The Brix Project- Titusville- 4.25-Stars
Titusville is just about midway down Florida near the Atlantic coast, where exactly does it belong? Perhaps the rustic construction of Playalinda Brewery The Brix Project tries to make the case that Titusville belongs in the South rather than the Caribbean expat-strewn beaches of Florida, but its gastropub menu also has a modern edge that makes it a distinct product of Titusville caught between two worlds.
Though Brix's slightly elevated prices and creative culinary experimentation may try to reach beyond the Blue Ridge Mountains towards a clear night sky of Michelin stars, there is one thing you cannot forget at a gastropub. Even if the food is modernized somewhat, with global food options like vego-friendly jackfruit sandwiches, Thai sliders and Italian flatbreads, the microbrewery roots are inescapable, splattered over the rustic wood interior of a 100-year old former hardware store. So while our server Ashley appeared competent enough at first and eventually became quite a good waitress afterwards, she fell victim to Beverly Hillbilly syndrome - pretending to be a fine-dining restaurant inside the world's classiest and cleanest Ace Hardware. But perhaps trying to shoot the moon has still landed these guys among the stars because the food was certainly worthy of its gastropub-grade tab bill, whether it be exciting new-style cuisine or down-home country.
A brewery Playalinda may be, with a varied selection of ales and off-menu specials, but one thing you can always count on at a gastropub is classy mixed drinks. The Scotch and blood orange-based Blood and Sand stands out for its taste so refreshing that you'd decide based on its low alcohol content that you can down four of them to savor more and more of its exquisite depth and balance. So now it was time to prove that I didn't need any of his help to devour everything this kitchen could offer, as the food came out.
Mac and cheese may be a quintessential Southern side, yet is paradoxically more and less traditional when paired with oxtail. On one hand, yo' mama made sure y'all done know that oxtail itself is Southern as can be, yet its creamy texture when cooked properly has one foot in another dimension entirely, and when served in such a painstaking preparation as being delicately chopped and spread over homemade toast like a pâté, it becomes far more than humble country food. As you spoon out a mac and cheese bathed in a holy trinity of cheeses just as equally creamy and decadent, you'd be forgiven for not thinking you'd walked into a Sunday after-church Baptist luncheon in Alabama and yelling out "Hallelujah Praise Lord Cheesus!"
Pork belly is the fattiest meat known to man. When served crispy over Brussels sprouts, the grease screams at you to book a cardiologist appointment stat so you can devour it guiltlessly. You might even forget about the Brussels sprouts, but you won't actually have to make yourself eat every piece of them before rewarding yourself with the bovine porn right nearby, because they are a truly incredible way to go green. The lovely touch of yo' mama's homemade orange marmalade cuts the grease of the pork belly expertly and leaves behind a taste as sweet as the proud smile on her face growing up when you ate all your collard greens and earned an extra slice of yo' favorite peach cobbler in da universe.
Burgers may be the quintessential American pub food, and the terrific BBQ burger, with top-shelf BBQ sauce adorning a burger full of fresh ground meat and slapped onto an equally fresh bun, lays a solid foundation in the kitchen for delivering more adventurous burgers such as duck sliders, which replace generic romaine lettuce with peppery and USDA-certified, arugula, and everyday beef with rich fried duck. Only here at a fine gastropub would you find a burger whose roots are placed firmly in the American country but make the vaguest nods towards the highest of French master chefs.
So maybe we haven't answered the longest-running debate in Florida since George Bush and Al Gore. Instead, we've found along the way that Brix Project has traits of its Southern rural surroundings but is also decidedly modern in execution and ability to update and refine old-fashioned American and soul food classics. It has traits of a typical pub, but with class and panache in everything from its refurbished backwoods interior to its wondrous pub grub. As long as it keeps one foot firmly on the ground, it can keep its head up in the clouds, and I don't care where in the USA it comes from - Brix is the first of its kind in Titusville and has all the ingredients needed to be the flagship for gastropubs in the area as a whole. Y'all - or is it you all? - better get yourselves a table.
The Big Boy says, "Brix may or may not be from Down South, but it sure ain't gone south! 4.25 stars!