The Washington Post

First Bite: Brickside in Bethesda

The owners have outfitted Brickside in Bethesda to evoke a speak-easy. A 12-foot HD projector provides entertainment. (Sarah L. Voisin/THE WASHINGTON POST)

One of the four owners behind Brickside in Bethesda wants to make something crystal clear: Although his new watering hole and restaurant includes a 12-foot HD projector and roars as loud as a racetrack, it’s “a bar that has sports” rather than a sports bar, says Brian Vasile.

On non-game nights, offers the restaurateur, who also owns Grand Central in Adams Morgan, the space has screened a range of films that include “The Matrix” and “The Wizard of Oz.” Throwing a party? The industrial design features six garage doors that roll up and down to create zones of semi-privacy.

Brickside’s soaring brick wall, meanwhile, is the owners’ playful attempt to make you believe you’re eating and drinking in a former speak-easy. “Vote Against Prohibition” reads a faint white message. Martinis and boozy punches call from the cocktail list.

Pitching in on the food front is Andrea Pace, chef-owner of Villa Mozart in Fairfax, who has whipped up a menu heavy on “bar bites” — wings, spinach dip, calamari — but with more flair than at most sports bars. I mean, bars with sports.

Roasted cauliflower with tahini sauce, gang? Anyone up for phyllo-wrapped shrimp? Chicken “pops” bring together three fried drumsticks glazed with barbecue sauce and accompanied by yogurt-cucumber sauce. The snack is hot, cool and tidy, thanks to bones carved clean in the kitchen. Pizzas won’t have food fans running back, but the pastas might. Three cheers for the orecchiette tossed with broccolini, pork sausage and tomato sauce revved up with crushed red pepper flakes. (The entree hails from the lunch menu at Villa Mozart.)

The check is dropped off in a Mason jar with a Tootsie Roll inside. Score!

4866 Cordell Ave., Bethesda. 301-312-6160. www.brickside Entrees, $9.95 to $20.95.

Weaned on a beige buffet a la “Fargo” in Minnesota, Tom Sietsema is the food critic for The Washington Post. This is his second tour of duty at the Post. Sietsema got his first taste in the ‘80s, when he was hired by his predecessor to answer phones, write some, and test the bulk of the Food section’s recipes. That’s how he learned to clean squid, bake colonial cakes and distinguish between nutmeg and mace.
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