Long Beach Lunch: Brix at the Shore
When you're totally verklempt and might challish from hunger, it's best to grab your favorite shiksa and do lunch at Brix in Belmont Shore. That's where you'll be greeted with a Soho-wine-bar interior so glossy that it almost subverts a menu that is full of so much New York deli jewishness, you'd think your own Bubby wrote the recipes.
That is, if your Bubby is Rick Reich, a certified sommelier and wine-obsessed Long Beach local who opened his first food-and-drink establishment--Brix Sunset Beach--simply because he had amassed too many wine bottles in his personal collection. Brix at the Shore opened late last year as a smaller version of the original.
The new Brix maintains the same kitschy menu of Yiddish-named entree salads (The Megillah heaps pastrami atop greens), Seinfeld-inspired sides (the "No Soup For You," chowder), awkwardly placed mob references (Wacked Wings?) and geographically themed plates (Brooklyn Bruchetta dons little balls of mozzarella), and yet has a slightly less affronting identity crisis than its Mediterannean-facad-ed, wine-slash-beer-bar big sister.
With a carefully curated wine list and 20 taps of local craft beer, It's clear that the Brix name was built on booze first, but the imported East Coast foods are no afterthought and deserve to be consumed with or without a buzz.
Word of mouth has passed along the virtues of "The Fuhgeddaboudit," a coleslaw-and-special-sauce-stacked rye-bread delivery device for Brix's much-loved pastrami. Though basically buried under a not-so-Canters mound of ingredients, the peppery, shredded house-made pastrami pushes through with enough salt and smoke to kick you back to Katz's deli (and at $15 for a full 8 oz meat serving on regular-sized bread, it may kick your wallet back a notch too).
For the full Jewish deli experience in one basket, however, Brix offers a half of a Fuhgeddaboudit with a half of a Mitzvah--Brix's reuben sandwich--for something called "a Kahootz" (another $15 adventure).
While the corned beef and saurkraut reuben is almost a rite of vinegary passage for any New Yawk food fan, when put up here against the cole slaw saturated pastrami, there is little competition. The brined and sliced corned beef glistens like an irridescent abalone shell, but offers little flavor underneath the rye, kraut and Thousand-Island-y secret house sauce. It's hard for a corned beef to stand out when it's served astride pastrami that makes The Hat's signature dish taste like a feeble West Coast copy.
Another East Coast tradition given its due credit at Brix is "chowda," served traditional New England style: white, creamy (but not goopy) and accented with aromatic herbs like dill and thyme. The only hint that the bowl came out of a SoCal kitchen at all is the finishing touch of chili-infused olive oil, a clever hint at the owner's wine-loving Mediterranean roots.
Brian Addison Chowda
Fancy burgers (listed under "The Meatpacking District") and simple 10-inch pizzas ("Little Italy") may round out the menu at Brix at the Shore, but it's by far the selection of small noshes ("Oy Vey! Onion Rings") and authentic Jewish sandwiches that make the tiny corner eatery a worthwhile lunchtime schlep--for your stomach anyway.
As an upscale wine bar with a sit-down Manhattan deli dropped inside, Brix at the Shore remains marred by high prices unbalanced by less-than-liberal proportions. But with few other options in the city for this important genre of grub (and an endearing owner whose own kooky Tom Waits-ish doodle of himself is blasted on all the restaurant's materials), it's easy to forgive the wine country costs in favor of some friggin' wicked NYC culinary character.
Brix at the Shore, 5372 E 2nd St., (562) 343-5998