A Piece of the Pearl in Tualatin – Brix Tavern

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General Manager Deshawn Butler (left) and Executive Chef Adrian.
General Manager Deshawn Butler (left) and Executive Chef Adrian.

Brix Tavern South opens in Tualatin Commons

“Food, glorious food! We’re anxious to try it….” echoes in mind when I get the opportunity to try new restaurants in the area. Sure, the song from the musical Oliver based on the famous Dickens work, Oliver Twist, sung by half-starving orphans dreaming of their next meal, may seem a bit of a dramatic opening for a food review. But, with restaurant closures in the area, at times, I feel like I am starving for someplace new – someplace fresh –  someplace great in Tualatin…

Julie offers up a plate of Halibut Tacos, laden with pineapple-caper slaw, pineapple salsa, and crema.
Julie offers up a plate of Halibut Tacos, laden with pineapple-caper slaw, pineapple salsa, and crema.

Enter Brix Tavern to the Tualatin valley! When Hayden’s Lakefront Grill shuttered their doors, after 23 years of service to the city and the community, an upscale-comfort-food-sized-void was created. That’s when the team at the Urban Restaurant Group stepped in and decided to share a little piece of PDX with Tualatin. Brix Tavern has been a staple in the Pearl for years, conveniently located on NW Hoyt and 13th, offering traditional American tavern fare with flair. 

And, now, it’s all ours! 

The base of the Century Hotel on the water seems the perfect spot for the Brix Tavern as the building façade is composed of…wait for it…Bricks. Wholly unintentional, but quaint nonetheless, and the perfect pneumonic device for remembering where you’re going to eat. Upon opening the doors, you are greeted by dark and industrial décor, which toes the line between fun/cool/inviting and metro/mystery/chic in all the best ways. A thoughtfully functional blend of dining tables and lounge-y club chairs, in the front room, opens up to the rest of the dining room, flanked by a wrap-around bar and the exhibition-style kitchen. And, there in front of you, the view you came for, calling out to you like a beacon from beyond…the lake. Loaded with ample lake-view seating, both inside and out, and with more lakefront tables coming shortly, Brix will have room for all of us to enjoy the scenery as summer slips away and autumn rolls in.

Brix Chips – Braised roasted pork shoulder and Swiss cheese fondue with roasted tomato salsa and cilantro sour cream. Served with tortilla chips. 

Service is excellent, and our server, Julie, was fast, polite, attentive and knowledgeable. I visited on a sweltering Monday, and as it happens, the first Monday that they opened for service, and Julie was always on the spot with water pitcher in hand, to fend off the heat.

We attacked the eclectic menu, which ranges from traditional pub food and steakhouse favorites to some more unique items, with military precision, ordering a healthy array of small bites and entrees. Do not pass up the Brix Chips and all their cheesy, porky glory. A hearty mixture of deliciously tender braised pork shoulder and creamy, yet sharp, swiss cheese fondue. Roasted tomato salsa, a cilantro sour cream and gads of crisp, house-made tortilla chips round out this “deconstructed nachos meets queso fundido” must-have. Please note: this dish has a habit of disappearing quickly –  order two.

Halibut tacos – Pineapple and caper slaw, pineapple salsa, cilantro lime cream, fried halibut. Served on flour tortillas.

We made an effort to “lighten our loads” with the Halibut Tacos, laden with pineapple-caper slaw, pineapple salsa, crema and huge, meaty pieces of perfectly fried halibut, all atop flour tortilla. However, this great take on classic fish tacos proved to be the pinnacle of messy goodness and a balanced blend of sweetness and heat. These are the epitome of “fork and knife” tacos, especially for those with beards (or any facial hair, for that matter) and who choose not to wear a bib when out on the town.

Salt & pepper calamari – Fresno chilies, Arugula, Nuoc cham. 

Layers of melty cheese with crisp edges, adequate mushrooms, and the excellent addition of caramelized, sweet onion adorn the Mushroom Swiss Burger. The burger itself –  meaty and well-seasoned, but unfortunately over-cooked, although the juicy patty made up for it… and did I mention caramelized sweet onions! The Salt and Pepper Calamari caught my eye on the menu, as I am a sucker for the crispy, savory and spicy Chinese restaurant staple- Salt & Pepper Shrimp, that serves as inspiration. The nuoc cham offers a sweet-and-sour heat, but doesn’t hold onto the light and airy tempura-ish breading that lacked the savory, saltiness and depth of the original. But, don’t fret, these are simply growing pains of a store that only opened its doors in midsummer, and I’m sure have been addressed and corrected already.

Mushroom Swiss Burger – Sautéed mushroom. Sliced swiss cheese caramelized onions, toasted garlic buttered challah bun. Choice of house salad, fries, tater tots or soup. 

The Brix team has done an admirable job filling and dressing the massive spot, which sports a huge banquet room, also lakeside, with screens and space aplenty, that will serve as a perfect spot for family, friends, as well as corporate events. Not to mention a hidden space, dubbed “The Whiskey Room,” with a boardroom style table that seats 20-25…mind you, whiskey is not included with the room, but with the heavy-hitting bourbon bottles lining the back bar, it is strongly encouraged and ultimately inevitable.

So, stop on by Brix Tavern, say “hello” to the friendly and professional staff, have a bite and a refreshingly inventive or classic quaff from their well-crafted cocktail list. But, please be warned- this spot is quickly becoming a local favorite, filling up nightly. And, one last boon to enjoy, Happy Hour at Brix is offered often and is available everywhere in the restaurant- yes, you read that correctly… everywhere! I’ll see you then.  

Brix Tavern Tualatin is located at 8187 SW Tualatin-Sherwood Rd. Visit brixtavern.com for menu and hours.