The two-year-old casual dining spot Gates & Brovi sits on the corner of Monroe and Glenway, across the street from Lake Wingra. It’s further west than Monroe’s two main commercial hubs, which means that for some in Madison, it may seem out of the way. But that’s also what makes Gates & Brovi the perfect neighborhood spot.
Gates & Brovi opened in the Dudgeon-Monroe neighborhood in the fall of 2012, which means for this block, it’s basically an infant. Right next door is Mallat’s Pharmacy and Costumes, which has been in its current location since 1941. Gates & Brovi is on the first floor of the Parman Place building, which is also only two years old and took the place of Parman’s Service Station, the tiny red-and-white shop that took up residence in the neighborhood the same year as Mallat’s.
Parman’s was razed to make room for the three-story development that, in addition to the first-floor restaurant, has two stories of apartments and a green roof. Needless to say, it’s a big change to a block of Dudgeon-Monroe that hasn’t seen much change for the last 70 years. The loss of Parman’s was likely a sad one for many of the locals, but you can’t complain too much about suddenly having a spot in the neighborhood to stop for lunch, dinner, and drinks. And it doesn’t hurt that it’s owned by Phillip Hurley and John Gadau, the same guys that brought Marigold Kitchen and Sardine to town. (Fun fact: Hurley and Gadau were semi-finalists for the 2013 James Beard award in the Best Chef: Midwest category. For those of you who don’t obsessively watch Top Chef and have not heard of the James Beard awards, just take our word for it that this is a big deal.)
Inside, Gates & Brovi is a wide-open, breezy space that feels lively but not crowded (unless there are people milling around at the busiest times, waiting for tables). The atmosphere is easygoing and very family-friendly. Bring your kids for an early dinner or the whole soccer team for post-game sundaes and ice-cream sodas. The servers are happy to accommodate adults and children alike (sometimes by bringing a plate of cherries and orange slices from the bar to make parents feel a little better about feeding their young children nothing but fried cheese curds and chicken tenders for dinner).
The decor has a subtle nautical feel; just a couple canoe paddles and artfully and not at all creepily placed taxidermied fish adorn the clutter-free walls. Everywhere else you look, there is lots and lots of wood. (Fun fact: most of the wood was reclaimed from an old Wausau factory). But all this wood definitely does not give Gates & Brovi a northwoods-cabin feel. The mix of gleaming wood floors and benches, white wainscoting, and bare ceiling boards give the place an up-to-date, clean look.
The menu is a casual blend of New England and Wisconsin, with many seafood options, cheese curds, and burgers. There is also what some have called “surprisingly good” pizza, an Oyster Happy Hour, and a Friday Night Fish Fry, which we like to think of as the perfect expression of the “east coast fish house meets midwest supper club” description from the Gates & Brovi website.
Oh, and you’re probably wondering where the name Gates & Brovi comes from: they’re the names of the owners’ father and grandfather. It’s a family-friendly name for a family-friendly place in a family-friendly neighborhood. Now just try telling us that doesn’t have a nice ring to it.