International cafe Bar Bruno opens at Henry and Union. Let's hope the location can last.
Photo by Carroll Gardens photographer Johannes Kroemer
Bar Bruno, a Latin-influenced cafe serving a host of Micheladas (roughly, beer mixed with tomato juice) has opened at the corner of Henry St. and Union St. in Carroll Gardens, with a simple but tasty menu, giving many the hope that survival is possible at a corner that’s seen its share of establishments come and go.
The space, previously Marius Café, long has suffered from bad ideas and awkward design at a good location (a western-themed bagel spot, anyone?), but Bar Bruno appeals to the eye after a serious gut renovation that might have you thinking the space has always been this chic. With giant windows overlooking both streets, Bar Bruno is comely.
Opened by Boerum Hill residents Richard Ampudia (Vera Cruz, Café Habana and La Esquina) and his wife Lena Seow (Café Boobah in Brooklyn Heights and Café Gitan at the Jane Hotel), Bar Bruno mimics 60s-era London cafes with round melamine café tables up front, a seven-seat bar wrapped in wood paneling, cozy wood veneer booths, tiled walls and a tin ceiling.
By Johannes Kroemer
Photos of Latino soccer stars decorate the walls —Ampudia is from Mexico City—and there’s a list of spicy micheladas (a beloved Mexican hangover cure) that compliment the simple, reasonably priced café menu.
The owners have an international background. Seow grew up in Malaysia with a Chinese father and Indian mother, both of whom loved to cook. Ampudia grew up as a Mexican Jew eating herring, sable and Latin fare.
Despite the myriad influences, Seow describes the food as “just Brooklyn comfort food” that she and her husband like to eat.
“The whole place is made like that, to be comfortable,” Seow says.
On Saturday night, I sampled some dishes, some better than others. The hot manchego cheese appetizer was the only dud of the night. Manchego, apparently, is a cheese not meant to be heated or served with under-salted mushrooms. The gratis serving of fried plantains helped soften the blow.
My entrée, the Milanesa sandwich, described as schnitzel-style chicken, came just as promised. A crunchy panko crust surrounded a moist and large chicken breast, topped by ripe, sweet tomatoes, mayo and greens on crunchy baguette. The two “halves” of this gigantic sandwich were served with a generous mound of salad or fries–not bad for $12.
The skirt steak–at $18 the priciest entrée on the menu–arrived with two types of chimichurri sauce, salad or fries. At medium rare, it was about as tender as skirt steak gets.
The menu features several entrée salads (chopped, frisee with fried egg, shrimp) served in large bowls; a burger; pulled pork and the like. For dessert, there’s Il Laboratorio del Gelato. At $5, the house-baked coconut flan topped with a sweet caramel sauce is a steal, a scrumptious way to end the meal.
On Saturday night, the clientele consisted of younger couples or small groups of friends–including a few bar-goers just getting drinks while waiting for their turn at Lucali down the street. However, I walked past again near midnight and saw a group of older, long-time neighborhood guys crowding the bar.
The cocktail menu is simple, with beer and wine available as well.
The couple hopes to open Bar Bruno for breakfast, lunch and brunch soon–with a separate takeout window open all day. For now, it’s dinner from 5 p.m. to midnight. The bar stays open until 1 a.m. Take-out is available.
520 Henry Street
Brooklyn, NY 11231
Daily 5 p.m. to 1 a.m.