Photos by Megan Leigh Barnard

The Brass Ring

After months of hammering, building, and revisioning, Brassica has finally risen from the clouds of construction dust. The Northstar group’s new Short North food adventure recently opened to a waiting public, nurtured on the reputation of the ubiquitous local fast-casual chain and the approachable excellence of Third & Hollywood. Virtually unrecognizable from the address’s former occupant, the beloved Betty’s, Brassica is a journey through some of Mediterranean cuisine’s greatest hits.

Physically, the space is twisty—patrons enter through the front door and walk up to the now-common Chipotle-esque assembly line; however, this one curves around before straightening out near the ca shier. White subway tiles, shiny stainless steel countertops, and brass-anchored walls of glass are warmed up by wood accents. By presenting the food in large wooden bowls, ceramic platters, and copper pans, the line feels less automaton-like and more family-style dining-like, if your mom stood behind a counter buffet. More, “Please pass the pickled cabbage,” than, “I’ll take, um, some of that” (finger jab at crock o’ stuff ).

The food looks lovely—fresh, colorful, appetizing—as if a food fluffer is employed specifically for this task. Bright green cukes are nestled with pink radishes, ruby beets rest across the ice from orange spicy carrots, and earthy marinated eggplant hangs out with its buddies hummus and baba. The proteins are presented in metallic pans: lamb bacon, brisket, chicken, and falafel huddled together, staying warm and toasty.

As is its raison d’etre, everything is scratch-made onsite, from the pita—more fluffy than flat—to the variety of dressings and signature drink, minty pink lemonade. The huge kitchen and line is open, with a glass cube for baking and other prep. Cookbooks line the cube, and it’s like spying to see where the crew is getting its inspiration: New middle eastern street Food, meat, vegetable literacy, and The lebanese Kitchen.

THE FOOD LOOKS LOVELY—FRESH, COLORFUL, APPETIZING—AS IF A FOOD FLUFFER IS EMPLOYED SPECIFICALLY FOR THIS TASK.

Here’s the deal: pick your delivery system—sandwich (pita), salad (bowl of greens or lentils and rice), or hummus plate—then choose how to make your foundation sing via falafel ($7.50), chicken shawarma ($8.50), beef brisket ($9.50), glazed lamb bacon ($10.50), or pickled/marinated/roasted vegetables ($7.50). For the salad option, add two bucks. Of course, there is a whole list of sides, too: Brassica fries, hummus and pita, and any of the veg or meat options can be served up a la carte. For those with allergies, there is a handy menu that has a table of items checked for ingredients such as wheat, corn, gluten, soybean, peanut, dairy, sesame, etc.

Everything the DDDJ (dinner date du jour) and I tried was delicious—the sharp, brilliantly pink pickled cabbage, the melty brisket, the crispy-soft fries, and the garlic-flecked special sauce. DDDJ quipped, “I wanna be smoking a hookah,” he was so transported by the falafel. The hummus is smooth and rich with its swirl of olive oil, and without too much tahini or lemon.

There is a laundry list of Boylan’s sodas, as well draft beer and cold-pressed juices. The minty pink lemonade though, is stellar. If Northstar is known for its ginger ale, Brassica will be hailed for this sweet-tart sip. Crafted from beet juice, cane sugar, fresh mint, and lemon juice, its magenta color is echoed in the floral artwork that dominates the wall above the beverage dispensary.

The service was stellar—everyone in their cute uniforms of black caps, white-collared shirts, and pinstriped aprons, and all apparently go to the same dentist and request

Hollywood teeth. Seriously, though, those working the line, the cashier to the busser, all seem happy to be there and proud of the meals they are ushering out to the public.

On a final note, the house-cured lamb bacon with an Aleppo pepper glaze—the pepper being a common flavor note out of Syria and Turkey—is, like, life-changing, addictive, mood-altering… I mean, I can’t even find the words to accurately describe this pile of salty, faintly gamey, sweet nuggets. Sliced into tiny lardons then cooked until caramelized into a vaguely burgundy color, I could buy a pound of this savory sweet treat and just walk around the Short North, my secret ovine candy by my side, making the autumn night that much richer.

With its large windows looking out onto the retail and social soap opera of the Short North, Brassica has emerged from the dust already a top eatery contender for the strip.

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