Soon after Mayor Kevin Johnson proclaimed Sacramento as “America’s Farm To Fork Capital” (www.farmtofork.com), there was a rush among restaurateurs, farmers, vintners, supermarkets and food-advocacy groups to join the marketing bandwagon and brand themselves devotees of the farm-to-fork template of “seasonal, local, fresh, sustainable, artisanal.”
One benefit has been to raise the public’s consciousness about where food comes from, how it’s raised and where to source it.
That leads us to Elk Grove and Bravo’s Soup and Sandwich Shoppe, whose motto is, “Farm to fork, harvest to home, access to agriculture.” The small restaurant was opened by husband and wife Jim and Lisa Brown in May 2013, and they have distinct roles. “I’m the creator, Lisa is the decorator,” is how Jim Brown puts it.
The Browns stock their larder with goods from local farmers and ranchers, including organic eggs from cage-free vegetarian-fed chickens.
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A third-acre of their five-acre ranch is dedicated to a garden that helps supply their restaurant with fresh organic produce. “It’s not nearly enough, so we have to outsource from farmers markets and small farms within a 50-mile radius,” said Lisa Brown.
“When we say ‘local,’ it’s to the best of my ability to specifically shop the nearby small farms. All our food is cooked from scratch and the seasonal menu changes every four months, but we don’t claim to be 100 percent organic.”
More than most restaurant owners, the Browns understand the importance of community connection.
Bravo’s is one of the most fun-themed restaurants we’ve visited, focused on Broadway plays and the movies made from them. The conceit starts with a big metal spotlight from the mid-1950s, once used in the Shubert Theater in New York City and moves to framed wall posters and on to the menu. For instance, side dishes are listed under “Stage Props,” soups are under “Intermission,” and the five-panini list is termed “In the Spotlight.”
Part of Lisa Brown’s inspiration came from her 30-year ownership of the Encore Studio of Performing Arts, a nearby dance studio.
Out back is a smoker fired with white oak, cooking grass-fed beef and free-range poultry. Debuting next week in a starring role for summer will be pulled pork and ribs with fixins’ – cornbread, biscuits, corn on the cob and ranch-cut potatoes among them.
My lunch pal and I tasted a heap of stuff, beginning with two flavorful scratch-made soups (out of eight that rotate): chicken ’n’ dumpling (tasty dumplings but scant chicken, in broth that needed more body) and clam chowder (top-notch potato soup).
Following was “The Secret Garden” salad, a big and fresh but rather plain plate of romaine lettuce with cherry tomatoes, sliced cucumber, traces of shredded carrot and house-made croutons. The star of that three-character play was the excellent house-made dressings – honey-lime-cilantro, creamy wasabi and tart-sweet raspberry vinaigrette (out of seven).
Entering from offstage came more of the cast: “West Side Story” (turkey and ham with condiments), “Jersey Boys” (pastrami and Swiss on grilled marble-swirl sourdough rye, with caramelized onions and horseradish-Dijon mayo) and “Shenandoah” (smoky Santa Maria-style tri-tip and condiments, with house-made bourbon-spiked BBQ sauce; ask for it on the side). We paired them with crisp coleslaw (one of the best) and an OK wild-rice dish.
We liked the quality and freshness of the sandwich components, and the substantial breads, but for the prices ($9-$15) we longed for more meat.
We saved the mac ’n’ cheese for last, a novelty item and customer favorite. The large shell pasta was covered in sauce made from a blend of cheddar, asiago, mozzarella, provolone – and smooth-textured Kraft Velveeta processed cheese product. It was topped with crushed Cheetos Puffs.
“(In the R&D phase) it was a sticky mess when we infused the pasta with just straight cheese,” Lisa Brown explained. “We needed a base that would let the sauce stick to the pasta.
“We tried milk, half-and-half and cream, which didn’t work. The ingredient that (was the best binder) was Velveeta. I’ve not yet found an organic version, sad to say.”
Bravo’s Soup and Sandwich Shoppe
- Where: Marketplace 99 center, 9160 E. Stockton Blvd., Elk Grove
- Hours: 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Mondays-Fridays; 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturdays; dinner is added from 4-8 p.m. Mondays-Fridays, and 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturdays
- Food: ☆☆1/2
- Ambiance: ☆☆1/2
- How much: $$
- Information: 916-714-1111, www.bravos99.com
Bravo’s Soup and Sandwich Shoppe will sponsor Sunday Supper at the Ranch, Oct. 11 at Pegasus Riding Club in Wilton, to benefit Riding Instruction Designed for Education. Seven-course dinner, $100. 916-714-1111.