For Bangor restaurateur Brett Settle, there are two kinds of people in the world.
One has a penchant for high-quality steak prepared carefully to their specifications. They appreciate fine marbling — flecks of white fat that melts into the steak to create the flavor they long for. They know a good steak when they see one, and they’ll go out of their way to find it.
The other sits across from the steak eater.
“We’re catering to the steak eaters. Now we want to take care of the people who come in with the steak eaters,” Settle said.
Brahma Grill, Settle’s most recent endeavor in downtown Bangor at 96 Hammond St., has been in business for nearly two months since opening quietly in March. With a newly updated menu and lowered prices, Settle is listening to patrons and adding to the steakhouse’s menu to cater to a wider variety of customers.
You can find a steak at many downtown eateries, from Blaze to Timber, “but no one just does steak,” Settle said. “No one specializes in high-quality, Midwest, real big steaks.”
That’s the niche he’s filled, providing restaurant-goers with USDA choice steaks, the second highest quality steak in the USDA grading system. With a recent update to the menu and also to his supply chain, Settle has lowered his menu prices slightly and added some additional options. He now uses steaks from Certified Angus Beef in Ohio. He was previously ordering from Creekstone Farms in Kansas.
“It’s very, very expensive to buy very good meat — anybody that eats it knows it,” Settle said.
The 20-ounce porterhouse has been reduced in price by $7 to $46 as a dinner with sides, while the 10-ounce tenderloin was reduced by $8 to $38, as a dinner with sides. A new option of a 6-ounce tenderloin has been added to the menu for those looking for a smaller portion. That is available for $28. All four steak cuts also are available a la cart, with options starting at $19.
New half portions of items in the barbecue section of the menu also have been added for the beef short rib and chicken dinners, which are served with bacon macaroni and cheese and steak fries.
The menu also offers a selection of salads and bucatini pasta dishes, such as Seafood Alfredo and Wild Boar Ragout. Settle will add an additional pasta dish, Chicken Marsala, as well as Fresh Grilled Salmon to the menu, while maintaining a daily fish special that has varied from choices such as mahi mahi, arctic char or halibut.
In addition to the staple steak items offered, other menu items such as the Elk Chops from New Zealand, offered both as a dinner and a la cart, and the wild boar pasta dish, using meat airmailed in from North Dakota, have proven popular as well. Ribeye steaks have been the biggest entree seller so far, and Corn Fritters have been the most popular appetizer.
Louisa Smith, the bar manager, also has added her own special flair to the menu with choices such as “The Root of the Problem,” a drink of fresh ginger root, lime and vodka, and “Dr. Watson,” a mix of single malt scotch, teapot bitters and bergamot. Her drink-making talents are on display on the dessert menu as well, which is verbally delivered to customers because it changes often. A few staples so far have been alcoholic parfaits.
From a mixture of coconut gelato, fresh pineapple and goslings rum, to a sweet creation of pecan-infused bourbon, gelato, Tia Maria Jamaican liqueur and whipped cream topped with candied, bourbon infused pecans, the dessert menu has already proven popular, with some patrons coming in just for the sweet treats.
“People are initially coming in to see the place and try a drink, and as they see the food coming out and see our products, they’re ordering more. It’s curiosity that’s turning into revenue, and we love it,” Smith said.
The menu isn’t large — but that’s they way Settle wanted it.
“I like to sit down and know what I’m having in six minutes, and you can’t do that if you have too many choices,” he said.
This is a contrast to his downtown Bangor lunch spot, Giacomo’s, where a vast menu is intended to encourage customers to come in every day for something different.
The restaurant seats about 80 people with an additional room available for functions. He’s situated right next to The Fiddlehead Restaurant, which is co-owned by Mel Chaiken and his sister, Laura Peppard. The Fiddlehead offers a seasonally changing menu of comfort-style dishes with high quality ingredients, many of which are locally sourced. It’s a farm-to-table style place and offers a different experience than Brahma Grill, according to Settle.
“We are going after the same clientele, but not on the same night. If you want this, you’re gonna come here, if you want that, you’re gonna go there. There is nothing more different in the world than these two menus,” Settle said.
Head chef Jeremy Yehle was enticed to run the Brahma Grill kitchen by Settle. Yehle, who studied in the culinary program at Eastern Maine Community College, helped develop the menu and offers his own expertise to it, making the sauces on the menu, such as the portobello demi-glace and the cipollini bordelaise, by hand. He previously was the sous chef at The Fiddlehead.
“I’m pretty conscious about making sure we’re not having crossovers,” Yehle said of Brahma Grill’s location next to The Fiddlehead.
From braising the wild boar to roasting bones for beef stock, Yehle puts many hours into making sure the sauces are perfect.
“Every one of those [sauces] are either made in the pan, or it’s something that he’s worked for hours, and — in some cases — days, on,” Settle said of Yehle.
Settle said business has been slow so far, but he hopes to see it pick up as they find their place in downtown Bangor’s food scene. This restaurant in this location is something that Settle has envisioned for years.
“I’ve been looking at this spot for, God, at least six years. It’s done, it’s built. Massimo [Ranni] built a great joint, and ever since it’s been here, I’ve kept asking, ‘Are you going to sell me this?’” Settle said.
In January the two began discussing the sale of the business seriously, and it didn’t take long for Settle to move in and make the place his own.
“I’ve always seen this place as a steakhouse,” Settle said, motioning around the restaurant. And now it is.
Brahma Grill is open from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday. For more information, visit facebook.com/brahmagrill.