In my experience eating Mexican food growing up, carne asada, tortas, tacos, and even bean and cheese burritos were all made from scratch. Yet, somehow much to the dismay of my family, I love Chipotle; and dare I say, even Taco Bell every now and then. I recognize they are inauthentic, but there is something about the cilantro lime rice at Chipotle that makes it appealing.
Such was the feeling of discovering Brick & Flour on Pacific Avenue in Glendale. I must say, Brick & Flour is more authentic than the aforementioned chains we know and adore. They already have their own large following via social media (almost 14,000 on Instagram, to be more precise) where they boast picture-perfect dishes covered in cheeses, sauces and meats. At the restaurant, the interior only holds around 10 people, making it feel cramped for eating during the dinner rush. They do have an outdoor patio near their small parking lot behind the building, and a few tables to dine with larger groups. Still, it seems most people order their food to go, which makes sense for the dishes they serve.
A couple of walls inside showcase artwork inspired by Los Angeles and liven up the small space with color. They call themselves artisanal Mexican food, with a unique neo-traditional experience, which I’d say is spot on. Brick & Flour does offer traditional Mexican dishes, each with their own creative twist.
While we ordered all of our food at once, our sides came out first, which worked out well since they made the perfect appetizers. We decided on the street corn ($3.95) which is a classic corn on the cob with mayo, cayenne, cheese and scallions. It was spicy, delicious, and reminiscent of the corn I had as a kid. Now I usually wait around for the LA County Fair to get my street-style corn fix, so it’s good to know I don’t have to anymore. We overheard the cashier talk about a few menu items, and how Brick & Flour is famous for their carne asada fries, so we were glad we’d ordered them without even knowing. It was an easy choice to go with the beer battered sidewinder carne asada fries ($7.25) made with melted cheese, house salsa, guacamole, chill aioli, cilantro avocado aioli and sour cream. While the menu says they are made with French fries, they look more like what would happen if a mojo and a curly fry had a baby, and let me tell you, it tastes delicious. I’ve never had carne asada fries that look like theirs, so kudos to them for finding a way to update something so well known in a way that works. Unsure of their portions, we ordered the small size, and it made the perfect shareable appetizer leading up to our main meal.
As soon as I noticed they serve crispy chicken, I knew I had to try their torta ($9.75). I’ve never seen crispy chicken as a meat option at a fast casual Mexican restaurant, or any Mexican restaurant for that matter. I was intrigued. All of their tortas come with a choice of meat or veggie mix and lettuce, tomato, onions, cilantro, guacamole and mayo. While the crispy chicken added great texture, it was otherwise just a sandwich. I wished they’d use a different type of bread, or toast the bread, or even use a chipotle mayo for more flavor. The shrimp taco ($3.95) on the other hand was packed with flavor. It was easily the standout, served in a flour tortilla (the best), topped with cabbage, onions and their cilantro avocado aioli. We ordered one to try and it was gone in under three minutes. Needless to say, we wished we had ordered more. But, alas, we had more food coming our way.
Along with their fries, Brick & Flour is also known for their House Special items — a crowd favorite from what we could overhear people ordering, and based on many reviews on Yelp. Anything on the menu, from the tacos to the tortas, can be ordered this way, consisting of sirloin beef, onions, scallions, house salsa and chipotle aioli. Naturally, we went with the House Special Burrito ($10.50), which was amazing, but oh, so spicy. My friend could not finish his, and for the price I’m not sure it was worth taking the heat. Otherwise, it was delicious and served with rice and beans inside.
One of my favorite meals for lunch or a quick dinner on a regular basis is different variations of homemade burrito bowls, so I’m curious to see how Brick & Flour does in that department. Their burrito bowls ($7.95-$10.95) all come with the same meat or veggie options, rice, beans, lettuce, house salsa and guacamole. They look huge and mouthwatering on their Instagram feed. Pastor tacos are also necessary to try, as well as carnitas and their veggie option, which is rice, beans, guacamole, house salsa, salsa verde and cilantro. While some restaurants create a blend of veggies or soy for vegetarian diners, Brick & Flour keeps it simple, working with what they have and who can blame them? Rice and beans are filling and work well with all of their menu items. While they only have one breakfast option, it appears to stand strong on its own. The breakfast burrito ($6.50) is with tater tots instead of traditional potatoes or hash browns, eggs, cheddar cheese, house salsa, and chipotle aioli, and I’m all for it. Bacon or sausage can be added for an upcharge of $1.50. Again, unsure about the price, but I’ll let the food do the talking before being overly cautious about that.
There is also only one item listed under dessert, which we did get to try: the churro donut ($3) made to order. The sugary, fluffy dessert is served with caramel drizzled over the top and is served in twos, making it ideal to enjoy without all the guilt. It’s tasted like my favorite childhood dessert had grown up, and it was my personal favorite item of the night.
Is Brick & Flour “authentic Mexican” through and through? No, but it doesn’t try to be. They know what they do well and offer customers unique combinations of ingredients and flavors that they already know and love. In a world where we crave fusion cuisine and Instagrammable dishes, Brick & Flour stands out among other restaurants trying to do the same thing. The best part is, you can get that experience and take it home with you. — Evelyn Garcia –
A version of this story first appeared in December 2018. All prices have been updated.