So, what’s a Brix? Let’s ask the Intertubes!
“Degrees Brix (symbol °Bx) is the sugar content of an aqueous solution. One degree Brix is 1 gram of sucrose in 100 grams of solution and represents the strength of the solution as percentage by weight (% w/w). If the solution contains dissolved solids other than pure sucrose, then the °Bx only approximates the dissolved solid content.”
Right! I knew that! Well, I knew the gist of it, anyway. You see, “brix” is wine-geek talk of the highest order, viticultural trade jargon you don’t really need to know at all, unless you’re the boss of a vineyard. It’s the kind of word that separates insiders (who know it’s pronounced “bricks”) from the rest of us, who probably think it’s French and would say it “bree” if we thought about it at all.
But hey. There are no wine snobs here, and there are certainly none that I could discern at Brix Wine Bar. There’s plenty of wine around, though!
The restaurant’s entrance is not where you’d expect — rattle the front door and you’ll find it locked, with diners at nearby tables looking out at you. Rather, head down to the left and come in through the Liquor World wine shop next door; wander through a couple retail aisles loaded with interesting looking bottles, and you’ll eventually find your way into the interior door that opens into Brix.
It’s a magical transformation, really, as in a blink and a threshold you cross over to something that looks more like a gentrified urban bistro than, well, a gentrified shopping center storefront. Exposed brick walls? Check! Dark, burnished wood and brass and glass in a warm, comfortably dim environment? Check!
If it’s not one of the East End’s hottest upscale dining destinations, Brix seems to have found its own niche in its six-year run. It was comfortably full with seemingly happy crowds on a Thursday evening, enjoying wines and other libations and dishes from an inviting menu the restaurant boasts as “impeccable American cuisine,” but that I might more specifically describe as “American with upscale international touches.”
Fried green tomatoes ($9) and seared crab cakes ($15) are certainly American, with the obligatory touch of the South that so many Louisville eateries seem compelled to embrace. But brie en croûte ($12) seems a bit more furrin’, as does a hummus platter ($13) with Greek feta cheese and kalamata olives and such. Shrimp etouffée is as American as Cajun French gets, of course, but the meatball bolognese ($17) is as Italian as it is rich and delicious.
And so it goes. I’m not picking on Brix. This is good stuff. But don’t put on your boots and spurs expecting country-style grub. This is a cut above, and competitive, topping out at $21 for the crab cakes.
The beverage program seems estimable, too, although “wine bar” strikes me as a bit of a stretch. I didn’t see a Cruvinet wine dispenser like the magisterial unit at the late, lamented L&N Wine Bar or its estimable successor, Bistro 1860.
There are, however, about 80 wines on the attractive, international list, equally divided between reds and whites plus a short stack of dessert wines and sparklers. Most bottles seem appropriately priced in the $30 to $50 range, with a few pricier bottles but no triple-digit trophies, at least not on the regular list. About one-third of the wines are available by the glass, mostly tagged at $8 or $9.
I ended up with a glass of Chimango organic Malbec from Argentina ($9), got a decent if not lavish pour, and was perfectly content. If I hadn’t known I was in a wine bar, though, I might have been as happy with the nicely chosen beer list (two-dozen items including some locals, mostly $5.50 or below) or the diverse bar list with a selection of two-dozen bourbons.
“American” or not, the aforementioned brie made a great starter: A slab of cheese was encased in a chopped-pecan breading and fried until the innards were molten and the outside dark golden-brown. It was served on the usual mixed lettuces and a pile of blueberries; we requested the honey drizzle on the side. The Greek salad ($7) was up to standard, too: crisp romaine and cherry tomatoes, feta and black olives and a balsamic dressing more sweet than tart, topped with a rectangle of grilled bread.
A pair of hearty Santa Fe tacos ($15) came on pairs of soft corn tortillas, loaded with field greens and avocado, gently piquant pico de gallo and your choice of ground bison, chicken, shrimp or grilled veggies.
The pork chop ($19) was fine, too, grilled bone-in and not overcooked, firm and flavorful, served on a tasty hash of potatoes, onions, mushrooms and grilled peppers and topped with a grilled veggie skewer.
Coffee ($2) and an indisputably American bourbon bread pudding ($4) made a fine finish to a meal well worth the trip to the outer ‘burbs.
Dinner for two came to $72.08, plus a $15 tip for careful, courteous and professional service.
Brix Wine Bar
12418 Lagrange Road
Robin Garr’s rating: 82 points