Brushi Bistro & Bar
serves fresh, familiar food
721 N 132nd St
The secret to success is finding what works and then repeating it. Chef Paul Braunschweiler has accomplished just that with the three restaurants he’s owned in Omaha: Spanna, Prima 140, and his latest, Brushi Bistro and Bar located in the Linden Marketplace on 132nd & Dodge Streets, which is in the same location where he originally opened Spanna more than 25 years ago.
Swiss born and raised, Braunschweiler was one of six children who grew up on a farm where he helped his mother prepare fresh meals daily. At age 16 he went to cooking school where he was classically trained in French cuisine and then worked his way through cafés, restaurants, and hotels. At age 27 he left Switzerland to work as a chef on a cruise ship. He enjoyed the travel, waking up in a different country every day, and expanded his culinary repertoire.
After four years at sea, Braunschweiler moved to the states, working for hotels and restaurants in Los Angeles, Beverly Hills, and even Cheyenne, Wyoming. A job at the former Highland Country Club brought him to Omaha, and not long after, he opened Spanna, which he had for seven years. After taking a year off to travel back to Switzerland, he returned to Omaha and opened Prima 140, which he owned for 12 years. Two more years off to travel, and once again he came back to Omaha where he opened Brushi a year ago. “The Midwest has good people who are loyal, and I’ve always liked it here,” he said.
It’s also a good place for him to cultivate his love for running, which he does every day as a way to release stress and stay healthy—important for a business owner and hands-on chef. Braunschweiler has participated in almost every major marathon in the country, including Boston, twice. “I’m more relaxed at work, and by the end of a run, I’m able to figure out what I need to do, whether it’s personally or at the restaurant,” he said.
Braunschweiler has certainly figured out to the secret behind good cuisine. All three restaurants have been similar in style, which he describes as “casual, comfortable bistro food with a little bit of elegance.” There are influences of French, Italian, Indian, and American. “I drew ideas from all the countries surrounding Switzerland, plus all the countries I visited while working on the cruise ship,” he said. All stocks, sauces, and dressings are made from scratch, and pasta is home made as well.
For those who were regulars at Prima 140, they’ll be happy to know that their favorites are still available at Brushi. In fact, Braunschweiler keeps a Prima 140 menu on hand so customers can refer to it. Brushi didn’t originally have veal on the menu like Prima 140 did, but after receiving requests for it, Braunschweiler made it available, and it’s become a customer favorite. Other popular items include the Roasted Whiskey Chicken, Broiled Beef Filet, and Shrimp Pappardelle.
“A lot of people know me for my good home style cooking,” Braunschweiler said. “And with my specials I don’t get crazy with variations, but I do try to do some different, more modern things that still go with my style.” The Food Network is one of his best resources where he can see what other great chefs are doing. “I see the ingredients they use to make a traditional item, and then I add to it to come up with my own variation,” he said.
Coming in to try the food is Braunschweiler’s best advice, whether it’s for Brushi’s daily happy hour from 4-6 pm where they offer cocktail, wine, and beer specials as well as appetizers that include pulled pork sliders with citrus barbeque sauce, or beef carpaccio with mustard aioli. Or for a full lunch or dinner complete with chocolate mousse cake or fresh rhubarb strawberry tart. “I want people to come in, sit at the bar or on our patio, and try it,” Braunschweiler said. “I think they’ll really like it.”
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