The family behind Brigantine Bistro brings decades of fine-dining expertise to this casual eatery. “This really is a family business,” says Owner Sergio Soto. Soto’s brother, Angel, is the executive chef and his sister, Lola, is the front-of-house manager. Soto’s brother-in-law oversaw construction during the renovation, and many of his other sisters, nieces and nephews also work there.

“The family that owns Brigantine Bistro are all so nice,” says Dotsie Tuscano, of Brigantine. Tuscano often eats at the bistro for breakfast, lunch and dinner. “We love the food. It’s not what you expect from a casual restaurant. Everything is so fresh. The quality is amazing, it’s just delicious.”

Family ties

Quality and freshness are likely a reflection of Sergio’s and Angel’s extensive experience in some of this area’s most well-known kitchens. Sergio was the executive chef at Gallagher’s Steak House at Resorts Casino Hotel for the past 13 years. Angel was the executive chef at Hannah G’s, where he worked for 17 years, prior to becoming the executive chef at the Brigantine Bistro. “Everyone kept saying, you’re really good you should open your own restaurant, but this is a tough business. It’s scary when you have to play with your own money,” Sergio says.

Last year, they learned that the old Macedonian Grill in Brigantine was available. With the amount of cumulative experience the family had, the timing felt right. “A few other people were also trying to move into the Macedonian Grill location, but the owner decided to go with us,” Sergio says.

Dining together

“Starting out, we knew that we really wanted to accommodate all dietary preferences and we wanted to offer something different. I mean, pizza’s good, but you can’t eat it every night,” Sergio says. The bistro has a large vegan/vegetarian menu, as well as many gluten-free options. “My brother doesn’t like the gluten-free bread that you can buy, so he makes his own,” says Sergio, noting that their kitchen also has a dedicated area exclusive to vegan and vegetarian cooking. They also have several organic selections. “People are asking for healthier dining selections,” Sergio says.

Dishes such as their mango fruit bowl ($8.95) with a banana and mango base, topped with fresh fruit, homemade granola and toasted coconut or their vegan black bean burger melt ($8.95) a black bean burger with avocado spread, tomatoes and hot cherry peppers offer customers healthy options.

“You can definitely eat healthy here, but you don’t have to,” Sergio laughs. Some of the Brigantine Bistro’s most popular selections are their “old-fashioned dinners” including their traditional beef stew ($13.95), slow-cooked beef with hearty vegetables in a rich brown sauce and served over buttered egg noodles.

In keeping with their Mexican heritage — the Soto family moved to Brigantine from Mexico City 30 years ago — they offer a selection of Mexican dishes. Items such as tostadas de tinga de res ($10.95), three corn tortillas topped with refried beans, shredded chipotle beef, lettuce, sour cream, queso fresco and served with salsa verde, have been popular selections. Every Tuesday the bistro offers Taco Tuesday, when you can get three tacos of your choice ($10) served with a cactus side salad and Mexican hot peppers. “We wanted to make it a little different from everyone else by including the cactus salad, which most people around here are unfamiliar with,” Sergio says. In addition to the more traditional taco options (such as carne asada), there are papas con rajas (roasted poblano pepper and diced potato, hongos y cebolla (grilled Portobello mushroom and red onion) and calabaza y maiz (sautéed zucchini and corn).

The Brigantine Bistro also offers an early bird special from 2 to 8 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays and 2 to 5 p.m. on Fridays The early bird specials vary, but always include your choice of soup or salad, featured entrée and dessert, with prices ranging from $10.95 to $12.95.

Roots

When the family took over in November 2017, the previous kitchen was empty and each section of the restaurant had different colored walls and different flooring. They spent the next four months completely renovating the restaurant and opened in April. “I wanted this restaurant to feel like you were coming to your beach house,” Sergio says. The Sotos chose a bright, clean, cheery yellow for them with white wainscoting. They decorated the walls with large, picture panels depicting different oceanic scenery. Then they finished the floors with beachy grey, plank tiles.

Explaining that they emphasize customer service, their staff are trained to smile and be as friendly as possible. “We created a warm, friendly, relaxed atmosphere,” Sergio adds.

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