Easy Street Cafe owner opens Merion Village gathering spot


February 25, 2014

The Red Brick Tavern at 292 E. Gates St. closed its doors about a year ago, and then reopened with a new name but traditional purpose in mid-December.

Red Brick Tap & Grill is new owner George Stefanidis’ take on the neighborhood bar and grill.

“I put a lot of my own wants and likes into the feel of it, and I wanted to put more focus on the food and craft beers,” said Stefanidis, who also owns the Easy Street Cafe, which has locations at 197 Thurman Ave. in German Village and at 5 S. Liberty St. in Powell.

Red Brick’s new design was inspired by the local pubs in Stefanidis’ hometown, Boston. There, “ every neighborhood has a local tavern right in the middle,” he said.

He wanted to turn the Red Brick into a similar gathering place for people in Merion Village and neighboring German Village.

“I know this area very well and really like neighborhood taverns and pubs, so when the owner (of the Red Brick Tavern) wanted to retire, I knew I could do something with it.”

The kitchen has been completely renovated, and the menu now features what Stefanidis calls New York-style Sicilian-dough pizza.

The restaurant also has a smoker and serves plenty of brisket and pulled pork. The bar serves about 30 craft beers on tap and 100 others in bottles, plus wine and cocktails.

The renovation took longer than expected, in part because of the age of the building.

“It was quite an experience,” Stefanidis said. “We kept running into glitches.”

The space was gutted. The bathrooms and the kitchen have been enlarged, and the Red Brick Tap and Grill features all-new everything: fire-suppression systems, kitchen, flooring, windows, electrical system, lighting, plumbing and seating.

But not everything was lost. “We kept the antique back bar,” he said.

The space is 3,000 square feet and seats about 110, not including the patio.

Customers include a mix of people walking there from the neighborhood and those who drive in from neighborhoods a little farther out, such as the Short North, German Village and Olde Town East.

Stefanidis says he’s glad that Merion Village has become a draw. It’s a neighborhood whose time has come, he said.

“I’ve watched this area for years, and I’ve seen the transition from what it was 20 years ago,” he said. “There are a lot of professionals, empty nesters and singles moving in here and fixing up homes. We have a lot of different variety of folks who live in German and Merion Village, and overall, the area has been changing for the better.”

But Stefanidis isn’t content to be only in Merion Village. If the Red Brick Tap & Grill takes off, he’d like to open similar taverns in other neighborhoods.

The response has been “awesome,” he said. “Despite the weather we’ve had, business has been off the hook.”

The Red Brick Tap & Grill is open every day from 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. For more information, go to www.theredbricktapandgrill.com.

Off the menu

• Denmark on High and the Secret Cellar are scheduled to open in mid-March in the Yankee on High building at 463 N. High St. Denmark on High will feature hand-crafted cocktails and a menu of small plates; the Secret Cellar will focus more on beer and wine.

• Dirty Frank’s second location is open at 2836 W. Broad St. It is open 11 a.m. to midnight Monday through Thursday, and 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. on Friday and Saturday.

• Kinetic, a new food truck focusing on gourmet healthy food, is scheduled to hit the streets on April 1. It will feature “build your own” bowl meals with a base of greens or grains, a choice of protein, and then a choice of toppings. For more information, go to www.kineticfoodtruck.com.

• Native Cold Pressed, a grab-and-go spot dedicated to fresh, raw, organic cold-pressed juices, has opened at 771-A N. High St. For more information, go to www.nativecoldpressed.com.

Dispatch restaurant columnist Denise Trowbridge can be reached at onrestaurants@dispatch.com.