Fanfare for the common man-cave
Photo courtesy of the Brick House Tavern + Tap.
The tagline for the recently opened Brick House Tavern + Tap on Maple Road in Amherst is disarmingly blatant: “Dispensing happiness to the common man.” Common people like you? Or me? What does that even mean? Well, not exactly what one might think. Advance word, inspired by the chain’s website, had Brick House pegged as a classier Hooters. But is this true? Are the all-female servers indeed “scantily clad,” or is this a new suburban-Buffalo myth, like funding for the arts or mass transit?
Freud would have a field day with brickhousetavernandtap.com: cheerful, well-scrubbed servers clutching phallic beer tubes; photo galleries of red-eyed revelers and smilin’ staff; a desktop wallpaper image of a smashed can of Pabst Blue Ribbon poking out of a crumpled brown paper bag. All this, plus an annoying jukebox pop-up on the home page that kicks into, predictably, the Commodores’ “Brick House,” followed by a succession of other booty-centric tunes.
What I imagined, then, was T.G.I. Friday’s as managed by Caligula, a bromantic bacchanal of nubile UB students and grunting guys guzzling cans of Schlitz, remnants of sloppy joe dripping down their chubby chins. Mind you, I did not say this is what I hoped for; I am thirty-one, married and a father, and such things tend to make me a) sleepy and b) scared. Plus, I’ve always been a tad skeeved by the concept of overly exposed flesh near my chicken fingers; the sheer idea of men enjoying a meal at a strip club, for example, seems as safe and sensible as sharing shirtless pics via Craigslist.
The online menu doesn’t help matters; it actually says: “For the ladies … steamed broccoli,” and includes dishes like “‘double d’ cup cakes,” “dominant red meat chili,” and “submissive baked potato soup.” (No “sadomasochistic sliders”?)
But, friends, I have now seen the House with my own admittedly weak eyes. And truthfully? The Brick House is a little like last call on Chippewa: what one imagines is, for the most part, far wilder than what one actually finds. It is the “man cave” gone chain-restaurant, more or less, and honestly, aside from the menu, there is little for even the most prudish diner to be offended by.
First and foremost, the attire: Yes, the jean shorts are short, and the tight tops are tight. Skimpy? I suppose, although there is no more skin on display here than in many area bars, and I’m not speaking strictly of those owned by Rick Snowden. In terms of design aesthetic and menu, well, it’s not particularly clever. Let’s call it Maxim chic. But I’m not sure why clever would be expected here, or why its absence would cause consternation. The features trumpeted on the website—“twenty+ flat screen HD TVs … Indoor/outdoor bars and fire pits … Soft leather recliners with built-in beer glass holders and TV trays for dining”—were, indeed, all visible, even during a Wednesday lunch hour.
The menu was a bit more adventurous than one might expect, featuring everything from chicken and waffles to the “fondue mushroom burger.” But it is the beer menu that honestly does render the Brick House a welcome addition to the chain scene—seventy-plus, supposedly, including Flying Bison, and with micro-kegs and beer bongs available. It’s probably the first chain menu that actually lists the troublingly titled, mind-smashing “Irish Car Bomb,” for better or worse.
Interesting, during my visit to the House, I was intrigued to see that, despite several large groups of boisterous dudes, there were many women dining, and even a couple clearly on a date (!). Still, the marketing might make it difficult for Brick House to escape the specter of Hooters, like Woody Allen fleeing from the giant, runaway breast in Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex* (But Were Afraid to Ask). Some will forever see a missing four-letter word between “Brick” and “House,” but others should walk away reasonably satisfied—common man, or otherwise.