Everyone has their local favorite bar, close to your house, great food and recognition. A place “where everybody knows your name, and they’re always glad you came.” The Brasserie, located at 1679 Lincoln Highway East in Lancaster is no stranger to this. Brian and I have been going here regularly for many years now; stopping in for late night cocktails, beer and a ball game, Taco Tuesdays with the kids, and fulfilling that random burger craving. Owned and operated by Chris Skiadas and his father Ted, from Greek decent the family has built many businesses in the area over many years. The Brasserie has been passed through many families over the years, once a meeting place for the likes of F.W. Woolworth and J.C. Penny to an elegant dining spot. The Brasserie has acquired notoriety in Bon Appétit magazine with their baked tomato bisque, a creamy and decadent soup with roasted tomatoes, mushrooms and aromatics topped with French baguette croutons and melted mozzarella cheese. It has been a local favorite for many years, that being said, the soup is good, however there are many other fantastic items that seem to be overlooked by the never changing local palette. Being a self proclaimed “foodie” I tend to like to see what new things each establishment has to offer, especially a place that I frequent, why be boring? We all hate to do the same thing every day, why would it be different for a chef? I am admittedly addicted to the fried martini olives…..but seriously throw the chef a bone….order something else, be adventurous, it’s right there in front of you! We all like the tomato bisque…now let’s talk food!
I am fortunate enough to have become acquainted with restaurant manager Rebecca Uveges or Becky as she’s referred to. She is fun, energetic and enthusiastic, all the time! I also have worked with her professionally and it’s an absolute pleasure. I am in sales and Becky is a dream to work with. She introduced me to The Brasserie’s Chef Greg Henderson for an event I was planning. I knew there were a lot of new changes to the bistro menu over the years and I was intrigued ever since the “ALT” was added to the menu…Avocado, lettuce and tomato with fresh mozzarella lemon aioli on toasted multi-grain bread. Chef Greg did an amazing job for my event and so began my quest for a chef tasting.
Brian and I have been barflies at The brasserie for a while and during that time I have walked past the dining room many times on my way to the restroom and noticed the cozy and eclectic areas for the “other” menu items, as we call it. I see an older crowd, but it’s busy and vibrant. I have been going to The Brasserie for many years for the bar food setting (which is great) but really overlooked the finer dining that was going on in the other rooms. I feel there are two types of people that frequent The Brasserie: the older yokels and the bar sceners, and I can only hope that us bar folk know what is going on on the other side and vice versa. Chef Greg has really brought the bar bistro menu to a new level all the while making it a teaser for what is going on in the restaurant.
Brian and I were lucky enough to be treated to a six course Chef tasting in the restaurant. For our first visit to the dining room we were seated in the back garden room, which we were informed that was originally used for cocktail hour. It was light and bright with a large fireplace surrounded with detailed woodworking. I noticed that all the rooms were a little different, one was like a cigar and brandy lounge, while another had a tea room feel. Our waiter Jason was fantastic from beginning to end. He gave us detailed information about the house and its history and was quick to answer all our culinary questions. On to dinner!
Fresh mozzarella and Grilled White Peaches over Arugula with an Anchovy Vinaigrette topped with Ancho Chili Powder. This dish was a great starter. The char from the peaches mixed with creamy mozzarella was a perfect opposite. The anchovy came out as an after note which I think is clever; too much anchovy can overwhelm any dish, which was not the case here. It was perfectly married with a touch of Dijon that gave it a light Caesar dressing feel without being heavy.
Lobster Tail in a Lobster Broth and Carrot Puree topped with a Blackberry Savory Sorbet and Toasted hazelnuts. On presentation of this course I was immediately struck by the colors. The bright orange and dark pink was a contrast along with the contrast of temperatures from the warm lobster and the cold sorbet. It also had a bit of a salty-sweet contrast. The puree was vibrant and bright while the sorbet was cool and mellow with the crunchy toasty hazelnuts adding more to the texture. Honestly it was a confusion of flavors, but each one was unique and fun. Interesting and playful is the best way I can describe it. I really haven’t had anything like it before.
Poached Salmon in Corn Water topped with Roasted Yellow Tomatoes Cilantro and Olive Oil. Of all the dishes this was my favorite. It seemed simple and unpresumptuous but the flavor was a perfect marriage of sweet corn and salmon. To the palette and eye it would seem to be cream based but it was a corn water puree, delicate and refined and in the middle a perfectly poached filet of salmon. The cilantro and olive oil added an earthy and elegant element to this visually deceiving dish. The final touch of roasted yellow tomatoes was a sweet torture because when they were gone I was sad.
Beef Carpaccio Purses stuffed with Capers and Garlic Aioli topped with an Olive Caramel and a side of Olive Parmesan Custard. I am a total Carpaccio snob and this was again a new and unique way of displaying this ingredient. Each purse resembled a beautiful rosette topped with olive, caramel and stuffed with a zesty mix of capers and creamy aioli; not to mention that each one was perched atop a house made thick cut potato chip. The meat was perfectly tender and the sweet caramel mixed with the salty sliced olives on top was a wonder of flavor. The olive and parmesan custard was a bonus in this dish, it made it a bit heavy but gave another layer and depth. I took it home and had it with French bread for lunch! Chef Greg….make it a bistro menu appetizer!!!
Poached Pork Loin stuffed with Artichoke over Garlic Toast with Gazpacho roasted Eggplant and Cilantro. This gazpacho was nothing like I was expecting. The bread, usually bended into gazpacho was on the side and the soup itself wasn’t blended, it was finely chopped with an added zucchini element. Most of the time zucchini is pretty bland and takes on the more vibrant flavors around it. Not in this case, it actually was the star along with the tangy roasted eggplant. The poached pork loin was moist and tender from the artichoke stuffing, and if you dive into this dish grab the garlic toast load it with gazpacho and pork, dip it into the sour cream and forget your manners.
Peach and Blueberry Compote Crème Brule over Grilled Banana Leaf. This also was not the average Crème Brule. This display was fun, summery and tropical. I felt like I was on vacation when it came to the table. The compote on the bottom was tart and sweet, and on top was creamy custard slightly charred, but amazingly what stood out and actually brought the unique flavor was the grilled banana leaf. The scent alone from it brought the tropical flair to the dish. It was imaginative, different and unexpected.
The Brasserie to me is a comfort zone. I love the staff, always get what I want (crave), the prices are good and I am close to home. Also, it’s a great place to take kids as well as hang with friends, catch some great local music or watch a game. They really have everything that you could want, a great bar menu with a pub atmosphere, a casual quiet dining area and a deck during the summer months with great food and drink specials!
After our dinner, Chef Greg came out to greet us. He is humble, a little shy and extremely sincere. He has taken simple bar food and made it different, fun and flavorful as well as vamping up the dining room entrees. The best advice I can give is don’t just order the tomato bisque, chicken wings, or a burger; venture out and try some of Chef Greg’s new spins on local favorites!
During this particular visit Brian and I were formally introduced to the owner Ted Skiadas. He is a happy and charismatic man, most notably, he is proud of his family, his Greek heritage and proud of what he has given the community. He presented us with a copy of his book entitled “My Story” honoring his family that came to America during World War II and the Greek Civil war. It’s an embodiment of his commitment to family and perseverance, and a journey to success. He also added a personal note in our copy, which is special to us and comes with it an understanding. My husband Brian came to this country from a war torn country in Northern Ireland at 17 with $200 in his pocket and a hope to someday have a “My Story”. We are excited and honored to share our experiences and we can only dream that it influences people in a positive way.
EATME! Tip: Try the Fried Martini Olives with a dry vodka martini!