By Patrick Mares
I blew into A’ Bravo on a cold and blustery winter night. The atmosphere in the establishment was a nice counterpart to the wind outside. While the weather may have kept some folks home, there were a few of we hearty souls providing a nice background buzz.
As a dangerously smooth spiced hot buttered rum warmed me (and was the best use of cinnamon I’ve found in recent memory) Julie Beaudoin co-owner and hands-on manager for the restaurant, provided a history lesson. She told us she had fallen in love with the industry while working for Zimmani’s owned by Gary and Kim Zimmerman one of her first jobs. From that point on she said her dream was to open a restaurant. Eventually she got there.
A’ Bravo was originally located the old Larson Canning factory office by the Art Garage Green Bay. With the move partners Mary Faye and David De Marco joined the team. Julie told us that the move meant a lot of changes for the restaurant, “A’ Bravo [previously] had nine tables. Now I have thirty tables.” They’ve expanded their hours and offerings too, “It’s full service, lunch and dinner. I do brunch on Sunday. Full bar. My other place was just a cafe, no bar. I could serve wine and beer. Most of my business there was catering. I did have a good lunch business. I was close to downtown and food was good. It was such a small cafe that if you were in there eating and I was making your sandwich we were having a conversation with everyone in the restaurant.”
But A’ Bravo continues to strive for the agility and staff buy-in of a smaller restaurant. Julie told us that she can count on her team, “It has taken a long time to build a really really great team, I just had a total knee replacement. I haven’t worked at the restaurant since October 26. I’ve been here a couple hours here and there. They’ve done an amazing job.” And Julie told us a bit about one of her Chefs, Andy Anderson, who is far more of a teammate than an employee, “I was in the checkout line at Copps grocery store. I was painting the walls on Main Street. And Andy was standing behind me in the checkout line. He’d just moved back from Denver. We worked together in the past, for Gary Zimmerman. And I looked back at him. I’m like, ‘What are you doing?’ He’s like, “I just moved back from Denver.” I’m like I’m opening a cafe right up the street. Wanna come check it out? He came up that day. He never left.” He’s been a big help since then she said, “He painted walls on Main st. with me and he’s still here. He painted walls here, he painted walls there. He has worked with me since day one, before we even opened.”
But the camaraderie doesn’t come from nowhere. For one thing the entire staff helps decide season’s upcoming recipes. Julie told us they all get together on a Sunday or two, “Servers will be here, chefs will be here. Everyone will have feedback on something. We’ll brainstorm together. Everyone feels really proud of that. And it’s fun.” Julie said they change about half of their menu on a regular basis, “fall will be coming and I’ll go into the kitchen and say, ‘Okay guys, we’re looking to change four appetizers, three entrees, two sandwiches and I’m thinking goat cheese, pecans, squash, figs balsamic cherries.’ … One of them will say, ‘Hey Julie, instead of the cherry sauce on here..’ So it’s just always a collaboration.”
About half of their menu changes, including soups, salads and desserts. Currently Julie says her favorite is “Thai Peanuts Saute. I like it. It is crispy vegetables with shrimp in a peanut sauce.” She recommended it as a fairly healthy option. But Julie says she’d be, “shooting myself in the foot if I changed” some of the crowd favorites like the sesame tuna or artichoke dip. So they keep a core of signature dishes year round. She welcomes readers to find their own favorites, “I would say the food is sophisticated comfort food. I just want it to be a place that people come and they feel really warm and fuzzy.”
Seared Ahi Tuna
-sesame encrusted ahi tuna over jasmine rice, spicy spinach, with a sesame vinaigrette & spicy peanuts & almonds. wine suggestion: ponzi pinot gris
The seared Ahi picked up more of the smokey grilled flavor than I’d typically associate with this dish. Solid, and different from the pack, its no wonder this is a staple.
Lobster Mac & Cheese *The Best Ever*
-An incredibly creamy blend of 4 gourmet cheeses & lobster pieces, served piping hot, topped with panko & baked. Served with truffle toast points
This lobster pasta was just perfectly buttery, complementing the prominent chunks of lobster within. The truffle’d toast is delicious in its own right.
-Grilled naan flatbread topped with a mild garlic cream sauce, mozzarella, prosciutto, fresh basil chiffonade & finished with a drizzle of truffle oil
Cutting out the tomatoes is a bold step for pizza. Once again, more savory than its traditional cousin with red sauce.