Above: Brickhouse owners Kim Kobasic and Fred Reeves
What started as a video store more than 20 years ago in a San Francisco warehouse district with few residents has transitioned into a SoMa-area staple offering a range of unique burgers and cocktails just a pop fly away from AT&T Park.
Brickhouse Bar & Grill, lauded for its wholesome comfort food, boasts a brunch menu teeming with mouthwatering delicacies like pancake battered bacon, southwest chicken salads, seared ahi tuna sandwiches and pulled pork Benedict.
Kim Kobasic, who co-owns the joint with husband Fred Reeves, runs the restaurant with a hands-on approach. She’s always taken the time to learn customers’ names and interact up front with clientele.
“We’ve always told the staff to just assume everybody who walks in here is a friend of ours,” she said. “I think a big part of our success was just always being up there in front, talking with people and putting such a big emphasis on personability.”
Brickhouse offers 21 beers on tap and a slew of unique signature cocktails like beer candied bacon bloody marys. Reeves’ worked for about twelve years as a commercial fisherman, so a majority of the restaurant’s seafood is directly sourced from friends in Bristol Bay, Alaska.
With its mouthwatering menu options and hands-on approach, it’s no wonder Brickhouse has a repertoire of customers who’ve frequented the restaurant from the get go.
From Video Store to Bar & Grill
Brickhouse opened more than 20 years ago as a video store in the SoMa neighborhood. At the time, the neighborhood was empty, aside for the new ballpark and nearby industry. Reeves’ eventually installed a coffee bar which took off. He then offered premade sandwiches and salads before opening a full kitchen in 2001.
“The coffee bar ended up doing very, very well and then it just kind of organically evolved,” Kobasic said.
Burgers helped put Brickhouse on the map, Kobasic added. The restaurant was one of the first to offer Wagyu beef nationwide, thanks to Reeves’ father, a Wagyu cattle rancher who led efforts to bring the meat to the states back in the 1980s.
Since Brickhouse opened, the surrounding area has grown exponentially. The neighborhood includes the addition of several residential buildings, as well as software company headquarters and museums; the prominent Salesforce Tower opened nearby in 2018.
In 2017, the restaurant underwent its own expansion project — a massive renovation that quintupled the size of the bar area and entirely reconfigured the layout.
“If I had to do it ever again, we would just shut down for three weeks,” said Kobasic, who resorted to taking things apart and reconfiguring them at 3 a.m. with Reeves in order to stay open during the renovation. “It took the better part of a year, but we just loved the result.”
Facing the Pandemic
Amid COVID-19, the restaurant remained open. At one point they laid off all but two workers and Kobasic ran the front of the house for about six weeks along with her head chef. After the company got their Paycheck Protection Program loan, business slowly started to grow, although they were only raking in about $200 a day.
“It was just like starting over, almost like a new business,” Kobasic said. “People had to find out who was open, when you’re open and we had limited products, a limited menu and very limited hours. Knock on wood we’ve been, I think as fortunate as anybody might be in this situation.”
For over nine weeks, the restaurant has also partnered with SF New Deal, a nonprofit that partners with small businesses to offer food and meals to seniors and adults in the community. The program, originally slated to end June 10, has already been extended twice and has allowed Kobasic and Reeves to retain many of their employees.
Amid the era of social distancing, the restaurant is offering outdoor seating to customers and live bands on the weekend thanks to friends and neighbors. The pair set up a yard area with a dart board and Reeves spends weekends working on a gazebo for customers.
Kobasic has also been exchanging ideas with other local restaurants and managers to come up with ways to engage customers in the area. Selling liquor has also been a big moneymaker, she added.
The restaurateur’s next project is to get their decadent sauces, dressings and glazes, which includes a remoulade and baconnaise, bottled, shelved and sold. It’s all on the table depending on price.
“Everybody is just trying to think outside the box,” Kobasic said. “Everyone is just utilizing every possible resource they have to see what works.”