Bravo: the burrito joint and a new era

Posted by The New Guy

I was planning some sort of introduction for my first post, but decided against it. There’s enough navel gazing going on in blogdom—and plenty among the professional writing ranks these days, what with the threatened demise of tree-based journalism. Regular readers will pick up on the vibe as we go along.

The only items I will mention are:

1. The Bloated Belly will take its tagline “comments on consumption” to include many other topics.

2. I won’t be a ranting restaurant critic. Hope you understand why. As the editor of a publication covering, among other things, the restaurant industry, it’s my job to dive into the business, and it wouldn’t be fair (or smart) to use the access I have and then turn around and slam or praise effusively the food I might eat. Further, any breaking news events in the restaurant world will be posted at this blog, ‘cause, umm, that’s what they pay me for. All that said, this will still be a place to share ideas about food, cooking (oh, plenty of that) and places around town and in my travels that are worthy of checking out.

That includes the signage posted above, Bravo Burritos Mexicatessen. For the day gig, I usually travel to St. Cloud at least twice a year for a conference of some kind (this past Tuesday was the 2009 Commodities Show—more interesting than it sounds, trust me). St. Cloud, to me, is a strange, sprawling place that doesn’t grab my senses in any context despite my exploration attempts. For comparison, Eau Claire, Wis. is also a college town with a similar population (about 65,000). I don’t feel the university vibe at all in St. Cloud, whereas in Eau Claire it’s a recurring theme. Granted, St. Cloud’s had major bridges out for two years running, which makes it difficult to get around, but still…

Whenever I’m up there, however, I will visit one of two eateries. Val’s Rapid Serv or Bravo, depending on my mood. More on Val’s, one of the last independent, quick-serve burger joints on the planet, later.

Bravo’s owner, Bill Ellenbecker, and his wife lived in San Francisco for about 15 years soaking in traditional Mexican food and recipes in the Mission District. They moved back to St. Cloud in the mid-1980s and opened Bravo. When I first heard people drove hours for the goods I thought that insane, but about a year ago I changed my tune. St. Cloud is less of haul for me because of this joint (and Val’s). All meats, sauces—even the chips—are made in-house. It’s all good, but Tuesday I went with chicken verde, which was both simple and sublime. If the name sounds familiar to Twin Cities dwellers, he had a location on Hennepin Avenue in downtown Minneapolis for a bit, but shut ‘er down because the back-and-forth haul got to be a drag.

Bravo Burritos Mexicatessen
68 33rd Ave. S.
St. Cloud, MN 56301

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