Early Bird Special: Jonathan Kauffman Takes a Look at Bruno's

Kat Zacher and Ryan Ostler
An early nibble from the Weekly's Wednesday food review.

In the first single-venue review filed by SF Weekly food critic Jonathan Kauffman, the Southern roadhouse cooking of Ryan Ostler and Kat Zacher at Bruno's (2389 Mission at 20th St.), goes under the 'scope. Between the biscuits and the Indian-spiced vegetarian pot pie, Kauffman finds chefs with the kind of skills that don't usually apply themselves to America's humbler food genres. Can they survive the neo-hipster ambience of Bruno's? Find out later today at SFWeekly.com. In the meantime, check out this extended excerpt of Kauffman's findings (after the jump).

In the fall of 2008, having worked at restaurants with a combined Zagat score far into the three digits, the young cooks made news by contracting out kitchen duties for the Excelsior bar and running it as a separate enterprise. Even though the restaurant portion of Broken Record was cash only and rarely set diners back more than $10, Zacher and Ostler awed SF Weekly critic Matthew Stafford with bar food like shrimp and crab gumbo, and house-made boar sausages made with cranberries and Shiraz.

But the pair burned out after nine months of working seven days a week. They left Broken Record and flew to Texas, where Ostler is from, to recuperate, spending the next three months taking a leisurely food tour of the Southern states.

When Zacher and Ostler returned, the owners of Bruno's approached them about doing the same thing they'd done at Broken Record for Bruno's, which was then food-free. (The club has had an off-again, on-again food program for years.) The owners, who freshened up the place when they took over three years ago, have shown themselves hospitable to pop-ups; for a few weeks this summer, the upstairs Pussycat Lounge hosted a series of dinners by OPENrestaurant. Now they've melded missions with Zacher and Ostler. Bruno's gets to draw in customers earlier in the evening for food, and the chefs, working as more or less independent contractors under the Bruno's name, get a more central venue, swanker surroundings, and a five-day workweek.

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