On a rare rain-free afternoon in early June, I was feeling peckish and decided to risk crossing the road for a bite at Brix, one of Iowa City’s newest Northside eateries.
Brix is a place I often overlook for lunch, partly because it’s only been open since last December, and also because I have never been quite sure what I would find on the menu. Can one make a meal on wine, bread and cheese alone?
Luckily, once I’d seated myself at the counter and gotten a peek at the lunch options, my worries were put to rest. Lunch at Brix features a well-rounded mix of unique sandwiches, salads and appetizers. The fare is heavy on the cheese and cured meats, as one might expect of a shop specializing in just that.
My first choice for lunch was the Trattoria Panini, a grilled sandwich featuring cured meats, cheese and olive muffaletta. Sadly, Brix was all out of the muffaletta, and while a substitute was offered, I felt the olive was what made the sandwich special.
I let that disappointment slide like water off a chicken’s back, and made a new selection: The Classic sandwich for $9. The Classic is made with La Quercia prosciutto, Délice de Bourgogne cheese, deli pickles and SoNo champagne and garlic mustard. It is served cold on Motley Cow ciabatta bread. I substituted the side of chips that comes with every sandwich for a $3 Brix house salad of mixed greens, salami, Parmigiano Reggiano and red wine vinaigrette. To complete my meal, I ordered a half pour of Sauvion Vouvray for $4.
While I waited for lunch to arrive, I sipped my wine in Brix’s cozy, inviting space. Not only is Brix a sit-down eatery, it also offers a deli counter stocked with meats, cheese and condiments to-go.
When my order arrived, the greens were slightly bitter and crisp, with a generous garnish of meat and cheese. For just $3, this salad is one of the best lunch buys in town.
The Classic arrived on a small wooden cheese board, a nice nod to the restaurant’s theme. The combo of prosciutto, pickle and the creamy Délice was reminiscent of one of my favorite Midwestern potluck items—the infinitely delectable pickle roll.
Please, let me be clear: This is not your Grandma’s pickle roll. For one thing, holy cow the pickles! They were cut thick, they were crisp and sour—they were basically a perfect specimen of pickleness. My server informed me that these special pickles were from Brooklyn Brine Company.
Délice de Borgougne, which replaces the cream cheese element of the “pickle roll” concept, isn’t exactly the bland, foil-wrapped cube you’re used to, either. This earthy, mushroomy, velvety-soft cheese melded perfectly with the briney pickle, the champagne-garlic mustard and the salty, Iowa-made La Quercia prosciutto.
The slight sweetness of the Vouvray was a nice accompaniment to meal’s salty, rich flavors.
Overall, lunch at Brix is a charming, easygoing experience. The small but elegant menu places gourmet ingredients from around the world alongside neighborhood favorites like Oasis hummus and Motley Cow bread. And while there wasn’t any dessert on the menu that day, it is clear that Brix is a real Iowa City sweet spot.