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New Bravas Restaurant Offers Unique, Gourmet Burgers to Fort Wayne

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Virginia Alvino
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WBOI News

Fort Wayne’s restaurant scene is growing, so is its fleet of food trucks. Where that overlaps - is Bravas.

What began as a purveyor of gourmet hot dogs on the street is now a brick and mortar restaurant dedicated to serving up some surprising burgers.

The shop opened Tuesday on Fairfield Ave. in the 46807 neighborhood. 

You can get a burger pretty much anywhere in Fort Wayne. So, why give Bravas Burgers a shot?

“Um. Because they’re more delicious," says Bo Gonzalez.

Gonzalez is the owner of Bravas, and he’s actually got a much better reason. You may know him for his gourmet hot dogs sold on the street. Now he’s got a new burger restaurant, with a unique menu.

But it’s not just novelty – it’s all about that beef.

“We get in three different cuts of beef," says Gonzalez, "we trim them ourselves, we cube them down, we salt cure them for a couple days, and we grind all the meat in house.” 

His seasonal menu will also feature many locally sourced ingredients. Gonzalez says it was just time to open up the restaurant, so he could work all year round, and have a home base.

“Right now we work out of a commissary," he says, "so we’re working out of someone else’s space, we don’t have our own distributors, we run all over town for our errands. The restaurant is going to smooth those operations.”

Bo started the hot dog cart in 2011 when he was just 19 - it was around the time he dropped out of music school. He asked his parents for a little help with the project he started just for fun.

“Initial investment was pretty small," he says. "I went to my parents and was like hey, I’m about to go to the bank and get a loan unless you wanna help me out. I think they were like this is about to be cheaper than college, this is a steal for us.” 

He’s found success and support from the community. He’s got a small line of credit from the bank for cushion during the first year. But he knows, not everyone believes in him.

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Credit Bambi Guthrie / WBOI News
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for WBOI News
One of Bravas' unique burgers.

“Don’t call Mark Cuban,” says Gonzalez.

Mark Cuban is one of the venture capitalists on the hit TV show Shark Tank, where entrepreneurs can pitch their ideas to the so-called sharks, to try and get them to invest in their businesses.

Bo remembers the time a gourmet burger food truck wanted to open a restaurant. The sharks said those are two completely different businesses.

“What makes you think the brick and mortar will work?" asks Cuban on the show. "I’d rather follow the green than the dream, and for that reason, I’m out.”

And the sharks aren’t alone in their concerns. 

“If you wanna lose money, open up a restaurant," says Patrick Tamm. He's President and CEO of the Indiana Restaurant and Lodging Association.  

“It is a very tough business," says Tamm. "It’s also one that’s fraught with a lot of regulations, and a lot of challenges as you grow. You’re relying on food costs. Ground beef right now is very expensive.” 

Another challenge – customers. Gonzalez is confident he’ll have lots of patrons because of his strong social media following.  But Tamm says there are more people not on twitter, then are. 

Still, Tamm says having a restaurant, that’s always parked in the same place, can reach even more people than social media alone. He says “a restaurant’s best advertising is always gonna be word of mouth.”

Overall, Tamm says Bo Gonzalez is in pretty good shape, and the Bravas Burgers menu is right on trend with what diners are looking for. He says "people do want to experience new tastes, new ingredients, and they want to know where their ingredients are from.” 

Bravas’ casual atmosphere and counter service may also be an indicator of future success.  Tamm says as far as restaurants go, quick service, and high end places are doing well. It’s really those middle class, sit down places that have been struggling.

Bo himself may also be an advantage. Tamm says it’s a particular type of person that opens up a restaurant, and it sounds like Gonzalez fits the bill.

“Restaurateurs are a crazy bunch, some affiliate them with modern day pirates," says Tamm. "They’re engaged community leaders that are passionate about what they do, and it’s a true industry of opportunity.”

Tamm says Northeast Indiana has a lot going for it. He says “I think it’s a growing market, it’s a great market for restaurants in Fort Wayne, I think it also serves the community well.”

“Ya, I want people to start stuff in Fort Wayne," says Bo Gonzalez. "I think there’s a definite need for some sort of restaurants here.”

Gonzalez says he wants to build on the momentum of community development, especially in the 46807 area code of Fort Wayne. He says being neighbors with the Wunderkammer gallery is a huge selling point, and he just loves the people in the neighborhood.

“They’re Fort Wayners," he says. "They love the city, they’re all about local business, and people trying stuff.”

Opening the restaurant has been hands on, lots more city work, permits, inspections, all of which he’s gotten through. When we talked a few weeks ago, he was still decorating the place.

“It’s gonna be like burger art all on the walls, I’m so psyched for it," says Gonzalez. "Like at least if the restaurant fails, I’ll have tons of burger art.”

He hopes the restaurant will break even by the end of 2015.

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