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Kind of like eating at Grandma's
Curious that, at first glance, The Brick Tavern Inn is not made of bricks.
When it was built in 1818, the old inn was indeed constructed of bricks fired of local clay on-site, as the story goes. But sometime in the parade of owners over close to two centuries, those bricks were covered with plaster. Now they're apparent only inside where some of the original walls have been exposed.
What an appropriate metaphor for this restaurant near Quakertown, purchased in July 2005 by Louis and Kimberly Bates. Just as the bricks of the Brick Tavern Inn lie hidden within, so it goes with this restaurant's promise.
Soon the deep autumn orange trim that sets off the exterior plaster will be taken back to its original colonial blue, our server told us with pride. A new deck for outdoor dining should be ready by spring, and the menu is undergoing refinement as well.
On a recent weekend night, few tables were empty. No wonder, considering the good food, fine service and homey atmosphere. The decor could benefit from updating, but I tire of trendiness. A meal here is a bit like having Sunday dinner at your grandmother's.
Executive Chef Louis Bates, who hung his toque most recently at Quakertown's Red Lion Inn, labels his cuisine ''continental.'' A graduate of Philadelphia's Restaurant School, he apprenticed at Le Bec Fin and has cooked at Bally's Atlantic City as well as the Cock 'n Bull Restaurant in Peddler's Village.
Bates' well-balanced menu offers about two dozen entrees, plus a handful of pasta dishes. In addition to several steaks, there are basics like veal chop, grilled pork loin, lamb porterhouse and duck breast with Bing cherry sauce.
Seafood selections showcase other cuisines: for example, ahi tuna coated with black and white sesame seeds, served with Asian slaw, wasabi aioli and pickled ginger; and New England cod encrusted with scallion breadcrumbs, served with mango salsa.
The menu's description of the crab cakes (''99 percent lump crab baked golden'') tantalized, so we ordered the appetizer portion and shared. A promise fulfilled, the crab cake was thick with succulent, sweet meat, minimally seasoned so the pure flavor was unencumbered.
Not as successful was the accompanying mango remoulade; I couldn't find a hint of tropical fruitiness in this sauce and didn't care for the flavor I did find. A wonderful slaw, however, made up it. Chunky and crunchy pieces of carrot, red onion, red pepper, sprouts and romaine in an Asian-inspired dressing brought brilliant flavor to the cakes.
Dinner salads were a cut above the usual and the house dressing champagne vinaigrette was lovely, with a crisp flavor that intensified the vegetables' tastes and textures. So intriguing was salmon and fresh spinach lasagna layers of fresh salmon, spinach, wild mushrooms and fresh mozzarella with vodka cream sauce that I threw caution to the wind to order it (betting on news reports of safe spinach entering the food stream). Disappointed, however, I picked a second choice.
Linguine and sweet Italian sausage was a good stand-in. Caramelized shallots and onions added depth to slices of sweet Italian sausage, tomato and mushrooms tossed with pasta in white wine cream sauce. A garnish of fresh Locatelli Pecorina Romano cheese added a touch of sharpness.
Too interesting to overlook was veal Stockholm sauteed medallions with fresh dill, cucumber and sour cream demiglace and a savory chestnut brown sauce. Italian mashed potatoes were mildly seasoned; carrot matchsticks delivered color and crunch.
Temptations such as crème brulee cheesecake with fresh raspberry sauce and Kentucky Bourbon pie challenged a disciplined diner, although I was disappointed to learn desserts are not made in-house. We sampled apple galette with vanilla ice cream, which turned out to be rather standard.
Susan Gottshall is a freelance restaurant reviewer for Go Guide. Gottshall, who tells it like it is, attempts to remain anonymous during restaurant visits. All meals are paid for by The Morning Call.
Linda O'Connell, Assistant
Managing Editor, Features