Thursday, December 11, 2014

Brutally Honest About Bru

Bru Grill and Market
23730 El Toro Road
Lake Forest, CA 92630

We have made some pretty good friends because of this blog. When I started this, I never thought we would make friends out of it. I knew we would be eating in some great restaurants, I knew I would have to step up my social media presence, but I never expected to make some really good friends because of this blog. Last Saturday night we would be meeting up with two of these friends of ours, Tom from Tom's Foodie Blog and Daniele from Dani's Decadent Deals. We met this husband and wife blogger duo at numerous events, and now we go out on our own to catch up with each other. They are always real busy, but they squeezed us in so we could try a place they have already blogged about, Bru Grill and Market.

Reading Tom's blog, he went here when they first opened and did not like it. He then went back a few years later, and was pleasantly surprised with how they had turned things around. I was excited not only to see our good friends, but also see what kind of experience we would have at Bru.

Bru is located in the old Carino's spot, which is right next door to the always busy Lucille's BBQ. Bru is part market and part restaurant. They have a pretty nice selection of beers in their refrigerated cases and shelves. They claim to have over 200 craft beers here, and over 40 beers on tap. I like that they keep their tap list very current on their website. While we were waiting for Tom and Daniele to show up, I enjoyed browsing their unique selections. No Coors Light or Budweiser here.

Bru definitely has a gastropub sort of vibe to it. Lots of dark woods everywhere you look. The menu is seasonal, with flat breads, appetizers, and a good selection of entrees offered. They appear to be going for a farm to fork kind of feel, which is all the rage now. They also are definitely very proud of their beer selection. I'm of course more into food than beer, so let's see if we would enjoy what came out of the kitchen for us on this night.

I must admit to you all, I'm not really fond of charcuterie. I think this stems from when I was growing up, and my mom sliced up some Hickory Farms beef stick, cut some cheese, opened a box of Ritz crackers, and added grapes to our table, and called that dinner. Even in my eight year old mind, I thought I was getting jipped. Dinner involves cooking, right? Sorry for the rant. This charcuterie was called The Five ($18) and had four selections of cheeses, Spanish speck ham, some candied pecans, dried fruit, and olives. I steered away from the cheeses, but the candied pecans and ham were both pretty good. There were no complaints about this cheese board from Katie or Daniele, who spearheaded us getting this.

Tom and I decided to try out these Stuffed Mushrooms ($9) instead of risking injury to our hands from taking some of the girls charcuterie. These mushrooms are stuffed with spinach, then topped with bread crumbs, a garlic white wine sauce, and grated Parmesan. These were good, but not great. A little bland, the garlic was not overly present, and I kept expecting a pop of flavor that did not come.

On the dinner menu at Bru they offer petite versions of their salads, which almost always entices me to order one. It must have also tempted Katie to order one too, as she had their Chopped Salad ($8). This rather large petite salad came with plenty of grilled chicken, lettuce, tomato, cucumber, olives, red onion, crumbled blue cheese, and bacon tossed in a house vinaigrette. Katie felt this was a very hardy salad, and she would definitely get this salad on future visits to Bru.

The petite salad I went with was just as big. This Bloomsdale Spinach Salad ($7) had a lot of promise when I read the description on the menu. Spinach, sliced tart apples, candied pecan, a raisin gasrtique, and a blue cheese dressing to finish it off. The produce here is very fresh, but the dressing was bland, the apples and pecans did add a good crunch, but just like the mushrooms, I kept waiting for a pop of flavor here. I'd definitely go with a different salad on my next trip to Bru.

Katie beelined it straight to this Market Veggie Pasta ($20 with chicken added) when she saw it on the menu. They used spaghetti as the pasta, then added zucchini, squash, carrots, and green beans, then you have a choice of either marinara or an olive oil sauce. She went with the olive oil selection. She felt this dish was flavorless, and really did not leave a lasting mark on her. A very boring entree in her opinion.

For indecisive seafood lovers, Bru offers a Seafood Trio ($25) which Tom took full advantage of. The three fish represented here were a diver scallop, a 4 ounce piece of the fish of the day, (sorry I did not catch what is was on this particular night), and a German Speck wrapped prawn. The fish and the scallop were served on top of a truffle mashed potato with sauteed spinach, while the prawn was piled on top of a vegetable succotash. Tom did not really exclaim too much about his meal, although he did make quick work of it. The perfect dish for people who want to sample more than one kind of fish here.

Usually when I'm at a new place that I've never been to, I always order off the regular menu, but something told me to try this Hanger Steak Special ($28). Wish I had not listened to that little voice in my head. Much like Katie's meal, this steak was very boring. It was cooked to my desired medium rare, but eating this got to be monotonous because of the lack of flavor. It came with mashed potatoes that were fair, and green beans that I actually enjoyed, and I'm not even a green bean fan. Fresh and very crisp, these were the highlight of this plate for me.

This Prime Rib ($28) gave Daniele all sorts of fits. Only available on Fridays and Saturdays nights, Daniele wanted this medium rare, and as is evident from the picture above this was way more on the rare side, bordering on tartare. She tried to eat it, but it was sent back to get extra time on the grill, and when it came back it was medium well, so after a slight delay, she started all over again with a new piece of meat. Sorry I did not get a picture of the prime rib she eventually ate, because I was busy eating my meal. The new piece of prime rib was much more to her liking, and she was generous enough to let me have a bite of it as well. I thought it was definitely better than my hanger steak. The prime rib came with a baked potato with all the fixings, and sauteed spinach.

Dessert time was up next, and we selected two to share between the four of us. The first was this Bru Gelato S'more ($8). I did not get a real good description of the desserts, but this one had a graham cracker crust filled with chocolate gelato, which was topped with a toasted marshmallow topping. I liked this, but was not in love with it. For this to be a s'more dessert, it needed the chocolate to be more pronounced, as it really got lost here. Not bad, but it could have been so much better.

I liked this Bru Cake ($7.50) better than the gelato for sure. This cake is only for people over 21, and after my first spoonful, I can understand why. It really packed a punch. Inside the mason jar was a flour less chocolate cake, which had a nice chocolate flavor to it.

Needless to say, Bru really left us underwhelmed. All of our entrees kind of needed some help, and I couldn't help but think that their appetizers and salads needed a little extra something as well. They were probably a few ingredients away from really making a statement. Bru is an anomaly in South OC. There are not many gastropubs around, so that might explain why this restaurant is quite popular. Their beer list is unique for the area, and we just wish they had the food to match it. Service on this night was pretty good. Our waitress did not shy away from visiting our table, even though we had some issues with the food. Glad we could finally get together with Tom and Daniele, and we're also happy that food blogging has brought us together.

Out of five sunglasses, (because the city of Lake Forest is home to Oakley), five being best to zero being worst, Bru Grill and Market gets 2.5 sunglasses.

For more information about Bru Grill and Market, go to their website here:

Brü Grill & Market on Urbanspoon


  1. Mike -- this is a really detailed and well-done review! The owners at Bru would do well to take your advice, although as you point out, sinc they are already popular they might not have incentive to do so.

    And great pictures, as always!

    Did you and your friends manage to eat all of the food you ordered, or did you end up with leftovers?



  2. I WILL NEVER go back to Bru, we made reservations on the patio (unknown to me that was where my partner would pop THE question) when we got there they told us, sorry no patio we have a private party there now. My guy was clearly not happy and we sat at the bar and ended up leaving and walking somewhere else, poor guy ended up popping the question the next day in the living room.

  3. Steve - Thanks so much for the kind words. sometimes I think I write too much, but I really want to get it all out. We actually did eat all of this food, with no leftovers. My new years resolution is going to be that I only eat half of my meals, and eat the other half for lunch the next day. We''ll see how long that lasts, because I love to eat. Thanks for the comment.

    Anonymous - Man that sucks. We did not sit on the patio, but I really liked the vibe out there. Congrats on your engagement. I'm sure the ceremony will go a lot smoother. By the way, you're not really missing too much if our dinner was any indication. Thanks for taking the time to read the blog.

  4. Great description of everything we devoured at Bru that evening. I have to agree there were a few glitches. Hopefully we can go back another time and have a better experience! Happy New Year Mike & Katie! 😀

  5. Daniele - Thanks for taking the time to comment. We had such a great night with you guys this night. Hope you guys had a great time in Vegas, and we look forward to hanging out with you again real soon.

  6. Totally agree about the market veggie pasta. I was underwhelmed with the vegetarian selection on offer and was really disappointed with this dish (mine had no chicken, obviously).

  7. Anonymous - Thanks for your thoughts. We haven't been back to Bru, and have too many other places to try before we circle back there. Thanks for taking the time to read and comment on the blog. I really appreciate it.