Local & Fresh: Brando's Wing Co.
Brandon Hale is a fifth-generation restaurant owner who, after losing his mother to Alzheimer’s realized his dream of opening his own restaurant and got to living. Brandon and his wife Stephanie opened Brando’s Wing Co. on June 15, 2019, the space at 1940 West Main in Bozeman was remodeled by Brandon and his brother to create a warm, friendly place for the community to eat and be happy. Brandon sat with me at the restaurant to answer the seven questions we ask local restaurateurs each month.
Angie Ripple: How was Brando’s conceptualized?
Brandon Hale: Brando’s started with me trying to figure out a buffalo sauce that I liked. When I moved to Bozeman there was nowhere to get good wings. Everybody just used Frank’s or Frank’s with butter, and so every Sunday, this was probably early 2000’s, when I was in college here, I had moved here from Seattle to go to college at MSU for film school, and every Sunday I would get all my buddies together and try to figure out a buffalo sauce that I liked and let them try it and see what they thought. Finally, after about eight tries I found the recipe I liked and it ended up being the simplest recipe with fresh ingredients, right? Crazy! So I started making that sauce just for my buddies and they loved it. I don’t know how it got out, but it somehow got out to Brian at the Murray in Livingston and he loved it so much that he started buying it. So I got a food manufacturer's license and I used to manufacture it at Bridger Kitchen’s with Wanda. The Murray was definitely our biggest customer, they would do wings and they did a Dirty Shame Pizza, named after my band The Dirty Shame, and then a couple other restaurants bought it, The Cat’s Paw, Holiday Inn in Livingston, and then I sold it in Town & Country for a little while. So it was the sauce that was the idea before the restaurant.
AR: What makes Brando’s unique in the Bozeman Food Scene?
BH: We are a wing restaurant primarily serving wings, which there is only one other big franchise restaurant doing that. All of our sauces are from scratch, made with fresh ingredients, whereas other folks use sauces that are pre-made and full of chemicals and artificial flavorings. For instance our pineapple jalapeño sauce, we juice pineapples and then reduce real pineapple juice and then put fresh chopped jalapeños on top. Same with mango habanero, we use fresh mangos, we juice them and then put fresh habaneros into the sauce. The buffalo sauce we make here is very different from most buffalo sauces, like I said before, most buffalo sauces are Frank’s and butter, where we use fresh peppers. For three to four gallons of sauce, we probably use thirty pounds of fresh peppers. We have seventeen sauces on our menu as well as some rotators and we’re trying to think up a few new ones, we’re trying to get to twenty.
We have some other things besides wings, we do really good burgers, people love our burgers. French fries are popular, we cut em fresh daily and then we soak em, then we fry them at a low temperature, take em out cool em down and then re-fry em to order, so they’re double fried, the way fries are supposed to be.
We have some family recipes, the garlic treat is basically a quesadilla with garlic, jalapeno, cheese, sour cream, smothered between two tortillas, really yummy. The cheesecake is a recipe from my dad’s restaurant, he's had a restaurant for forty years in Anchorage, so we make that every week. The caesar salad is my dad’s family recipe which we make from scratch every four to five days. We do homemade Otter Pops for a dessert, we just use fresh fruit, one is the honeydew otter pop; it's honeydew melon, spinach, honey and lemon juice, that’s it and they are delicious. Chicken bites are really popular, they are just cut up chicken breast dusted with rice flour and deep fried, people love em. Almost everything is gluten free, we don’t put anything with gluten in our fryers, we don’t bread the wing we just fry the wings. We just introduced fresh squeezed lemonade, we make it right in front of you by fresh squeezing the lemons and we make our own simple syrup, and boom it’s yummy.
AR: What do you want people to experience when they walk through your doors?
BH: We want them to experience a very friendly, casual, laid back, inviting atmosphere. We only have two other employees other than my wife and I, we are both here a lot, we want to know the customers and be friends with the customers. We are very friendly and we like to talk to everybody. We’re a very family friendly place with a great kids menu, kids love the food, lots of families come in.
We did a remodel on the place, my brother and I did it all ourselves with a few helpers. We created a warm physical atmosphere with a mixture of wood beams and brick, it has a nice feel.
AR: What do your regulars keep coming back for?
BH: Good food and friendly service. We get a lot of comments online that customers love the food, it’s fresh, it’s good, and the staff is always really nice. Brando’s Medium is by far our most popular sauce, and people really love the Mango Habenero. A lot of people keep coming back to see what kind of new sauces we have. Before COVID we were really experimenting with some different sauces, sauces of the week, so now that things are kind of toning down a little bit we’re going to start introducing some new sauces again. And when we have cheesecake we sell out of it really quick, people come and buy the entire cheesecake.
AR: What do you enjoy most about being part of the Bozeman community?
BH: The people, of course, the people, we love the people here. Super friendly, super nice, very supportive. During COVID they were tough times, and we had a lot of people coming back here knowing that this is a small family business, and they supported us and made sure we were ok. People were posting for us and sharing stuff on Facebook, Jeff at the Eagle helped us out a lot, hooking us up with some ads and trying to think outside the box with our marketing. The people of this community are very supportive and we love it here.
AR: How has it been running the restaurant through the pandemic?
BH: We had a tough time, the first two months of COVID were really tough on us, and we were coming right out of me being in the hospital in November/December 2019 with a lung infection and I had to have surgery. Right after we battled that, which got us behind a little bit because Steph and I couldn’t be here much, then COVID hit and it was tough and we got behind on our rent a little bit. Our landlords gave us no leeway and were going to evict us on the 31st of September, and the State helped us out and got us a grant and saved our business, totally saved our business. The last month has been really busy, the community has supported us, and it’s been awesome to be so busy, it helps to be busy and then have the grant from the State really saved us.
AR: Is there anything coming up that you would like the readers to know?
BH: Yeah, if football season happens we want to get some TVs in here so we can watch sports, but our next big goal is to get beer. The beer and wine licenses are very expensive, however a brewing license is not that expensive so I’ve been looking at a one barrel brewing system and we’ll brew our own beer. I’m in talks with a guy who owns a brewery to help us with recipes and get started on some good beer. We are hoping to do that in the next three to four months.
Maybe at the end of the summer depending on if the Health Department allows this, they said if you can organize it right we’ll let you have a concert with my band The Dirty Shame in the parking lot and we’ll get one of the breweries to come out and supply the beer and we’ll do a big end of summer fall kickoff with The Dirty Shame playing in the parking lot with wings and beer, how about that?! Stay tuned.
Stop in sometime soon to say hi to Brandon and Stephanie, order a delicious burger (I recommend the Little B), a dozen wings with a sauce of your choice, a rice bowl with chicken bites, and/or the potato skins (yum). When you choose to eat local you are doing your part to keep Bozeman the Most Livable Place.