BRIGANTINE — When the Macedonian Grill restaurant shut down after 11 years, the Soto brothers took notice.
From 1992 until 2001, Sergio and Angel Soto ran the now-defunct Island Diner on 32nd Street. When the grill on Brigantine Boulevard closed in October 2016, they saw a chance to return with a new venture. The brothers signed a lease in November, spent months renovating the restaurant’s kitchen and dining areas, and opened the new Brigantine Bistro on April 7.
“We thought Brigantine needed something different,” said Sergio. “Many of the people who live in Brigantine work in Atlantic City, and they don’t want the hassle of cooking every night. Once the diner left, there was not a place to stop and grab something to take home for dinner. How many days a week can you eat pizza?”
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Born in Mexico City, the Sotos have extensive credentials in the local restaurant industry. Sergio, who lives in Brigantine, has spent 12 years as executive chef at Gallagher’s Steak House at Resorts Casino Hotel. Angel spent 15 years as executive chef at Hannah G’s in Ventnor, and left to open Brigantine Bistro. The brothers are joined at the new spot by several generations of the Soto family who work behind the scenes or in the front of the house.
The brothers invested $100,000 to transform the building’s once dark, cramped interior into an airy open space with cheery yellow walls, bright white wainscoting and driftwood-plank flooring. The dining area is decorated with photographs of the island beach and lighthouse, all taken by Sergio.
“We chose to go with something bright,” Sergio said. “It’s kind of deceiving, because from the front you don’t see how big it is inside.” Like its predecessor, the restaurant — which seats about 50 — will eventually feature outdoor seating as well as takeout and delivery.
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Not surprisingly given the Sotos’ heritage, Brigantine Bistro offers authentic Mexican fare but also serves burgers, pasta, crab cakes and more, along with vegan and gluten-free choices.
“My brother has a great deal of expertise in that area,” said Sergio. “People should not make the mistake of thinking if it’s healthy, it’s not going to be delicious.”
While business is building now, “On Sundays we have a line out the door,” said Sergio. As spring moves into the summer tourism season, he added, “We are ready.”