Review: 20 Brix
It’s easy to get into a routine. You live in one place, work in the same place– or maybe another– and have your regular stops during your week. You might stop by the dry cleaners, the grocery store, get some shoes repaired, get your hair done. “I just never get over there,” you say, when a friend mentions a particular neighborhood. “It just isn’t part of my routine.”
I’ve gotten many complaints that I too often focus on the CBD and Over-the-Rhine in my reviews– usually from folks who don’t live in either of those neighborhoods. “Why don’t you come to _____? I want to see more reviews in _____!” We all have our comfort zones and our neighborhoods, and occasionally we all need to leave them and try something new. I hope that some folks who never get downtown or to OTR might be inspired to visit. On the other hand, I need to leave my comfort zone on occasion too, since there are great places all around town.
One of those places is Milford, a bedroom community east of the city. When I lived in Mariemont about seven years ago, I’d drive through there pretty often, but I don’t find myself there nearly as much. It’s such a cute area, with a vibrant, small-town feel and a main street dotted with restaurants and antique stores. The highlight of Main Street, restaurant-wise, is 20 Brix.
20 Brix, named after the Brix Scale (which measures the amount of sugar in water; 20 Brix referencing a particular level of brix that is ideal for harvesting grapes for light, fruit-forward white wines), is run by the Thomas Family. Of the three men (Hunter, William and Court), one is a Level 2 sommelier, one is a Level 1 sommelier, and two are graduates from culinary programs. The chef, Paul Barraco, is a graduate of the Midwest Culinary Institute, and is the former executive chef of Tousey House, Silverglades, O’Bannon Creek, and his own catering company. Like many other chefs, his focus is seasonal, and his menus change regularly.
They are, predominantly, a wine bar, which offers many wines by the glass, and the wait staff is well-trained and can easily guide you to a selection. They also have a very nice beer list. Their tastings– held twice a month– include five wines and five food pairings, and run between $35-40 per person (which is a darn good deal).
They also accomodate large parties well, which was a surprise, given their small-ish location. We attended our monthly dinner club and had about ten people, and the service was great– generally, our dinner club can be a challenge to restaurants, so if they’ve served us well, it is quite a compliment to their service. All of our food was served at the same time, no delays, and the server rolled with the punches our somewhat boisterous crowd threw. Though it’s good for a crowd, the noise level is such that it would be easy to talk to just a couple of other people over dinner.
Speaking of dinner, Terry and I ended up with three courses. First, we each chose a salad. I went with the iceberg wedge, which included fresh tomatoes, iceberg, bacon, covered in a freshly-made blue cheese dressing. Nice and simple, but the lardon-cut bacon and the dressing made it a standout. Terry chose the Caesar salad, topped with white anchovies, Parmigiano-reggiano, fresh croutons and a house-made dressing. The salads were large enough that, paired with a split appetizer, you could easily make a meal out of them.
Our entrees were the star of the show. 20 Brixx features chicken and waffles on
the menu, and though it was hot out, I couldn’t resist. The chicken, which had an amazing, crisp, thick crust, was just perfect. I love fried chicken, but rarely eat it and even more rarely cook it (though tasty, it makes the whole house smell like fried food, which irritates me). This is one of the best restaurant fried chicken I’ve had, and some of the best fried chicken period (the best being Jeff’s amazing fried chicken, which I hope he writes about). I don’t know that I could eat it often, as I’m pretty sure I’d have to see a cardiologist, but it was an amazing comfort food. It was paired with a cheddar and rice-based waffle, which had a nutty flavor and a grainy texture (it reminded me of a waffle I’d had before that was made of grits, at least in texture.) as well as a rosemary jus. This is one of the better executions of chicken and waffles I’ve had, and a really fun twist with the rice instead of a standard waffle batter.
Terry tried the steak frites, which was exactly what it sounded like– steak and fries. The fries were incredible (I may have stolen one.. or two…)– crisp and delicious. The steak was good, but not a standout, though it was perfectly cooked and well-seasoned. There were other options that I would have chosen (and, obviously, did), but it did tame Terry’s steak craving nicely.
Our good friend Ron sat next to me, and insisted I both snap a picture and take a taste of his shrimp and grits. I loved the use of poblano peppers and cheddar to create a rich but spicy dish, and was thrilled to see stone-ground grits (produced by Lousiana Pride; though the restaurant espouses slow food. I’m wondering why they don’t use some closer-to-home grits?). The texture was light and fluffy, and the creamy poblano and bacon-tinged sauce was a complementary gravy. 20 Brix also use Laughing Bird shrimp, which are becoming pretty popular around town (and the country, really). They’re obviously not local, but they’re sustainably-produced and are never frozen, and are sold at a competitive price point to non-sustainable shrimp.
Terry, Ron, our friend Ed and I split a gigantic slice of cake for dessert– a buttermilk cake, flavored delicately with lemon and berries, topped with powdered sugar, filled with pastry cream and topped with fresh berries. The slice was huge, and though four of us nibbled off of it, we didn’t finish. It was lovely in texture and flavor, but we were so full from our entrees!
20 Brix is great for just a glass of wine, great for some apps with friends, handled a large party with aplomb, and would be a great stop for a romantic dinner. Though Milford is a bit out of my “comfort zone” of neighborhoods, I look forward to heading back to see how the menu changes for the fall, and to enjoy their outdoor patio in cooler weather. Price-wise, my check was in the $60 range, including two glasses of wine, so it’s not a particularly inexpensive meal, though I think that splitting a couple of appetizers and salads could be a good way to minimize costs. If you’re not from the Milford area, it’s worth a drive. If you are in Milford? What a great neighborhood restaurant.
The same family owns Padrino, which I hear is even better (and less expensive) than 20 Brix. I’m looking forward to another quick drive to Milford to try Padrino (which is a bit more casual and less expensive) as well.