BRAVO! Italian Restaurant and Bar: Stay a While and Be Social!

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When you decide on dinner at BRAVO!, it’s best to plan on spending the whole evening there. Not because the service is slow—far from it—but because the atmosphere is so welcoming and comfortable that the hours pass unnoticed. This is no accident: service manager Tanya Burns works hard to keep the complicated dance of restaurant service moving smoothly.

BRAVO!’s award-winning chef and co-founder Dan Blumenthal sets the pace in the kitchen (photo by Meghan Garner)

“For me, service ranks right up there with food,” Burns says. While she’s speaking, her eyes are constantly moving; scanning the dining room to spot any hiccups, glancing into the kitchen to check on progress, taking note every time a new customer walks in the door.

It’s clear that she expects perfection, but the relaxed body language and genuine smiles on her wait staff prove that she’s just as in tune with them as she is with the customers. The entire atmosphere, even where we sit in the often-chaotic pickup area off the kitchen, is relaxed.

BRAVO!’s customers clearly appreciate it. The restaurant boasts a large number of loyal regulars who come in weekly, some even driving 2 or 3 hours to enjoy their favorite BRAVO! dishes.

“There are menu items that have been on the menu for 24 years,” Burns laughs. “We recently changed the tuna salad, and the blowback is considerable. If you’re going to change a dish, it had better be a vast improvement!”

This admiration is mutual, according to Brittney McGarity. A recent addition to BRAVO!’s wait staff, McGarity considers her regular customers to be one of her favorite parts of the job. “I enjoy being able to talk to my tables. When it’s such a relaxed atmosphere like this, people want to talk, they want to tell you things about themselves,” she explains.

BRAVO! has been a Jackson institution for 24 years, and with so many loyal regulars who’ve patronized the restaurant since day one it would be easy to assume that it caters mainly to an older clientele. That’s far from the truth, however. This year, BRAVO! launched a “Social Hour” as a way to provide a Happy Hour-style atmosphere for younger customers who tend to dine later. It’s become hugely popular—wander in to the lounge or patio area from 8-10pm and you’ll find yourself surrounded by crowd of young professionals—but even here Burns and her team manage to maintain the relaxed, easy-going atmosphere.

Polenta with goat cheese and rosemary-infused mushrooms (Photo by Meghan Garner).

While the regulars enjoy their traditional entrees over a bottle of wine, the Social Hour patrons tend to try more new things. It’s common to spot a table of friends ordering multiple small plates to pair with their craft cocktails, turning Bravo’s Appetizer menu into a Tapas-like experience. This allows the team of chefs, led by executive chef and co-founder Dan Blumenthal, to “get creative and show their skill” as Burns puts it.

It’s no wonder BRAVO! has survived the test of time to become one of Jackson’s oldest and most popular restaurants. With stellar service, outstanding traditional entrees, exciting specials, and one of the best wine and cocktails lists in town, they truly have something for everyone.

Pull up a chair, and stay a while!

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