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Review of Bru Grill and Market  – Giving Bru a Second Chance
Bru is located at the Arbor shopping center off El Toro Blvd in Lake Forest

Review of Bru Grill and Market – Giving Bru a Second Chance

Giving Bru Grill and Market a second Chance

Three years ago I visited a new restaurant in South Orange County called Bru, which looked promising, but ultimately disappointed me because they made too many “safe” choices and some execution issues with the food and service. Fast forward three years and I decided to give them another chance.

Bru Exterior Sign

Bru is located at the Arbor shopping center off El Toro Blvd in Lake Forest

Since Bru opened they have gained competitors in South Orange County, mainly from The Blind Pig and BLK burgers. Based on my last visit, it appears that the owners have refined their business model, taken a few risks and upped their game to deal with the competition.

Basic Premise of Bru

Bru is essentially modern American fare. They hit all the right notes that usually makes foodies sing, for example seasonal menu, farm to table, farmer market sourcing, all-natural, hormone and antibiotic free, “mostly organic”, communal bar seating, strict policy on  craft beer only and emphasis on boutique wine. With these credos in place BRU could be on a Portlandia episode. Although the question is can they execute on these virtues now that they had three years of practice? Lets find out together.

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Craft Beer only policy and various other tenements like farm to table helps make Bru appealing to the foodie crowd

 

Restaurant Set-up

Bru Grill and Market is seamlessly set up with three concepts in one: retail liquor sales, communal bar lounge and restaurant. One of the cooler elements of Bru is the communal tables in their bar lounge. This is a very European set up that is effective at generating conversation with fellow dinners. This concept is in place at several breweries and a couple restaurants like The Playground and Broadway. I hung around the bar for a little bit to watch the interactions, for the most part people were friendly to each other, although people did not get into each other’s business. The crowd was a mixture of friends chatting and a solid mix of singles intermingling. The restaurant side is pretty standard, comfortable booths and tables for private dining. The interior is rustic farm house winery chateau with exposed wood beams and gothic chandeliers.

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Bru is seamlessly configured as part retail space, bar lounge with communal tables and traditional dining room

Retail Beer and wine Program

On of the interesting concepts at Bru is that they operate their wine as a retail wine program, which means you purchase you wine at standard retail pricing and then pay a small corkage fee, $5. This turns out to be a very good deal when you order a bottle of wine. Since they run retail you can go in and purchase a bottle of wine or a craft beer to take home. Their craft beer program was pretty impressive and in the game with places like Haven Gastropub. Their refrigerator is stocked with local and craft breweries, my favorite was from a label called “betty”

Bru Retail beer Case

Bru has an impressive retail beer and wine market as well as an impressive collection of rotating beers on tap

 

What we ordered at Bru

Dr. Pepper Baby Back Ribs

The Dr. Pepper baby back ribs were very delicious and I could have eaten a full rack of these ribs. The ribs themselves were fairly meaty and tender. They were “wrapped” more like layered with a strip of bacon and then slathered with the sweet and ever so slightly tangy BBQ sauce. If you are a rib purest, these are not your Momma’s dry rubbed ribs. I like Bru’s Dr.Pepper Ribs because they had a nice flavor layering and I did not get bored of the flavor, rather I wanted more. The ribs are served on a wooden board with cole slaw and fries. ½ Rack ($25) Full Rack ($32).

 

Bru Dr. Pepper Ribs

The Dr. Pepper Babby Back ribs are wrapped in bacon and slathered with sauce. Served with fries and cole slaw

Unfortunately we only got the half rack and I was forced to beg my wife for portions of her side. I felt like the house dog asking if she could spare a bone. Fortunately my smile and sappy whispers won me an extra fully intact rib.

 

Bru Dr.Pepper Ribs are wrapped in Bacon

The ribs are Bru are wrapped in bacon during the final preparation, allowing the ribs to stay moist

Daily Special – Hanger Steak

This was a daily special and may not be on the menu next time you visit. The hangar steak is grilled and then it appears like they sautéed the meat in a wonderfully tasting demi glace and caramelized onions. The hanger steak was tender, juicy and flavorful from the glazing. The steak is served sliced and served with their farmer’s market green beans sautéed with bacon and roasted petite potatoes.

Bru Special Hanger Steak

The Bru Special item of the day was the Hanger steak. Flavor wise it was perfect, but I found the presentation to be flawed and crowded.

 

All the components of this dish were delicious, almost perfect for my palate. The main issue of this dish is the plating. I found the platting of the dish to be too crowded, a little rushed and messy. ($25)

 

Bru Burger

I rarely order a burger at a restaurant unless it is a specialty burger joint like Slaters ; although my friend ordered it and she loved it. The bun was of high quality with a crisp exterior and airy, fluffy interior. The burger patty looked like just under a ½ pound, she said it was juicy and cooked to her order. It is served with a three-year old cheddar, IPA drunken caramelized onions, house cured pickles and Brü Ajisimo smoked pepper aioli.

Bru Bru Burger

The award winning Bru Burger was delicious

The only issue is again with platting, the reversed the buns so that my friend had to reconstruct the buger with her hands. Minor gripe, but important lesson for the kitchen staff. ($12). Add Fried Egg (1)

Drinks

Craft Beer is Bru’s specialty so we ordered from their draft beer menu. When you visit, notice that the beers highlighted in green have been recently taped.

Ommegang Game of Thrones Fire and Blood

Brewery Ommegang is a micro brew based out of Cooperstown New York who normally focusses on Belgian Ales. They collaborated with the HBO series Game of Thrones and release the beer Fire and Blood Red Ale is brewed with pilsner, spelt, rye and other specialty malts. It’s hopped with Styrian Golding and German Tettnang hops and spiced with ancho chilies. This is a dark red beer with a slightly smooth, malty and fruity characters that slightly bites the throat on the way down. I ordered two of these and plan on buying a case. Delicious.

Bru Game of Thrones Fire and Blood Beer

Bru has an impressive beer selection. That night I tried the Game of Thrones – Fire and Blood by Brewery Ommegang

 

Refuge Blood Orange Wit

Refuge Blood Orange Wit is a well-structured light white beer with a balanced approach to cirtrus flavor layering. My wife, who is a big fan of Wit beers and citrus laced beers, really enjoyed the Refuge Blood Orange Wit and said she could drink a couple glasses of it without getting old. Refuge Brewery is located nearby in Temecula.

Bru Refuge Wit Beer

Refuge Blood Orange Wit Beer – Nice clean flavor with balanced structure and citrus flavor

 

Service

The first time I visited Bru was during the first year of opening and the service was good in a Claim Jumper kinda way. During my last visit, I noticed that the service had improved significantly. The wait staff was extremely knowledgeable of all the beers, cocktails and food. Our waiter was able to explain each of the dishes in details and know the beer’s characteristics as if he was the brewer. This was very impressive.

Bru Service

The service at Bru was very knowledgeable and professional

 

 

My Final Thoughts

I am happy that I gave Bru another chance. We ended up having a lot of fun that night and really enjoyed the food, beer and service. Aside from the minor issues I described with platting, I think Bru has grown up to be a respectable restaurant that I would recommend. I only challenge the management team to unleash their Chefs more to create some dishes that are innovative and push the limits of the South Orange County customer base. You guys are almost there, now take it to the next level.

Bru Website
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About Tom Holmberg

Tom grew up in a cultural diverse neighborhood and a culturally diverse family, so he has learned to appreciate all types of food. "I am not a Chef, nor do I play one on T.V., but I have learned to appreciate food from years of eating and cooking." Tom also spent 10 years in the restaurant industry in various roles, from Prep Cook to server.

17 comments

  1. I love how the Hanger steak is presented! I want one.. Great review.

  2. Those ribs look incredible! Thanks for the heads’ up on a great place to eat.

  3. Looks like another place I’d like to visit!

  4. It’s amazing what a difference one year can make. It seems like they got their stuff together and it’s a good thing that you gave them another chance. :-)

    • Very true Kungphoo. I am making a list of the lackluster and just plain bad restaurants I visited in the past 3 years and giving them another try. Bru taught me a little lesson on second chances.

  5. Let's Celebrate

    We celebrated my husbands birthday there a few weeks back and as always the food was delicious, their burger is his favorite for sit down. The staff was amazing to deal with, from reservations to execution. Can not say enough wonderful things about them!

    • Thanks for leaving a comment about your experience at Bru. I love hearing from folks like yourself to see if my experience was unique or common. Keep me posted about your restaurant experiences, I would love to hear your favorite restaurants

  6. I’m glad you gave them a second chance to work out the kinks and looks like they are flourishing!

  7. Stephanie Clopton

    I would love to have a place like this to go to. What an amazing choice of burgers, ribs and drinks!

  8. It’s great that you did go back and this time had a great experience. It all looks great.

  9. I’d like to try the Hanger steak there.
    The place looks just right fro me.

  10. I am glad I made this reservation and was excited to go back again:) I am so happy you enjoyed it so much & we will have to go back again soon:)

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