After stints in the kitchens of the Mississippi Museum of Art, County Line Hilton and the Governor’s Mansion, Chef Luis Bruno has turned his sights on the Standard Life Building.
Named for Bruno’s line of seasonings, Bruno’s Adobo opened nearly a year ago on the ground floor of the former insurance-office-turned-residential-high-rise in Jackson.
“We’re definitely not Mexican,” Bruno says. “We’re not serving rice and beans, not south of the border.”
What Adobo is serving customers is something quite revolutionary in Jackson and Mississippi.
It is the state’s first “certified green” restaurant, a rating system developed by the Boston-based Green Restaurant Association.
The menu is full of leafy green, vegan-friendly entrees and the restaurant itself is eco-friendly with its use of recyclable products and serving of chilled sparkling water instead of bottled water.
“There’s no fryer,” Bruno says. “We don’t fry anything. It is either roasted or baked.”
Entrees ($10-$12 average price) are portioned and Bruno is working his way towards localizing all of his produce. The restaurant takes to-go orders and also caters.
“It’s really different,” says Bruno, who co-owns the restaurant along with business partner Aimee Dickerson. “It’s been hard in the beginning to educate vendors on the products that we use. I’m all about being simple. Simple, easy and quick.”
Diners can start off their Adobo experience with appetizers like roasted garlic and orange guacamole, smoked chili hummus or shrimp and crab ceviche.
Salads are colorful and full of flavor from the gluten-free Louie Tabboulie (quinoa, mango, grape tomatoes, parsley, green onions and lemon) to the Arugula salad (arugula, avocado, roma tomatoes, Manchego cheese, baked Adobo chickpeas, Spanish sherry vinaigrette).
Bruno avoids offering mainline salad dressings preferring instead his fresh seasonings and a dash of lemon or lime juice.
“Let the food talk itself,” he says.
Bruno draws from a medley of international influences for his sandwiches including the Shrimp Taco, the Cuban (Serrano ham, Adobo roasted pork, Manchego cheese drizzled with cilantro-roasted garlic mojo), the Vietnamese (a choice of ginger pork, jerk chicken or baked lemongrass tofu dressed with garlic, cucumber, carrots, daikon and cilantro), burgers and wraps.
Entrees can be ordered with a salad, baked Adobo chips or a cup of Cuban black bean soup. Bruno says he drives to Biloxi once a month to get his bread from a Vietnamese bakery.
Portion control when dining is important to Bruno, who lost 200 pounds while working at the Governor’s Mansion and became a local celebrity and advocate for healthier living. While Bruno admits he’s a stress eater and has gained close to 60 pounds back, he doesn’t have to take insulin shots anymore and can keep things on track.
“You don’t have to eat salad or tofu for dinner,” he tells customers. “You can eat rice and bok choy but let’s measure that rice and have four ounces of salmon not 12. Let me keep it under 600 calories.” The ingredients in Bruno’s packaged meals to go are measured and all the customer has to do is go home and warm it up.
Bruno says 80 percent of his diners are women and so far they are raving about the menu. The challenge comes with getting his name out there so people know where he is. There’s also the ongoing negative perception that Greater Jackson residents often have of the downtown area.
“We have a bad rap,” Bruno says. “A city councilman told me it’s so hard for us to bring people down here. Everyone thinks they’re going to come downtown and get shot or robbed. I haven’t seen one thing like that happen.”
Bruno says all the downtown restaurants from Parlor Market and the Mayflower Cafe to the upcoming Iron Horse Grill are great food and great business for the area. “We have Wasabi sushi. We even have a freaking Smoothie King,” he says. “You just need to give it a try and come on down.”
Address: Standard Life Building, 127 South Roach Street in Jackson
Hours: 11 a.m.-6:30 p.m.
Contact: (601) 944-9501