One of my elderly, opinionated friends—I have several 🙂 —says that Bricktop’s is “uppity—a chain restaurant with a superiority complex.”
I laughed. “Why do you say that?” I asked. I’ve never had a bad meal there and the Brussels sprouts, alone, are worth the trip!”
“That’s my point! Just listen to how they describe themselves: ‘Upscale chain, serving gourmet New American dishes in a stylish, contemporary setting,'”she said, reading from the restaurant’s website. “Chain restaurants are supposed to be ordinary, for heaven’s sake!”
“Well,” I reminded her, “it’s a small chain, so they can still be extraordinary.”
Ordinary, It Ain’t
Recently, Cyndy and I stopped for lunch at Bricktop’s outside Frontenac Shopping Center. As we scanned the menu, Cyndy remarked, “Ahh. . . ol’ blue eyes.” At first, I though she was referring to the waiter. But it was Sinatra crooning a 40s tune in the background, a nice touch you don’t find mid-day in most restaurants.
The menu offered a number of fish choices: cod, haddock, grouper, ahi tuna, salmon, trout and crab. I went with the fish tacos and Brussels sprout side dish. Cyndy settled on the lunch special, a fish sandwich, also with those yummy sprouts.
As we enjoyed a cup of tea, I began to enumerate the noteworthy features of the unique chain. To begin with there’s ample parking—always a bonus— a separate, roomy entryway, and hostesses ready to seat and quick to deliver menus. The dining room with its cushy, spacious and secluded tables and booths was distinctly separated from the bar.
As we wiled away the afternoon, servers scurried about, getting ready for the Happy Hour that begins at 4 p.m. After all, when you’re “upscale gourmet” you have to stay on your toes. And Bricktop does just that!
The name Bricktop’s intrigued me, so I googled the term. But I could find no reason why it was attached to a restaurant until I ran onto the story of a woman named Ada “Bricktop” Smith. (She acquired the nickname because of her flaming red hair.)
Ada was a poor youngster from West Virginia, born to Irish and African-American parents. She went on to become a well-recognized dancer, jazz singer, vaudevillian, and nightclub owner during the Roaring Twenties and until the war. At her nightclub in Paris, Chez Bricktop, she taught cafe society how to dance the Charleston and hosted such grandees as Duke Ellington, Cole Porter, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and John Steinbeck. You might say she owned one of the early restaurant chains, because she opened two other night clubs, one in Mexico City and the other in Rome.
Today’s restaurants are a hat tip to Ada Smith and the good times she brought to a past era. Ada made a brief cameo appearance in Woody Allen’s 1983 film “Zelig.”