Housed in a former elevator repair factory beneath a busy Bronx bridge, the Bruckner Bar & Grill is an unlikely success story.
The Mott Haven spot initially struggled after opening in December 2006. The location suffered from low foot traffic, and the previous establishment had a poor reputation for food and service, according to new owner Alex Abeles.
But four years on, the Bruckner — as regulars like to call it — is receiving rave reviews and attracting a loyal clientele from beyond this gentrifying corner of the South Bronx.
“Everyone told me I was crazy opening a bar-restaurant under a bridge in the Bronx,” said Abeles, 34, who moved to New York in 1999. “But I really had a great feeling I could do something nice with this place.”
Abeles, who runs the venue with a silent partner, began by completely renovating the interiors and then the menu.
“That’s how I built the place to be what it is today,” he said. “I put all my money into this.”
With its blend of quality New American and traditional bar food, the Bruckner became a favorite with the artists and young professionals who began to move into the area’s lofts in the late 1990s. The restaurant-ratings website Urbanspoon calls it the best place to eat out in the borough.
But the Bruckner is more than just an eatery. It serves as a live-music venue, art exhibition space and occasional wedding hall.
But, at heart, it also remains a good watering hole.
“It has a neighborhood feel to it,” said longtime regular Shane Perez, 28. “You’ve got artists and musicians, but you’ve also got construction workers, firefighters, detectives. It’s a real mixed bag.”
For Abeles, who has worked in all aspects of the business from busboy to cook, the Bruckner has been his toughest challenge. “It’s a big machine which you need to know how to operate,” he said.