Lost among the secondhand stores on Hildebrand Avenue’s antique row is the dream-like Bruno’s, a Cuban/Puerto Rican café, nightclub, and informal space-time portal to a world we may never fully comprehend. Outside, a wooden sign declares “Now Open,” but Bruno’s has been in business for 37 years — at least according to the waitress/manager we spoke with when Fast Foodie stopped in for lunch. One gets the sense Bruno’s is neither successful nor a failure, but exists in a twilight zone that eludes the whims of change and the demands of the marketplace. In a sense, this describes San Antonio in general, but at Bruno’s the feeling is amplified. We strongly recommend that local Film Commissioner Drew Mayer-Oakes add Bruno’s to a list of possible filming locations.
Upon entering, one finds a long bar on the right. In the back is a dance floor and stage. The back wall proudly displays a large flag of either Puerto Rico or Cuba. (The flags are shockingly similar, with basically the exact same design, except the colors are reversed.) We were the only diners in the building when we ordered, which gave us lots of time to chat with our congenial waitstaff. She offered us a variety of exotic sodas to taste, and I went with the apple-flavored Sidral Mundet, but would have preferred the unnamed pineapple-flavored soda she graciously gave us small samples of.
The sign outside advertised Cuban pressed sandwiches, an item which, in retropsect, we should have ordered. Instead, we freelanced. The waitress described the chef as being quite capable, so we combined things on and off the menu. My “vegetarian” plate had the allure of simplicity and health, but in the end it contained a bit too much starch, with pinto beans, tostones (fried of plantains), and yuca. Not sure what I was thinking with that order. The tostones were the highlight and went well with the accompanying garlic sauce. We also tried the mofongo, which was starchy as well, but quite tasty after we punched through the dry exterior. Small pieces of shrimp inside were a nice touch.
After taking a few steps outside we felt reacquainted to San Antonio circa 2009. We were told the club will soon be hosting live music at night; though Bruno’s has been around for a while, it’s future is still wide open.