In 2011, with a $5,000 loan from his parents in his pocket, 19-year-old Bo Gonzalez was about to realize his dream of owning a food truck specializing in inventive hot dogs. Fast forward eight years and Bo’s initial vision has evolved into much more, including a neighborhood brick and mortar Specialty Burger Joint on Fairfield Avenue and a full line of meat products.
As owner of Bravas, Bo wears many hats. From Chef to Hiring, Catering, Event Planning and Purchasing to Menu Design, his titles are broad. Most recently, he added “proud owner of Bravas Quality Meats” to his list as he launched a retail line of beef and pork products. Working with Wood Farms, a selection of roasts, skirt steaks, flank steaks, handmade sausages and more are sold Thursday through Saturday from a small meat case at the burger shop. Bo says they can do just about any cut of meat “thanks to our skilled butcher, Jim Martin.”
Bravas has been a consistent top contender in the Fort Wayne Newspapers annual Reader’s Choice awards, winning the #1 spots for Best Burger and Best Food Truck the last two years running. They also placed in the top three for Best Place for Lunch in 2018.
So, what are some of the popular Bravas creations? Their PB Burger boasts homemade peanut butter, bacon, house mayo, pickled jalapeno and white cheddar cheese on a pretzel bun. This combination earned them a 2nd place rating for the entire state of Indiana by Visit Indiana. Other Bravas favorites include the SNOOP Burger and SNOOP Dog topped with smoked gouda, bacon and aioli. The Triple B burger, featuring chorizo, white cheddar, potato de Gallo, a fried egg and Bravas sauce just might warrant a visit from Triple D’s Guy Fieri. Veggie dogs and burgers, along with gluten free options, are available too.
The restaurant menu offers a choice of two sizes of burgers, named House or Smash. Bo explains “The House Patty is what started it all for us. We grind all of our own meat in house through Bravas Quality Meats and as the beef comes out of the meat grinder, we form cylinders, roll them up and actually slice off burger patties with a sharp knife. The patty has never been squished together by hand so you get a very tender, juicy almost steak-like experience with it.”
He continues, “The smash patty is our take on a super popular way of cooking burgers. We take a smaller portion size of the same beef, ball it up and literally smash it on the hot griddle to caramelize the outside really quickly. It’s a thinner patty and something we added to please the folks that didn’t want to eat such a large burger.”
Additional Chicken choices, Pork Sausage and Salads round out the menu but don’t forget to tack on a side. Choose from Four Cheese Mac ‘n Cheese or Patatas Bravas, which are thrice fried potatoes, with Bravas sauce and garlic aioli. Shishitos Frito (fried peppers) are another side choice but save room for the homemade Rice Krispie Treats to satisfy your sweet tooth craving.
Bravas and their long-term staff are also supportive of the community. Bo currently serves on the board of the Northeast Indiana Local Food Network, promoting local food culture in the region and supporting local food entrepreneurship.
They also host fundraisers for important causes such as a recent one benefiting Windrose Urban Farm, whose mission is to hire folks who may have employment barriers. Bravas also sponsored another fundraiser named “Flavor for the Kids” in May of 2018 for Whitney Young Early Learning Center. Bo attended Whitney Young as a child and wanted to help fund a new outdoor learning center.
Bo and his wife Ren Rivera, met while attending South Side High School and worked the food truck together when they were just teens. Together for the past eight years, they have lived in the 07 area and are raising a two-year old son, Xavi.
A dual citizen of both Spain and the U.S., Bo speaks fluent Spanish. His sister Becky is also involved with the business. He states “Growing up we spent every August in Spain and that has had a huge impact on Bravas with our menu and service, making us who we are.”
Bo teased us with promises of more good things to come. He hints “There are some big picture plans in the works.” We look forward to seeing Bravas continued growth.
As for the food truck that established the Bravas name- Their fleet has grown to two food trucks. One is a converted school bus from Indianapolis, the other is an old Hostess delivery truck. The food truck menu offers less options than the Fairfield restaurant, focusing more on hot dogs, with one burger option and Patatas as well as a walking taco. But yes indeed, they still use the original hot dog cart that started with a dream.