Arts & Entertainment

New tavern attracts diners with brunch

Brick and Mortar seeks to redefine the look and taste of a traditional American tavern and remind visitors and locals alike there’s more to Philadelphia than Center City.

Michael Welsh believes Philadelphia’s restaurant scene “deserves more than just Center City.”

“Center City is amazing, and people go there all the time,” said Welsh, founder and managing partner of Brick and Mortar, a modern American tavern located at 315 N. 12th St. “It’s part of the draw to Philadelphia, but there are neighborhoods that people don’t explore enough, and this is one of those neighborhoods.”

Brick and Mortar is fairly new to the city, just coming up on its ninth month in business. The team is passionate about their unusual brunch pairings.

Unlike his restaurant, Welsh has been in Philadelphia for 20 years, and has been in the restaurant industry since he moved to the city just after graduating high school.

Welsh said he has spent more time “in the Philadelphia area than anywhere else in his life.”

He has worked as a bartender, busboy and chef during the last 20 years—which all played a large role in the development of Brick and Mortar.

Welsh said his experience has aided him in the process of starting and owning a restaurant.

“In a cool way, it’s allowed me to relate to a lot of the staff together because I understand where everyone is coming from,” he said.

His first restaurant job at a Red Robin helped him learn the importance of doing “the same thing the same way, every time.”

“It was good, because as much as we all like to diminish the role of the corporate restaurant, there are a lot of great things to learn there,” Welsh said. “There’s a tremendous amount of structure, and for someone who doesn’t have a lot of experience in the business, there’s nothing better for trying to pick up the trade.”

The restaurant currently offers a brunch and dinner menu and hopes to expand into a lunch menu soon.

The menu is “rustic American” with hints of more exotic flavors like the Middle Eastern spice Za’atar found in the baked eggs and chickpea, a brunch dish. Such elements are a nod to the knowledge of international cuisine possessed by head chef Brian Ricci, who graduated from the French Culinary Institute in New York City and worked at Tabla, a restaurant known for combining French and Indian culinary techniques.

The baked eggs and chickpea dish, consisting of two eggs, Za’atar, Calabrian chilies and chickpeas all baked in a pan, is best paired with the house Bloody Mary, Ricci said.

The BAM Bloody’s is made with cumin, ginger and garlic, and guests can choose vodka, gin, tequila or whiskey for their drink.  Ricci paired these two because of their complementing flavors.

“I think the spiciness of the Bloody enhances the bright flavors of the eggs,” Ricci said. “The two work nicely together.”

Welsh said none of the dishes on BAM’s menu contain “fluff.”

“Everything on the plate is meant to be eaten,” he added.

The rest of the brunch menu incorporates modern twists on classic dishes. The Grilled Peanut Butter + Jam adds bananas and confectioner’s sugar on a brioche bun.

Ricci said the combination of the BAM Bloody’s and baked eggs represents Brick and Mortar’s brunch menu because it showcases its signature style.

“I think from a food perspective, I don’t think anyone is doing baked eggs like we do,” he said. “It’s pretty cool with the Za’atar and other spices.”

It also takes a lot of work to create the desired experienced for customers when they walk in the door, Welsh said.

“We want to be like your living room.”

Erin Blewett can be reached at erin.clare.blewett@temple.edu.

Video by Harrison Brink. 

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