A Welcome Return
The old Brandywine Brewing Co. comes back as BBC Tavern, only to redefine upscale casual.
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Those returning to the fold will find the restaurant has traded in some of its expanse for intimacy, as well as some hunter’s den chic. First of all, the place is scaled down, having taken root in Pizza By Elizabeths’ previous space (which of course moved last year into the former Brandywine Brewing Co.’s old space). A mahogany bar dominates the room, a signal that perhaps the tavern takes precedence over the grill here.
In two opposing dining areas, ocher walls loom above tall, darkly stained wainscoting, and repurposed church pews stand in place of banquette seating. Cathedral ceilings and a gas-burning fireplace illuminate local artwork, including several prints of outdoorsy etchings by Gordon Allen.
The kitchen is under the orchestration of chef Mark Doto, whos has run the line at Iron Hill, Eclipse, Zanzibar Blue and Krazy Kat’s, and who performed pastry duty at Domaine Hudson. Doto’s most impressive experience is a stint at the Inn at Little Washington, an award-winning luxury inn and restaurant in Virginia. It’s a tad surprising, then, that BBC’s bar munchies and light bites so outshine its ambitious main courses.
Pretzels and mustard are a must. (Is Dietz missing a huge money-making opportunity by not selling them retail? Who wouldn’t want a legit piece of culinary Delawareana as a gift?) Crab chowder is another legacy item from the old Brewing Co., and there’s no mistaking why. Sweet corn blends harmoniously with strands of blue crab. The soup’s silky texture and cream color stands up to the vivid flavors.
Monster baked nachos could feed an entire Greenville sidewalk sale. Those East Coast must-haves, crab cakes and crab dip, were treated with the reverence they deserve. And the alluring little threesome of babyback ribs tickled my inner art-designer. Lined up all shiny and firebrick red against a white plate, they were dabbed with threads of watercress and wedged up with triangles of corn bread done cowboy style in a cast-iron skillet. Not too sweet, it served as a great straight man for the fall-off-the-bone ribs, which were sauced in a smoldering, slow-burning sriracha barbecue glaze that still tingled on the lips minutes after you tossed the bone. Two messy thumbs way up.
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