling flavors.
But then there’s the chicken-fried steak, which was pounded until it was the size of the plate, making for a dramatic presentation but a tough piece of meat. The gravy is maple-flavored, and that’s just not right. The maple was an unexpected and unwelcome flavor intruder. The meatloaf didn’t fare much better. The serving resembled a hockey puck, and although the caramelization of the ketchup on the outside made for a chewy treat, the inside was dry, and the plating was uninspired. For our sides, we chose mashed potatoes and peanut coleslaw. The former was already hardening from the harshness of the heat lamp, and the latter, made with red peppers, cabbage, peanuts and sesame oil, wasn’t coleslaw at all but rather an Asian salad, which didn’t really work with the rest of the dish.
The turkey pot pie had an OK puff-pastry crust, but the inside was a soupy mess that needed seasoning. And the hot bacon salad we ordered came with a massive amount of grilled mushrooms, plus the whole plate was drowning in an overly sweet, sticky dressing. We were expecting the traditional presentation, with a warm vinegar dressing and raw mushrooms.
Bricktown’s owners did a nice job of transforming the dining room, which was originally built to house Ted’s Montana Grill. Like every tenant in the building since, Bricktown kept Ted’s beautiful hexagon tile floors but replaced the tall, semi-private booths with a more open grouping of half-circle booths, regular booths, tables and chairs. It also has an attractive, large bar with granite counters, and the owners enclosed the former patio to make room for more indoor seating. The dining room also is filled with big-screen television sets, so you can catch nearly any sporting event that’s being broadcast.
Our service on all visits was good. The restaurant has plenty of people working at any given time, so if you can’t find your server, you can grab someone else pretty easily.
Ratings reflect the critic’s judgment of the food, service and atmosphere in relation to the price. If you would like to nominate a restaurant to be reviewed, call 316-268-6327.
☆☆1/2 out of four
Where: 2142 N. Tyler Road, 316-613-2719
Type of food: Burgers, pizzas, comfort food
Hours: 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Mondays-Thursdays, 11 a.m.-midnight Fridays and Saturdays, 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Sundays
Cost: Burgers are $8 to $13; pizzas are $10 to $14; appetizers are $6 to $12; sandwiches are $9-$10; comfort food entrees are $10-$14.
Alcohol: Full bar