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Quality Stays Top-Notch at Henri’s Bar @ Braca Cafe
From creative cocktails to traditional, favorite recipes, the longtime Sea Isle City restaurant and bar has served guests like family for more than a century.

by Kristen Dowd

Henri’s Bar @ Braca Cafe is is nestled in the heart of Sea Isle City along the beach at John F. Kennedy Boulevard, where diners can enjoy the island’s everyday hustle and bustle, live music from the nearby band stand and even the occasional excitement of a beachside wedding.

For owner Kim Gibson, it’s also a place to see plenty of familiar faces.

“We’ve served third, fourth generations. I remember holding babies 35 years ago who are coming in now with their own kids. We’ve known families for years,” says Gibson, who runs the Sea Isle mainstay alongside his wife Jennifer McKeever.

It was Gibson’s grandparents who first opened the restaurant’s doors in 1901. Built on the promise of serving quality meals in a family atmosphere, the business was passed down through generations before Gibson took the helm in 1975.

The restaurant’s centralized location—not to mention its stellar staff and quality fare—makes it the perfect stop for any time of night. From aperitif cocktails to decadent dinners, delectable desserts to perfect nightcaps, Henri’s Bar @ Braca Cafe has established itself as the place to be in Sea Isle City and beyond.

“It’s pretty much the center of town,” McKeever affirms.


Cheers to 123 years

“We’re definitely a place to start your night. We have wonderful cocktails,” Gibson says. “And we have people who come back to try our homemade desserts—which are all made in-house by Jennifer.”

These sweet endings include the everyday Key lime pie, chocolate peanut butter pie and homemade cheesecake, “which is absolutely to die for,” Gibson adds.

And then there’s the espresso martini. Made with ALB Vodka, Tia Maria coffee liqueur, Kahlua, Frangelico and, of course, a strong kick of espresso, the drink is rumored to be the best in the region.

“The trick, as with any espresso martini, is the fact that the espresso is brewed right there,” McKeever says. “They shake the heck out of it to get that nice froth on top.”

The popularity of the espresso martini, according to Gibson, is a nod to customers’ evolving tastes. Everyone used to come to Braca Cafe for the 302—a frozen favorite with two shots of Bacardi 151 Rum—but now it’s (mostly) all about the classy caffeinated cuppa.

McKeever is quick to point out, however, that there is “something for everyone” on the drink menu, from tequila flights to high-end bourbon and whiskey. This also includes an extensive list from the restaurant’s own wine cellar, from Italian selections such as Ornellaia Bolgheri and Amarone Riserva Masi to the French La Fiole Du Pape Chateauneuf du Pape, and an impressive array of muddled cocktails handcrafted by the restaurant’s talented bartenders.

Crafted with fresh muddled fruits and mint, Gibson estimates they serve 10 to 15 muddled drinks, if not more.

Kim’s Classic Cosmo uses the pulp and oils from muddled limes to elevate the drink made with Ketel One Vodka, Cointreau orange triple-sec liqueur and a splash of cranberry. Another option—the Cucumber Cooler—is made with muddled cucumber and mint, Empress 1908 Gin, fresh lime and club soda.

“What’s been happening is that people are going to other restaurants in town that don’t have liquor,” Gibson explains, “and then they’re coming back for an after-dinner drink and dessert, which is really nice.”

Of course, for others, it’s all about the food.


From classics to specials

It’s important to Gibson to never compromise on quality—and even the recent rising food costs won’t change his mind on that point. Paying more for top-tier ingredients ensures he is serving the best dishes to his guests, and that exceptional dining experience is what it’s all about.

“It’s total quality that we have, from soup to nuts basically,” he says. “We don’t skimp on anything.”

This mindset has helped keep the restaurant’s classic dishes just as tasty today as they were a half century ago. For instance, Henri’s Bar @ Braca Cafe has always served up the same crab cake recipe, and for good reason.

“They’re made with only jumbo lump crab. It hasn’t changed at all,” Gibson says, adding they have customers who say they won’t bother having crab cakes anywhere else.

Other longtime favorites include the homemade meatballs—which are even featured on their own as an appetizer, served alongside a hunk of Italian bread—and a scallop penne dish, with large U/10 jumbo scallops pan-blackened and served in a blush sauce.

“The meatballs were my grandmother’s recipe, then my mom’s, and now Jennifer’s. Everybody has added a little something to them and they’re just so good,” Gibson says, while McKeever also highlights the pork osso bucco as an amazing entree.

In addition to the favorites that are always featured on the menu, there are specials and other dishes that make guest appearances.

“The kitchen staff works hard each week to create unique and exciting additions for the menu,” McKeever says.

For instance, soft-shell crabs are served when they can be purchased fresh locally, along with other specialty seafoods and fish. It’s also not only about Italian fare: Fajitas recently joined the menu, and Gibson says customers love them.

“You can depend on the classics,” he says, “but there’s always an array of new things on the menu, too.”


Henri’s Bar @ Braca Cafe
Sea Isle City
(609) 263-CAFE