Bruce Bromberg has earned a deep breath and a bowl of ice cream. The chef and restaurateur who owns Blue Ribbon Restaurants (including a Cosmopolitan outpost) with his brother, Eric, has had a busy start to 2014. The pair opened the second location of restaurant/music venue/bowling alley Brooklyn Bowl in January in London, and now the brand’s third iteration—and its largest—is up and running at the Linq on the Strip.
Inside the 78,000-square-foot, multi-level space, the spirit of the original Brooklyn Bowl comes alive in exposed brick, worn wood and casual-cool industrial details that invite long nights jamming to Galactic and The Roots, rolling strikes or mowing through the restaurant’s menu of “ridiculously cheesy, tasty concepts made from scratch with the same technique used in fine dining venues.” That means French bread pizzas, luscious mashed potatoes and, of course, the Brombergs’ signature fried chicken. What’s the secret behind that beautiful bird? We caught up with Bruce Bromberg to talk deep-fried poultry, cycling and homemade hot sauce.
Fried chicken “We didn’t grow up in a family learning to make fried chicken, but we certainly ate a lot of it.” Brooklyn Bowl’s popular version is just chicken dredged in egg white and matzoh meal, fried crisp but not too greasy.
Cycle junkie An avid cyclist, the chef’s go-to ride is a custom carbon bike that his wife and the Blue Ribbon staff bought him for his 40th birthday. He says he loves taking people to Red Rock because it “opens their eyes to just how cool Las Vegas really is.”
Eating out Bromberg heads to Sage at Aria for impeccably done modern American food, and also loves Tivoli Village’s Echo & Rig, helmed by his Le Cordon Bleu classmate Sam Marvin.
Opening night “My brother and I, every time we open a place we just make sure we grab each other at some point during the evening and we just pull each other outside and take a minute. We usually don’t say anything to each other; we just stand there and look at it, and then we walk back inside.”
Go-to tool Tongs. “The right level of resistance, the right length, the right size. I cannot function in a kitchen without a pair of tongs.”
Beer Brooklyn Bowl’s all-draft list will heavily feature Brooklyn Brewery, housed under the same roof as the Bowl’s New York location. At home, the chef stays stocked up on Elysian Brewing Company thanks to care packages from friend and brewmaster Dick Cantwell.
French bread pizza Bromberg’s in-house addiction is modeled after childhood memories of Stouffer’s French bread pizzas. His personal favorite is the Fatty, topped with everything from roast pork and pepperoni to ham and lots of veggies.
Mashed potatoes Brooklyn Bowl’s mashed potatoes are “literally the mashed potatoes we used to make with our grandmother.” The key: creamy Idaho chef potatoes, which have a high enough “level of butteriness” that the kitchen doesn’t add any extra butter during cooking.
Staff meal Popular Blue Ribbon dishes like the bone marrow and sauteed calamari come straight from staff meals that the Brombergs had while training in France. Today, they take staff meal just as seriously at their own restaurants. “It’s not an afterthought, it’s part of what we do.”
Condiments The chef and his wife pick up chilies whenever they travel and make their own hot sauces. Bromberg’s also into salt—truffle salt, smoked salt, different versions of sea salt.
Soundtrack When Bromberg hops on his bike, his playlist involves a lot of Frank Zappa and Joni Mitchell … and sometimes Pantera.
Most recent passport stamp London. “We opened the first week of January, and it was pretty unbelievable. I was there just about eight weeks.”
Brainstorming On the bike. “Most of the menus and recipe ideas and even restaurant concepts and how we’re going to get an 80,000-square-foot place to work … What I love about the bike, is there are no cellphones, no interruptions. In my life, it’s that hour and a half to two hours where I can actually really think about things.”
Next passport stamp France, for his father’s 80th birthday this fall. Then, Bromberg will head to the Himalayas next March for three weeks of trekking and recalibration. “You’re seeing the world from a different perspective ... Not just because you’re up at 18,000 feet and it’s literally a different perspective, but there’s something to it that everything you see all day long is just different. And the people are so nice and so gentle and so in tune with the world around them. [It’s] just such a radical departure [from daily life owning restaurants], and every couple of years I just need that major smack in the face.”
Dessert “I friggin’ love ice cream. If there’s a bowl of ice cream anywhere near me, I will generally eat it.”
Shopping Bromberg loves European markets like the ones in Barcelona or Paris. “It’s one of the things I truly miss in this country. It’s that level of passion of the people who’ve been doing it for generations.”
Brooklyn Bowl The Linq, 862-2695. Beginning March 17: Sunday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-2 a.m.; Friday & Saturday, 11 a.m.-4 a.m.