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Brooklyn House Restaurant prospers with its new name

by: RITA A. LEONARD - Erica Litner, left, and Lisa Samuels, longtime staffers and now the owners of the newly renamed Brooklyn House, on the restaurants front porch. One of the most valuable assets of a restaurant is its name. When the two women who for years had been running the Berlin Inn in Brooklyn offered to buy it, they were confronted with a major challenge: The owner was happy to sell the profitable business to pursue other interests, but she had plans for both the name and the recipes – and new owners would have to change both the name and the food.

Erica Litzner and Lisa Samuels took the leap anyway, and beat the long odds – the restaurant, now called the Brooklyn House, has not only survived but prospered in its first year under its new owners. They did it by keeping the established clientele informed as the sale progressed, and by developing new European-styled recipes and presenting them in the months leading up to the sale as seasonal specials.

The Brooklyn House Restaurant, still located a block south of Powell and a block east of Milwaukie Avenue at 3131 S.E. 12th in the Brooklyn neighborhood, has prospered sufficiently that the hours of operation were recently expanded to include lunches as well as dinners, Wednesdays through Sundays. The restaurant is closed – but available for private parties – on Mondays and Tuesdays.

Litzner and Samuels explain that they are carrying on the restaurant’s thirty-year legacy of serving farm-to-table “European-style comfort food” – but they are also developing a reputation for health-specific meals designed for diners with various dietary restrictions.

Litzner says, “We’ve all worked here for years. We like to say that coming here for meals is like coming home, and comforting. We have a sincere commitment to present nourishing food with a completely dedicated gluten-, soy-, and peanut-free kitchen. We also cater to customers who require egg-, nightshade-, and allium-free meals, as well as SCD-legal (Specific Carbohydrate Diet) meals.”

Despite all these restrictions, perhaps surprisingly everything is delicious. The restaurant buys meat and other organic produce direct from local farmers, including Alpine Forager’s mushrooms, fiddleheads, and wild berries. They purchase artisan breads and pasta, organic fair-trade coffee, and locally-made chocolate, tea and other beverages. They carry a multitude of beer, wine, cider and spirits, including hard cider from Bushwhacker Cider across the street. And they still make the signature desserts in-house.

Customer comments invariably cite the caring staff, and how well-informed they are about special diets. They are very accommodating to specific requests, and knowledgeable about the farmers who supply their menu ingredients. “We aim to custom fit each individual meal to each individual customer, and to make that feel natural in a community-style dining experience,” explains co-owner Lisa Samuels.

The restaurant, seeking to be a community resource, has contributed time, gift certificates, and products to several local non-profits. “We donated roasted romanesco and labor to become members of the NPO ‘Outgrowing Hunger’, which helps low-income people learn how to garden and prepare fresh foods,” recounts Samuels. “We held two fund raisers for Marriage Equality, raising almost $2,000. We donated gift certificates to Slow Food Portland and to an AIDS Walk benefit, and also participated in a GIG fundraiser.” For information or reservations, call 503/236-6761 – or go online to: www.brooklynhouserestaurant.com, where the menu is displayed.

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