I got my first taste of tapas when Shane and I were honeymooning in Savannah, Georgia. The place where we tried them was too hip for us, but the ability to be able to try several small dishes was something we enjoyed. At that time, we didn’t know of a place in Huntsville that offered tapas, but we later discovered Chef’s Table and ate there several times with glee. Now that it’s closed, the go-to place for tapas is Brix. It is in the location that Luciano’s used to occupy on Airport Road and is owned by the same guy who launched 801 Franklin which recently closed its doors.
If you ever dined at Luciano’s, the atmosphere at Brix will feel familiar to you. Although tasteful, the space lacks personality. Its walls are muted, as are the furnishings inside. When we dined, there were only two or three other parties inside, which added to the “this isn’t a happening place” vibe. Our waitress, who was fantastic, happily offered suggestions for the tapas she would order. We accepted every single one of her suggestions, ordering wild mushroom risotto ($9), filet mignon ($16), diver sea scallops ($18), and shrimp and andouille ravioli ($15). I also chose to add a wedge salad for $3.50.
When the food arrived, it was all presented beautifully. Each dish was good except the filet. The meat was tough, but the garlic mashed potatoes it sat atop were flavorful and rich. The waitress’ favorite dish, the shrimp and andouille ravioli, was a creative dish that was full of flavor, and the sea scallop dish was also good. The standout in the group was the wild mushroom risotto; it was earthy and comforting creamy goodness on a plate. The element that sent it into the tastiness stratosphere was the seafood stock it had been cooked in. It was easily my favorite dish. Although Brix offers a tapas experience that others in town don’t, I can’t think of a compelling reason to return. If I am paying close to an entree price for a tapas serving size, I have to be wowed, and at Brix, I just wasn’t.
I’ve been skeptical of Brix since I first saw a billboard on The Parkway advertising “Brix Wine and Tapas” in a 1000-point Papyrus font. I immediately thought to myself “They’re trying to sell something they don’t have: elegance, exquisite eats, whatever it is, it’s not going to be that good.” I tried to put aside my skepticism the night we visited, but it kept creeping in.
Let’s first talk about what was good.
The service was excellent. Our waiter was friendly, attentive, and warm. Like good fine dining waiters do, she spoke softly and moved deliberately, but she wasn’t pretentious or overbearing. She described the dishes with enthusiasm, refilled our drinks frequently, and was jovial throughout the visit.
Likewise, the food was good. It was prepared well, looked nice on the plate, and tasted good. Like Melanie said, the shrimp and andouille ravoli was particularly tasty and had a memorable mean kick to it. I also enjoyed the buttery scallops and the bread pudding. The filet mignon was fine but had some problems…
…which makes for a good segue into what’s wrong with Brix.
More than anything, the atmosphere is not good. Sure, it’s quiet and fairly pleasant, but it feels like a place that is ready to close. It smells desperate, scared, and struggling. It also feels fake. I know better than to expect brown bear fur rugs at a restaurant in Huntsville, Alabama, but I expect a confident, honest shot at it. It goes back to the Papyrus: don’t give me a font found on any Windows PC and tell me it’s elegant—and don’t sponge paint the walls with Behr and call it Italian stone. Also, the food is only pretty good. It needs to be better. For example, the shrimp ravioli tasted great, but Melanie could do just as well at home; the same was true with the bread pudding. The food also needed a little more attention; the filet mignon, for example, desperately needed some salt and pepper. The food at a fine dining place should have some magic in it that I can’t get at home, but Brix just isn’t doing it.
I don’t see us returning to Brix. Although the service was excellent, the atmosphere was foreboding and the food forgettable. There are better fine dining options in Huntsville.
Some other tidbits: