From country club to coffeehouse to full-blown restaurant, Elizabeth Lawin and her dad always knew they would work side-by-side. And, after two years of designing and building, the duo opened White Bear Lake’s Brickhouse Food & Drink nearly one year ago—however, the road to opening Brickhouse was a little different than most.
As a child, Lawin dreamt of working as her father’s golf caddie and, in 2012, after he purchased Dellwood Country Club, that dream started to become reality. “I was able to spend some time working with him, which is the next best thing to being a caddie for a professional golfer,” owner Elizabeth Lawin says. As their love for hospitality grew, so did their love for food—the deciding factor for opening a business together.
After deciding to open a coffeehouse, and even attending barista school, they settled on a building in downtown White Bear Lake. “But when we saw it, we knew it needed to be a restaurant,” she says. They hired Minneapolis-based Shea Design and White Bear Lake architectural firm, Rust Architects, to perfect the ambiance—two years later, their dream restaurant opened.
The beautiful two-story eatery features two large bars, an open kitchen, cozy fireplace, a dog-friendly outdoor patio and a rooftop patio. As for the exterior, Rust Architects used photos featuring the original building architecture to restore the building to its original beauty.
And though there’s no dress code (meaning you can dine in shorts and a T-shirt!), Lawin explains that the elegant restaurant is designed for a casual lunch, but also for dressing up and special occasions.
Executive chef Peter Christenson, brought over from Dellwood Country Club, has a sprawling menu ranging from the Brickhouse burger—two patties sandwiched between cheese, topped with lettuce, grilled onions and a secret sauce—to the cracker-crusted walleye, a classic Minnesota dish with wild rice, mushrooms, crackers and an herb crust.
“The best way to describe our food is Midwestern modern cuisine,” says Lawin. “We use as high-quality ingredients as possible, and we source locally when we can. We love using local farmers and vendors when we can to support Minnesota businesses.”
The Brickhouse menu changes with the seasons, but a few staple items remain the same, including the aforementioned Brickhouse burger and cracker-crusted walleye, as well as the Brickhouse chicken and sticky ribs. The restaurant also features unique daily specials, a feature that came about during the COVID-19 virus.
“This became very popular when we were takeout only,” says Lawin. “We would post our nightly special on Instagram and Facebook, and it was almost always the most popular item that we sold that night.”
Some of those daily specials include the popular Skuna Bay salmon (basil, heirloom tomatoes, beurre blanc sauce, asparagus and butter poached with potatoes), barbecue and brisket platters, pasta dishes (including Cajun shrimp pasta, chicken parmesan and bucatini carbonara) and unique desserts.
The Brickhouse’s bar program was designed by Jesse Held from Earl Giles and includes take-home cocktail kits—such as the Lost Lake cocktail (cucumber-lime juice infused with fennel and peppercorn), the Lady Luck cocktail (raspberry, lavender and lemon-infused) or the Summer of ‘69! (lemon, lime, orange, grapefruit and pineapple juices). At the bar, their premier cocktail is an old fashioned, but they also serve Brickhouse original drinks, beer on tap and a large wine selection.
“Owning and running the Brickhouse has been a great experience,” Lawin says. “It has always been a dream of mine to work together with my dad, and seeing two years of planning come together into a restaurant is beyond words. This year has definitely been a unique year to open a restaurant due to the pandemic, but we are so lucky to have a great community that supports us.”
“It’s hard for me to pick a favorite item … but I will narrow it down to three items,” she says.
Lunch: My favorite lunch item, or “feeling healthy” item, is the berry and brie salad. You cannot go wrong with it. Mixed greens, strawberries, blackberries and raspberries, candied nuts and a crostini topped with melted brie and a lemon poppy-seed dressing.
Dinner: My favorite dinner combination is the sticky ribs, which is a Korean barbecue style rib. Served with our house-made sticky rice, spicy cabbage and pickled watermelon rind. [Also] the Brussels sprouts—they’re crisped to perfection and served with pork belly and Korean barbecue sauce.
Drinks: My favorite drink is the Garden party. It has blueberry hibiscus-infused vodka, lemon juice, Pimms, strawberry syrup and club soda; it’s garnished with mint, strawberries, blueberries and cucumber. It’s a very refreshing summer cocktail, and perfect for sitting on the rooftop patio.