Restaurant review by Amy Cavanaugh
Okay, Andersonville, let’s talk. In the span of less than two years, 5420 North Clark Street has gone from In Fine Spirits to Premise to Brasserie 54 by LM to the Brixton, which opened in December. While we mourned the closing of In Fine Spirits, the following two concepts weren’t exactly stellar.
It’s easy to dismiss these revolving spaces—after all, when restaurants open in them for just four months, they can seem cursed. But you shouldn’t dismiss the Brixton. It’s a spot that fits the neighborhood and the kind of restaurant we’d all like just down the street, where you can go get a drink and a bar snack or an entrée and wine. Upstairs there’s a lounge with a small bar, a fireplace and a pool table, where you could while away a winter’s night. And there’s solidly executed food that’s just the kind you want in your neighborhood joint.
The two-level space feels homey—a pot of water simmers with cloves and cinnamon on a burner just behind the host stand, filling the restaurant with a Christmasy scent. Plaid fabrics and books are used throughout the space, but it feels like a comfortable apartment rather than a Pinterest board.
The food and drinks are also approachable, like the cocktail list, which is a collaborative staff effort. There’s the Sid Malicious, a Malört-based cocktail with gin, egg white and grapefruit. While it’s frothy with a slight bitterness, the grapefruit peel scattered across the top means you have to chew it. I preferred the light and fruity Mule Skinner Blues, made with rum, huckleberries, mint, lime, falernum and ginger.
The menu, from Kevin McMullen, formerly of El Ideas, is simple: 20 dishes, divided into bar bites and sides, small plates and larger plates. The bar bites and sides category is a little odd—while the tangy teriyaki beef jerky came out first, which made sense, it was served alongside the Brussels sprouts, bathed in butter with lemon, thyme and nubs of bacon, which would be better as side dish with your entrée than as an appetizer. That said, the sprouts were delicious and we downed them like candy.
The Brixton’s simplest dishes are best, like the sprouts, or the mussels, which are served in clam broth laced with butter, star anise and a grilled lemon half to squeeze on top. It’s aromatic and the toasted ciabatta is perfect for soaking up the broth.
Entrees are a bit more involved, like the octopus, served atop a huge black splatter of roasted eggplant, with a cube of potato confit, tiny dollops of charred lemon and a bundle of pork cheek. While the individual elements were mostly strong, the dish failed to coalesce, in part due to presentation—the pork was hiding under a pile of frisee, so we didn’t even see it until halfway through the dish, and the octopus itself was overdone. The risotto was served with a poached egg that drenched the rice with velvety egg yolk. Topped with crispy kale, broccoli and a drizzle of chicken jus, the risotto had a nice balance of textures, but it was too salty, making me wish for more frequent water refills. A dessert menu has yet to be added but will eventually feature various forms of ice cream, like a cherry and Banyuls vinegar sorbet.
Service is as welcoming as the space, if a bit slow on drink refills, but the meal ended on an awkward note: Our check was swapped for another table’s, a mistake that wasn’t discovered until they had paid our more expensive bill and left. Apologies, fellow diners.
While the Brixton doesn’t feel like a destination restaurant yet, for now it’s a very good neighborhood spot. Andersonville, you’d better start going, because 5420 North Clark Street finally has a new restaurant that's worth keeping.