Pasadena’s Newest Restaurant Reinvents Familiar Fare on South Lake Avenue

Thursday, October 27, 2016 | 1:47 am

Close your eyes and inviting friends for a casual dinner but kick up the decor a notch with second-story seating and a well-lit patio. Now add a full bar, impressive selection of whiskey, 120 bottle wine list and food you you could only dream of preparing yourself. Open your eyes – you’re at Bru Grill.

Bru Grill’s deceptively simple menu will lull you with a sense of comfortable familiarity – hot wings, beet salad, baby back ribs – but taste the subtle touches and careful planning behind each dish and you’ll see why a normal hot wing doesn’t even compare to a Bru Hot Wing.

Their Chicken Skin Sliders are a playful take on finger food. These Happy Hour specials are made from dried and fried chicken skin for extra crunch and served with fresh tomato, lettuce and housemade aioli.


For a lighter start, try the Beet Salad – this salad stars lightly pickled, roasted beets on a bed of mesclun greens with sherry vinaigrette, candied pistachios and a housemade mixture of ricotta-goat cheese. This salad is far from boring – it offers a satisfying combination of flavors and textures – from the creamy cheese mixture to the crunchy-sweet candied pistachios.

“The underlying ingredients are crazy important to us,” said owner, Matthew Pannek. “It’s like building a house – the foundation has to be solid.”

For Bru, this means personally sourcing each ingredient instead of choosing a one-size-fits-all food supplier. They schedule deliveries up to six times a day – rather than the usual twice a week – to ensure every ingredient is served at its peak. Their commitment to freshness is so stringent that they don’t use a freezer for anything except their exceptional gelato (flavors include salted caramel and bourbon).


They also follow the strict Monterey Bay Seafood guidelines with all their seafood and only serve antibiotic-free meat. The Scottish Salmon is one of their seafood all-stars and the Sashimi Ahi Tuna is a close second. These dishes get some flavor influence from Asian cuisine – with miso soy glaze, baby bok choy, forbidden rice and Hon Shimeji mushrooms for the salmon and sesame seeds, sushi rice, cucumbers, green onions, togarashi tempura, avocado and spicy aioli with soy sauce for the tuna.

“We know the farmers for everything from our cheese to our charcuterie,” said Pannek.


Bru cooks on a 100% wood burning grill and oven, rotating the wood varieties to match the dish’s flavor profile. Their recipes offer fun tweaks on classic dishes – many of which include beer or liquor as a nod to their fully stocked bar. In addition to 28 craft beers on tap and an extensive wine list, Bru prides itself on its whiskey selection which includes hard-to-find bottles like Suntory and Yamazaki.

Don’t be shy about taking a look at their cocktail menu, this fun-filled list includes a knockout Old Fashioned made with Bulleit Rye or Old Grand Dad Whiskey and angostura bitters with turbinado sugar syrup. Another safe bet is the Pink Lady – a smooth cocktail made with gin, applejack, brandy, lemon, cane sugar, egg whites and grenadine – don’t be fooled by its rosy color, this drink is a favorite among gentleman as well as ladies. But, the stuff behind the bar isn’t just for drinking – alcohol is infused into Bru’s waffle batter and is the star of their flourless chocolate whiskey cake.


“[Cooking with craft beer] really adds to the flavor profiles – we’re using the real stuff and it really makes a difference in the taste,” said Chef Taylor Miles.

Miles comes to Bru after an international culinary career ranging from Florida to France. Miles grew up in Texas where he helped his mother while she worked at a tea room and went on study at the Culinary institute of America. He also traveled in France and explained that although Bru’s cuisine is not French per se, he still incorporates some of the French cooking techniques into the food he makes.

“I’ve been able to take a lot of things from cooking in different places,” said Chef Miles.

Miles is currently inspired by California’s bountiful produce and seasonality so the menu changes quarterly to reflect the seasons and stay current. Pannek also plans to add daily specials in addition to their inventive daily soups like caramelized parsnip.


But, no meal would be complete without dessert. Aside from their 21 and over chocolate whiskey cake served with bourbon gelato, Bru is known for their Gelato S’more. This impressive dessert encases housemade salted caramel gelato in a perfectly-campfire cooked bruleed marshmallow meringue on a thick graham cracker crust. This towering treat comes served with a chocolate ganache, fresh fruit and burnt sugar medallion. It’s almost too beautiful to eat – almost.

Finally, be on the lookout for holiday-themed dishes and weekly Keep the Pint nights on Thursday – where you can try new brews and keep your glass – plus live lounge-style music Thursday through Saturday.

“Live music really changes a restaurant – it’s core to who we are,”said Pannek. “Bru is an extension of your home.”

Bru Grill is located at 336 South Lake Avenue. Call 626.787.1444 or visit



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