Bernard Whitmore

The Brick Mexican Grill

27 Main Street, Sterling

(978) 563-1906

Who saw this coming? Encountering a Día de los Muertos celebration in a cozy little grill located on the edge of a quaint New England town common felt like something out of a Lovecraft story. Highly improbable.

Yet fiesta is exactly where my friend and I found ourselves on the first of November in Sterling’s Brick Mexican Grill. With one step through their doorway, we slipped from from sleepy little town into a place of skulls and witches, splashes of reds and blacks. The small dining room was packed, the spirit was rollicking.

After a short wait, we were assigned a high-top table in the streetside corner of the room and enthusiastically greeted by Luis, our server. We found his upbeat mood to be contagious, indeed, he seemed to make it his personal mission that everyone be happy and, to that end, started us off with a bowl of salsa and crispy tortilla chips. 

The Brick’s salsa, tomatoey with a fresh crunch of peppers and onion, bore a hint of cilantro, an ideal diversion as we scanned the menu to make decisions. To join in the spirit of fiesta, we chose from their range of hand-crafted margaritas. 

There was a time when I regarded the margarita’s sweet-salt-citrus formula with ennui. Then I discovered the jalapeño margarita and flavors sparked to life. The Brick’s, a blend of silver tequila and triple sec with a squirt of lime juice and bright green slices of fresh jalapeño peppers was spicy-hot perfection. My friend chose their pomegranate-passion fruit margarita – a bright red affair as sweet as mine was spicy. 

For the appetizer course we narrowed our choices down to shrimp, either the coconut shrimp or their ceviche. In the end, though, we thought our first visit should focus on classics and chose guacamole. We suffered no regrets with its thick-chopped ripe avocados, chopped tomatoes and onion, flavored with jalapeño and cilantro. I would have amped up the spices, but this was a guacamole for the masses, smooth with no rough edges.

It was only when Luis arrived with our entrées that we realized we’d both chosen mole-related meals. I guess we’d been too engaged in people-watching to take heed. So, what we have here is a study in mole.

My choice, the Brick’s Mole Burrito was served down the center of a long rectangular serving dish. An eight-inch flour tortilla was packed with red rice, shredded chicken, and chopped red onions. It came immersed in a deep pool of their chocolaty-black mole and drizzled with white ranchero sauce and sprinkled with sesame seeds, chopped red onion, and torn cilantro leaves.

With my first bite I realized some strategy was necessary. Traditionally, the foundation of mole sauce is various chili peppers, spices, and minced vegetables finished with notes of bittersweet chocolate. The Brick’s version tasted to me like pure chocolate sauce. There was, perhaps, a trace of spice but it seemed to scream, “Hershey’s!” 

Okay, I love chocolate. But the amount of sauce on this dish staggered. Then I realized I could eat the burrito itself; the adjacent fudge-walls would stand on their own and I could avoid a glycemic event. That worked very well, I was able to enjoy the delicious rice and large shreds of moist chicken with a tolerable amount of mole. Indeed, by the time I was finished with my meal it looked as if mini-Moses had lifted his Tootsie Roll staff and parted the Chocolate Sea.

My friend’s Brick Chicken Mole paired chicken breast meat with Mexican spices, chopped fresh red onion and chocolate sauce. At the center was a scoop of red rice sprinkled with sesame seeds. The menu promised a ‘mysterious dark sauce with a very light sweet flavor’. He regarded the sauce as ‘overpowering.’

After our sweet entrées we powered on, sharing an order of Tres Leches Cake. The Brick’s was moist and creamy, drizzled with caramel sauce and topped with white icing and a bright red cherry. After the unusual entrées, it was assuring to taste something that hewed closer to Mexican cuisine.

For such a small kitchen, the Brick Mexican Grill offers an impressively wide-ranging menu of seafood, salads, enchiladas, burritos, fajitas, tortillas, and tacos. Despite our mole experience, I could see that this is not a freezer-to-fryer kitchen, the food is fresh and homemade with honest ingredients.