As Madison’s “downtown home for down home cooking,” Brickhouse BBQ offers up a daily mountain of pulled pork, tender brisket, and smoky racks of ribs, all started in the wee hours of the morning under the watchful eye of Executive Chef Brad Anderson.
“We make our rubs in house from fresh spices, and then rub and smoke low and slow,” Brad says. “Our pork and brisket smoke for as long as 13 hours over hickory wood, while the ribs are a shorter cook over apple wood. Everything comes out tender and just in time every day for us to open at 11:00 a.m.”
Since debuting in 2010 inside a beautifully remodeled three-story brick building at the intersection of Gorham and Broom Streets, Brickhouse BBQ has become the city’s go-to spot not only for good barbecue, but for private parties. With a spacious first-floor back patio and two entire upper floors available for rent, the restaurant can easily accommodate more than 250 people for corporate parties, University of Wisconsin–Madison student organizations, rehearsal dinners, and even weddings. Each floor features its own bar.
“Our third floor has an outdoor patio with one of the best views of Madison,” says General Manager Matt Engel. “It’s a popular spot in the summer for weddings and family gatherings, and it offers a loft with a pool table, darts, and shuffleboard. It’s a great party location.”
Walking into the restaurant’s ground floor front entry immediately evokes a comfort-food feel. The reclaimed wood flooring, warm walls, and exposed brick compliment the rich, smoky-sweet smell that greets customers. And, while its décor evokes familiarity, the food at Brickhouse BBQ delivers on quality. A dedicated staff works tirelessly to bring customers not only the best home-style BBQ they’ve ever had, but also stellar sides, including warm bowls of creamy macaroni and cheese, barbecue pit beans, cornbread, crispy sweet potato and French fries, country mashed potatoes, spicy green beans, and above-average coleslaw and potato salad.
One stand-out menu item is the Brickhouse BBQ Ribs. Racks of St. Louis-style pork ribs are dry rubbed with a signature spice blend, smoked low and slow, and then glazed with the customer’s choice of barbecue sauce—all made in house from original recipes. Sauces include Kansas City Original, Smoked Cherry Maple, Honey Mango Habanero, and Bourbon Sriracha. Ribs are served in one-third rack, half-rack, or full-rack sizes. Take-home boxes at the end of the meal are generally a given, as portions are generous and the food is too good not to enjoy a second time.
The Smoked Pork Shoulder, hand pulled and served on Texas toast, and the Brickhouse Brisket, dry rubbed Texas style, are both stellar entrée options. Rounding out the menu is roasted chicken, blackened catfish, shrimp, polenta, and an oversized portion of the eatery’s famous four-cheese Mac and Cheese topped with shredded cheddar and green onions. (Do yourself a favor and request a take-home container in advance to save yourself from the ache of trying to eat all the cheesy goodness at one sitting.)
Executive Chef Brad recently added Korean BBQ to the menu, featuring Bulgogi, marinated beef sirloin steak, char-grilled, sliced very thin, and served with steamed rice and Gochujang BBQ sauce. “It’s quickly become one of the restaurant’s top sellers,” he says, “and makes a nice addition to a solid menu.”
Of course, any barbecue restaurant would not be complete without a fully stocked bar of bourbon and whiskey. Two pages of high-quality and rare selections of bourbon await customers, as well as more than 40 craft beers on tap. “We work really hard to offer local, popular, and rare craft beers,” says Matt.
Occasionally, Brickhouse BBQ will offer a tap takeover, a popular event lasting only a day or two where taps are taken over by one brewery. The events often draw large crowds of enthusiastic customers excited to taste many of the featured brewery’s beers.
In addition, a craft cocktail menu, selected by Bar Manager Deanna Weyhrauch, featuring six or seven original drinks rotates seasonally and almost always includes a unique take on Wisconsin’s most famous cocktail: the Old Fashioned. One example is the Brickhouse BBQ Kingslayer, an Old Fashioned inspired drink made with bourbon, orange, cherry, bitters, and simple syrup, served up either sweet, sour, or pressed.
With its location close to campus housing, hundreds of businesses, and high-rise residents, Brickhouse BBQ’s catering and pickup menu is growing in popularity. Customers can call in an order for an office lunch or party and pick it up curbside, where “we’ll carry everything to your car,” Matt says. Catering orders offer appetizers, a sandwich buffet, barbecue entrée buffet, and dessert menu.
Speaking of desserts, if you’re planning on enjoying an end-of-meal sweet, stop eating halfway through your meal and order the homemade Cornbread Pudding, featuring sweet cornbread baked with custard, topped with candied roasted corn and bourbon whiskey glaze. It’s the perfect end to a perfect meal.
Jeanne Carpenter is a cheese geek and food writer living in Oregon, Wisconsin.