The Brixton is Cynical, Fake, and Sad

Categories: Pop Review

brixton-walls.jpeg
Kingston W./Yelp
This is what fake cool looks like.
​Let's get this out of the way: Cow Hollow is white. Is it The Brixton's fault that the color of the patrons skewed so pale on Tuesday night? The Union Street bar and restaurant was packed with women showing off what a couple years of yoga toning, Kerastase color washes, and salads for lunch can do, and guys with the kegger swagger of the Winklevi, only not nearly as hot. In a room where all 135 seats were taken, and customers stood at the communal tables waiting for stools to open up, I counted three Asians, zero African Americans, and two guys who looked Latino, except both happened to be bussers. The place is white!

But can you fault a restaurant for drawing people from the surrounding neighborhood? You cannot.

What you can fault a place for is feeding those white people dishes that riff off the mediocre artifacts of suburban big-box: spinach and artichoke dip, crisp-shelled mini tacos, brown 'n' serve rolls, canned pork and beans. It's cynical. Dress it up like some rad artifact of punk-edged rock culture and it's worse than cynical ― it's sad.

Open since January, the Brixton took its name from London's Brixton Academy (now O2 Brixton Academy), where everyone from Death Cab for Cutie to Armin Van Buuren plays these days, but which has just the right whiff of beer- and sweat-soaked leather to sound cool, Clash-y. Roots-punk glamazon Exene Cervenka looks fabulous in what must be a 20-year-old stage shot that turns the menu into a poster I would've gladly swiped to tape to my dorm-room door. On one wall, a grainy, black-and-white photograph by Michael Zagaris (7x7 has the backstory) shows the Sex Pistols' last gig at Winterland, on the other, framed posters for Jesus Lizard and the Black Crowes. And in the back, wallpaper designed by Shepard Fairey, with the sunken-eyed mug of the OBEY giant worked into the Edwardian tracery. It's cool.

And then you turn to the food.

brixton-food.jpeg
Stef E./Yelp
Pretzel knots, spinach and artichoke dip, pizza ― cuisine for Cheesecake Factory kids.
​There was nothing pretzel-like about "twisted" house-made pretzel knots (quote marks theirs, $7), except the desultory pucker of braided dough cresting the tops. They were like rolls moms of the freezer generation served at Thanksgiving, warmed, sexed up with a pair of dips: seed-specked honey mustard, and cheddar cheese, dead ringer for the sauce Americans used to drown broccoli with.

A mix of poor execution and not-quite-right ingredients marred the crisped pork confit ($18). The belly meat had been rolled, cooked long, then crisped up in a pan ― it must've looked good on a clipboard in the chef's office, but the slices that reached my plate hadn't cooked to the sticky succulence they should have, or maybe the meat was just too lean to begin with. It never browned to the chewy-skinned lacquer that even moderately good carnitas attains. Plus the molasses-tweaked gigande beans it came with ― an update on pork 'n' beans ― were under-sauced hunks resembling felted wool.

The Brixton burger ($14) featured a slab of well-salted Prather grass-fed, though the confit of balsamic onions spread on its bun left an odd impression, like thin, moist batting. Best thing of the night: sweet potato fries (optional with the burger), slender and crisp, with delicately souffleed interiors.

Sad to say, they were all dishes designed to appeal to a generation brought up celebrating birthdays at the Cheesecake Factory and Hard Rock Cafe. Granted, I had one dinner, on one night ― nothing I'd base a definitive review on. Still there's enough experience in the kitchen to manage a couple of good dishes. The Brixton's consulting chef is Michelle Mah ― her contract here is up at the end of March. Former Weekly food critic Meredith Brody admired the French brasserie dishes Mah turned out for her last employer, the shuttered Midi. Mah knows how to cook, or should; the Chronicle liked her enough to tag her Rising Star Chef once. Her chef de cuisine (chef de cuisine?) is Jon Hara, also from Midi (he'll take up the reins starting next month). That they should be involved with what a Brixton opening press release called its "homey American fare with a modern twist" might be the most cynical thing about the Brixton ― they should know better. I'd totally rather chew carnitas anywhere the Brixton's bussers would let me shadow them to than saw through Mah and Hara's pork confit.

Oh, and as for the rad punk fakery the Brixton has papered itself with? I've got news for the owners: A place with "warm French onion dip" on the menu is the last place Sid Vicious would've ever let himself be dragged to. Sid? He'd be shooting black tar heroin in the dirty-floored shitter at Lung Shan.

Follow us on Twitter: @sfoodie, and like us on Facebook. Contact me at John.Birdsall@SFWeekly.com
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13 comments
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White Male
White Male

I went to Bludso's BBQ in Compton, and lets get this out of the way now: This place is Black! The rims outside were obnoxiously large and spinning, the necklaces people were wearing were WAY out of their price range, and everyone was speaking in a dialect that included very poor grammar. You could tell that most of the people were showing off how "hard" they were through their extensive experience with shady characters. In a room with 7 full tables, I spotted 1 white person, and that was me!

But is it ok to continually bring up racial stereotypes in an article? No, but I am going to keep doing it anyway.

What can you fault the restaurant for is feeding those black dishes that will bring in the neighborhood (or hood as they call it). The "cuisine" has a heavy southern feel, including low quality ribs, surprisingly tasty fried chicken, lumpy corn bread, and a juicy watermelon to top it off. It's somewhat depressing. Dress up like a old gangster (OG), pop in a few golden teeth, and its worse than somewhat depressing, it is extremely disgusting.

Charlie
Charlie

It is perfectly OK to spoof white people like douchebros in the Marina or trustafarian hipsters in the Mission. Black people? Not so much, especially since it was white people who were responsible for their repression.

White Male
White Male

No you got it wrong, it is not "OK" to make racist comments towards ANY race other than whites, regardless of repression. If I were to write an article about Mexicans or Asians, it would have been wrong, and you would have made a similar snide comment.

The bottom line is...If you can't handle white neighborhoods, don't go to the Marina. You wouldn't see me visiting a traditional restaurant in Chinatown, and bitching that there are no whites or African Americans there. I wouldn't even be surprised if the regulars there treated me rudely because I am white. White neighborhoods have white people, black neighborhoods have black people, Asian neighborhoods have Asian people, and Mexican neighborhoods have Mexican people. If you think there is something wrong with that, and you feel the need to structure an article about a restaurant in a white neighborhood about white people, you are obviously a racist. But its "OK", you can be a racist towards whites, right Charlie?

Charlie
Charlie

There is a huge difference between parodying a yuppie neighborhood and racism. Here's a hint if you can't tell the difference: one involves a silly restaurant review mocking the douchey patrons of an establishment, and the other involves the systematic and unjust oppression and persecution of an entire race of people. With your little diatribe on different ethnic neighborhoods being for different ethnicities (which truly defies all logic), you sound like the kind of guy who would have been in favor of racial segregation back in the 1950's and separate drinking fountains for "ethnic" people.

SFfoodmonster
SFfoodmonster

You went once? Once? Nice job. I'm really glad that you delved deep into the menu before you went ahead and wrote this amazing "Blog".

Guess what. Not every restaurant needs to re-invent American Cuisine.

I've eaten at the Brixton 3 times and though it is not groundbreaking, that's not the point. It's easy and comfortable and consistent and sometimes that's just what people are looking for.

Oh yeah... And stay for dessert next time. I ate about a million of the "Muddy Buddies" last night.... A-mazing!

Guest
Guest

Easily the best article I've read all week! Thanks for the detailed review on the food, I won't be wasting money at the Brixton anytime soon. Nothing worse then a restaurant trying to more of a "scene" instead of concentrating on the quality of the dishes.

Me
Me

Sounds like this reviewer is looking to get back at all the "types" of people who picked on him as a kid. I'm sorry Mr. Birdsall that you are so angry. I hope you feel better soon.

Charlie
Charlie

Spoken like a true Marina douchebro.

sprinkles
sprinkles

This Editor should be fired. Save your personal opinions about the "Marina people" for your pathetic and lonely Friday nights on Twitter.

Jared
Jared

This review is "Cynical, Fake, and Sad." However, based on the # of comments (or lack thereof), I doubt it's really going to impact any of The Brixton's 135 seats- which were all taken the night the "reviewer" was there.

This is the most uneducated review I've ever read in my entire life in any single publication. But I do encourage you to keep printing your paper; sometimes I get caught without a bag when my dog takes a crap on the sidewalk and I need to use something to pick it up with. For that, I thank you SF Weekly.

Jared

Anonymous
Anonymous

I don't think the review sounds uneducated, Jared. Cynical, yes.

It is well-written, but it misses the point. The point is the food, not the race of the people there, what they look like, or whether or not an apparently subconsciously biased reviewer thinks the owners are "punk"enough.

Charlie
Charlie

I am actually surprised that Brixton would even merit a review on a food blog. This place is more of a "theme" bar than a restaurant - basically like an indy and more upscale Hard Rock Cafe with less emphasis on the food and more emphasis on the bar. As such, the food is basically modernized bar food that is not quite up to the level of a gastropub (like say Typsy Pig in the Marina). Observing the crowd on a weekend night, this place must make most of its profits on drinks sold at the bar, and not on food. It is a similar formula to its predecessor at the same location, Left at Albuquerque, which had atrocious Tex-Mex food but a decent tequila selection. Run-of-the-mill bar food is simply not worthy of a review on a foodie blog.

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