When Mauricio Papapietro opened brick & tin restaurant in downtown Birmingham nine and a half years ago, he had an inkling that it was a concept that might work just as well in his own backyard of Mountain Brook. He just had no idea how well. Fast forward six years and the Mountain Brook Village location of his eatery empire has overtaken its sister location in almost every measurable analytic.
There is a certain type of magic that happens inside this spot at the corner of Cahaba and Culver Roads. It is not just the banks of windows, perfectly shaded by the sidewalk trees outside. It is not just the convivial spirit in watching old friends catch up at one table or a pair of guests from the nearby Grand Bohemian hotel dining at the bar. It is not just watching the bartender grin as he whips up a fun cocktail or the easy camaraderie going on with the skilled bakers in the back part of brick & tin. The magic is the ease with which all of this takes place. The seamlessness of a restaurant that at once feels fresh and new while also having borne witness to years of daily memories. A place that feels like it has always been a part of our daily routine.
All of this did not just happen overnight or without intention though.
Having spent years in the kitchens at Bottega Café, Hot & Hot Fish Club and Highlands Bar & Grill, Mauricio’s background is firmly rooted in fine dining. In working with chefs such as Frank Stitt and Chris Hastings, he learned not only the best way to sear off a piece of salmon or develop a fast-moving menu item, he also took away keen restaurant knowledge—an appreciation for local purveyorot& Hot Fish Club and Highands Bar & Grill. s and farmers, the importance of hiring and retaining the best staff possible, the value of seasonally offered favorite dishes. Mauricio’s style of cooking is letting the quality of the ingredients do the talking—like using humanely raised, all-natural meats. In summer that means tomatoes on everything or just on their own. In fall, you’re more likely to find seared boneless short ribs with carrots and rutabaga mashed potatoes with oxtail jus. In springtime, he allows the tender asparagus and snap peas to say everything that needs to said about the season.
But Mauricio has not done any of this on his own. He has coached up a new generation with this same ethos and approach to food. His brick & tin operation has grown to the point that he is no longer in the kitchen full-time, but everything on the menu is clearly grounded in his vision. The salads are still dressed with that pitch-perfect balance of acidity and fat while the gnocchi is a study in proportions—just the right amount of each ingredient.
Sitting in the dining room before the lunch rush, catching up over a cup of coffee, we look around to talk about what he might have done differently, if he were building out this space again today. Mauricio worked with local architect Kyle D’Agostino on executing his vision, and there are clearly things here that just work brilliantly—the entrance, for example. First-time visitors might look for the ubiquitous restaurant hostess stand, but long-time regulars understand that having such would only create a barrier to the welcome received after walking in the front door. There is an easy flow to the register to place one’s order, time to look around for familiar faces and ponder what might satiate today. Other guests breeze in and make a bee-line for the bar where they are waited on by staff behind the wide wooden planked top. Still others spill out onto the sun-dappled sidewalk.
Mauricio notes with a grin that specially designated to-go parking spots outside the bakery door are the brick & tin version of a great Mountain Brook drive-through. Throughout the day, folks will pop in this back door for a half dozen cookies or a loaf of his famous challah bread. Guests can place online orders with ease through the Toast app that blends seamlessly with his in-house point-of-sale system. The restaurant also participates in Planet Fundraiser, which gives guests the ability to select which charitable organization they would like to contribute a portion of their purchase dollars. It is a very direct way of giving back to this community which is as much a part of brick & tin’s success as that amazing Spring Vegetable Couscous.
Get You Some brick & tin
- 2901 Cahaba Road
- Mountain Brook Village
- Order Online at brickandtin.com
Spring Vegetable Farro Salad with Manchego
- Kosher salt
- 2 cups farro
- Extra virgin olive oil
- 4 stalks jumbo asparagus
- ½ cup fresh or frozen sweet peas
- ½ cup sugar snap peas
- 1 carrot, peeled
- 2 radishes
- ½ cup manchego or feta cheese, cut into small cubes
- 5 fresh mint leaves, torn or cut into rough pieces
- Lemon-Honey Vinaigrette (recipe below)
Bring two medium pots to a rolling boil, and season both with kosher salt.
Add the farro to one pot. Bring to a simmer and cook according to package instructions, for approximately 30 minutes or until it is tender but still has texture. Strain well and toss with a few tablespoons of olive oil to coat. Spread the farro out on a baking sheet and allow to cool to room temperature.
While the farro is cooking, prepare a large bowl of ice water. Cut off and discard the bottom section of the asparagus where it’s white and woody. Peel the bottom inch of the remaining asparagus stalks where it is too fibrous to eat, much like peeling a carrot. Cut the stalks into 1-inch sections and drop them into the boiling water for 1 minute. Remove the asparagus from the boiling water and plunge into the ice bath for 2 minutes, until it is completely cold. Repeat this blanching process for both types of peas, boiling for 1 minute and then “shocking” for 2 minutes in ice water. Once the vegetables are dry, combine them with the cooled farro in a mixing bowl.
Using a vegetable peeler, shave the carrot into thin ribbons. Slice radishes into thin slices. Add the carrots, radishes, cheese and mint to the farro and set aside. Dress the farro mixture with the vinaigrette and serve.
- ¼ cup fresh squeeze lemon juice
- 3 Tbsp. honey
- 1 shallot, minced
- Kosher salt
- ¾ cup extra virgin olive oil
Combine the lemon juice, honey and shallot in a mixing bowl. Add a pinch of kosher salt and allow the shallots to macerate in the juice for 10 minutes. Whisk in the olive oil and season with salt to taste.