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Jan 31, 2010 09:48 AM

Outstanding execution found at Bruno's

The setup:
I had read some intriguing posts about Broken Arrow awhile back and was disappointed to find they where not open for lunch as the wife and I commute to SF each day from Marin. I recently learned (again from CH posts thank you), that the chefs had moved to Bruno's on Mission and brought their menu with them, so after an early evening viewing of Avatar at the Metreon we thought we would give them a shot. Unfortunately we arrived at about 9PM on a Friday night only to find the place packed and out of food! We figured Bruno's must have gotten awfully popular recently, but then we found even the nearby Cha Cha Cha's had a two hour wait. I guess it had been awhile since the Ms. and I had a weekend night outing in SF...either that, or it's this darn economy that is forcing folks out of their homes and into restaurants on Friday nights.

As luck would have it, the Ms. and I had a short-notice reason to be back in SF the following Saturday. This time I called ahead at about 6PM and was given a reservation as long as I promised to show up before 6:30. Needless to say, we promptly jetted to the heart of the Mission, found a lucky parking spot and made it on time, whew.

So we enter Bruno's at about 6:25 only to find it mostly empty with all the dining tables reserved. The nice waitress explains we could sit at one of the tables, provided that we were out by 7:30. Okay fine I say, but now I am thinking geesh, this place better be darn good.

The review:
After receiving the relatively limited menu, we select the mac & cheese appetizer, the oyster poor boy, the spare ribs with a side of greens & a biscuit, and a Lynchburg Lemon-Aid, which the wife insisted would be too sweet.

First came the cocktail, which was perfect, followed by the rib plate and the oyster pb. The spare ribs came complete with the brisket meat attached and were hands-down the best restaurant ribs I have had west of Kansas City. The rib ends were smoky and spicy, slightly crunchy on the outside while moist and tender on the inside, and cooked to perfection -- not quite falling off the bone, but coming away clean when you bit into them. The brisket ends were a tad tougher as they do not cook at the same rate, but still excellent and their slight chewiness. The tomato based sauce, served on the side, was light when sampled by itself, but enhanced the flavors already in the ribs when spread on with a knife. The greens were also equally done to perfection, tender with just the right amount of tooth feel. The did have a strange flavor to them though (cloves?), which we didn't care for so much. But since taste is a subjective thing I can't really hold it against them. The biscuit was crunchy on the outside and moist and light on the inside without the slightest hint of grease.

The poor boy was also excellent, with perfectly battered and fried oysters served on a crunchy yet tender baguette. The remulaude, like the BBQ sauce, was flavorful, but did not take away from the flavor of the oysters.

Last came the mac & cheese (the late app being the only blemish after being seated), and it too could be the best straight forward version I have ordered in the bay area. Served piping hot in its own large ramekin, it was crusty and moist, cheesy and not the least bit soupy or greasy, with just the right amount of bite left in the macaroni.

As for the service, the two waitresses were very friendly and attentive. And as it turned out, we finished up just before 7:30 without ever feeling rushed.

As most can probably tell by now, we came away very impressed, and will be sure to get back to try the rest of the menu -- hopefully sooner than later.

Bruno's Restaurant
2389 Mission St, San Francisco, CA 94110

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  1. We travel the same path, CB! Same history of piqued interest in Broken Record (which is still on my list in its latest incarnation) and the same interest in the early notices of their Bruno's menu. Did you notice this couple had a guest stint at MSF just before opening at Bruno's? I missed them there, just like I missed Jamie Fox at MSF last night, due to a prior booking. Life is rough for the hounds of SF, eh? All's well that ends this well. I was there last night with the DW and another couple, seated around 7:15.

    We absolutely love it. Kept raving about it all night. Woke up thinking abut it. Really, really excellent meal.

    The four of us split beet salad and frito pie apps, followed by 2 rib and 2 crawfish etouffee mains with side of biscuits, grits, slaw, and sprouts. Where to begin? The beet salad was divine -- which is hard to do and even harder to verbalize. I mean, what can you do to make a beet salad stand out? I dunno, but they did it. Rich creamy dressing lightly applied to beets on a bed of arugula dotted with pralined pecans. Poof. It was gone. The frito pie is new to me. I'm a Yankee down deep, so I really have none of this cuisine imprinted in my psyche. Maybe this just the way its done in the South? Or my guess is that this pair can flat out cook. The chili on the bottom layer had me craving more, but the fritos and sour cream on top didn't allow for that -- they created this nachos-you-eat-with-a-spoon revelation. Those ribs... you nailed the description. I had the etouffee, but from the moment it hit the table and the smoky aroma wafted over us, I could tell the were outstanding. As we dug in I kept hearing ecstatic murmurs of 'fantastic', 'best', 'wow', 'sooo good' that had me envious. I did get a small sample that ensured we will return. Wow. I need a whole plate of those ribs. Soon. My etouffee was great. After taking in the smoky aromas of the rib plate, when I dug into the etouffee crust, out popped another wave of delicious seafood aromas. Pretty bold pepper infused into the jambalaya filling in a ramekin topped with perfected toasted pastry. Big crawfish chunks and a deep seafood essence cooked all the way into the dish. If I had to make one complaint, I'd ding the grits which were described as spicy but I didn't detect any zing -- which was OK since the crawfish had plenty, so the creamy grits were a good counterpoint, just a bit dull. The best side by far was the biscuit. Near scone-like crumb crossed with a steamy, ethereal, buttermilky bun. When we last ate at Spork we joked that we could be happy just eating their "free" biscuits. Same goes here. If you put a dozen of those in front of me, it might be the death of me. Irresistibly good.

    Portion sizes are not huge. Not small-plate-sized, but not excessive in the least. I think that's pretty smart in a bar setting -- there is a long common table with stools close to the bar that invites dabbling. We were hungry to begin wtih, and splitting the apps might not have been the right idea, Whatever, we got to the end and still had room for more, and were in love with these chefs. So we ordered another biscuit and a po boy split four ways. Cha-ching. The spot was hit, again.

    We didn't indulge in cocktails, but they looked awfully inviting to me. We brought wine, as usual, so I didn't study their wine and beer list. But it looked promising. There was a corkage, but I didn't even look to see what it was. Laying off the booze certainly helped the tab -- $122 for the four of us!!!! My wife, who usually nails her tab estimates, was guessing $200. And really, it was that good. They could have charged us that much and we still would be raving. But now we're raving, and making plans to return.

    Gotta love chowhound, and the inspirations we get here.

    8 Replies
    1. re: BernalKC

      Attempting to add a link...

      Bruno's Restaurant
      2389 Mission St, San Francisco, CA 94110

      1. re: BernalKC

        We ate here tonight. As to your question about the beet salad, the dressing is yogurt flavored with ras al hanout - that's what makes it so special. That salad was incredible - smokey, delicate, exotic, tangy . . . maybe the best thing we had. Thought the mac-n-cheese was very good but not extraordinary. My BF had the pulled pork sandwich, which we both thought was just ok. Good smoke on the meat but the pork itself was a bit mushy, and cole slaw was vinegary and crunchy but nothing all that distinctive about it. I was bummed the frito pie was not on the menu tonight, but had the ribs - and they are as described above - sooooo smokey and delicious and tender. phenomenal! I don't know that much about bbq, but I think these are the best I've ever had. They came with a little sauce on the side which was also a tad vinegary yet sweet and with a tiny bit of heat. But the smokiness is what got me - i want to wake up smelling like those ribs! I got to choose a side with the ribs, and ordered the roasted brussel sprouts, which were very regular. The buttermilk biscuit, with honey butter, was delicious - flakey and light and tender. I can't wait to go back and try the oyster po' boy. I had one glass of wine and our bill was $49. So glad this topic came up, or I never would have checked Bruno's out.

        1. re: mariacarmen

          The one time I ate there I was sitting in one of the banquettes and felt like Lily Tomlin's Edith Ann in her big chair. Am I remembering wrong? Are the tables tops higher above the seat than usual?

          1. re: wolfe

            i didn't notice that, sat at banquette against the wall - and there is a long two-sided bar with stools down the middle . . . was this place recently remodeled?

          2. re: mariacarmen

            >>i want to wake up smelling like those ribs! <<

            I think that's about the hottest fantasy I guy could have, waking up next to a girl friend who smelled like those ribs...

                1. re: wolfe

                  I don't remember that character at all! Surreal . . .

        2. I may have been there the same night and time as you, if it was January 30 around 6 PM. I brought my family to Bruno's, knowing it had a menu my kids would like, and when I walked in I thought, "hmm...maybe this is not the best place to take a family" as you get a pretty strong bar/club vibe from the decor and setting. However, we had a very nice meal. We had the ribs, greens, oyster poboy, mac and cheese and the pulled pork sandwich, with two fried apple pies for dessert. Everything was very tasty. The crispy oysters, perfectly-textured biscuit and unctuous mac and cheese were my favorites. All of the staff were super friendly and nice. I would definitely go back, though if I were bringing my kids I'd be sure to go on the early side.

          1. Ryan and Kat are pulling up stakes and leaving Bruno's. Saturday is the last night. I heard the bad news in today's Inside Scoop in the Chron and my wife and I immediately knew we had to go there tonight. No problem getting a table, so don't hesitate. I got one more plate of those divine ribs. The menu includes oyster bo boys, chicken and waffles, a peach and arugula salad, frito pie... Sad to see this go.

            7 Replies
            1. re: BernalKC

              So sad to see the biscuits go! They are the best biscuits I've ever had. Best of luck to them, I hope they open up their own place.

              1. re: Candice

                me too! i want those ribs again, only got to try them twice. and never got to try their frito pie....

                1. re: mariacarmen

                  I was hoping the same thing but I would'nt count on it. I was there for their last night and from what I heard, they will both be persuing separate ventures. I just think they could not attract enough customers at that Bruno's location.

                  1. re: Kristine

                    so sad. I think that space is not conducive to food, maybe? because Bruno's is ending their food service program altogether, aren't they?

                    1. re: mariacarmen

                      If Ryan and Kat couldn't make it work I doubt anybody else could.

                      1. re: mariacarmen

                        They are ending their food service And our server offered that the bar crowd and restaurant crowd were not a great mix, no crossover between them, and when the bar would get loud and crowded later at night it detracted from the restaurant service. So it makes some sense to part ways. I guess. We never had that problem.

                        Fingers crossed for their return, one way or another.