You’ve passed it a million times. If you went in, you came back again and again for the soup (not to mention the other inexpensive Polish offerings). Then one day, the old orange sign was replaced by a wood, hand painted one, the kind that has become so familiar on newer neighborhood businesses. And just like that, 30 year old restaurant Happy End was gone, a victim of gentrification, replaced by a café.
Or so you thought. Yes, Happy End is now Brooklyn Point Café, but it’s staying in the family. Its new owners, couple Marta and Marcin Cyran, bought the restaurant from Marcin’s mother Elzbieta when she wanted to retire. (Elzbieta bought Happy End around 1999 after a five year stint working in its kitchen.)
The new owners / first-time entrepreneurs complement each other perfectly. Marcin spent years helping his mother, doing everything from waiting tables and delivering food to handling city inspections. He handles business operations, while Marta, who spent eight years at Johnny’s Café, formerly on Manhattan Avenue, watching, learning and dreaming of owning her own restaurant, handles the kitchen.
Marcin took the lead in redesigning the space. “I wanted a classic, rustic look, which is the trend now,” he said. “Very vintage.” He restored the hundred year old ceiling, took down the sheetrock to expose the wooden walls and built a countertop from three 30-year old doors he found in a downtown Brooklyn thrift shop. A beam features a couple of hundred empty soda cans spelling out “CAFE” from ceiling to floor.
For the new name, Marcin and Marta “wanted something that sounded like or had to do with the name of the neighborhood – Greenpoint.” They applied for the name Point Café, but the city denied their request. So they settled on Brooklyn Point Café.
Of course, name and decor will only take a restaurant so far. Ultimately, success depends on the food, and that’s where Marta took over. She designed a menu consisting of “food I like,” and hired Chef Marino Benisio, a 15 year kitchen veteran, to bring it to life. Her focus is on “simple” fare easy to prepare like sandwiches and salads. Brooklyn Point offers a mix of American, Polish, Mexican and Italian food aimed at a diverse clientele. “Greenpoint’s a mixed neighborhood,” explained Marcin. “In the past, a certain group of people would go to one place. It’s different now.” Marta added “75% of our customers, now, are American.”
Since opening on July 21st, the brunch menu has been a hit, with customers coming back for staples like pancakes ($8.95) and French toast ($8.50). The meat (ham, eggs and cheese) and veggie (mushrooms, onion, eggs, green pepper, red pepper and cheese) Breakfast Quesadillas ($9.50) have been their most popular dishes, so far, with the Bird Nest (two eggs over easy in bun bowl with fresh dill – $9.00) and Eggs and Muffins (2 pouched eggs served on English muffins with fresh lox, capers and red pepper – $8.50) closing in. The Fresh Mozzarella Panini (with fresh basil, tomatoes and marinated Portabella mushrooms – $9.50) has become the early favorite for diners seeking more substantial fare.
Brooklyn Point offers five specials each day in addition to the regular menu. The couple expects their license to sell beer and wine to arrive in October, at which point they will serve six craft beers and a variety of wines, which Marta will choose from local wineries. She has already started planning a menu of finger foods, to be rolled out once their liquor license is approved. Marta also plans to rotate the menu seasonally. Stuffed cabbage, potato pancakes and chicken soup are already on the agenda for this winter.
Both Marta and Marcin are thrilled with the early reception from the neighborhood. Marta points to the large number of repeat customers, and Marcin has noted all the new regulars who come in every morning for one of their seven coffee choices ($2.50-$3.75) or freshly squeezed juices ($3.50-$4.00) and the free Wi-Fi doesn’t hurt. Even some of the older Happy End customers are getting on board. “Some older customers have said it’s sad that it’s gone or “Oh, another café,” he said. “But the majority of my clients have said positive things.”
924 Manhattan Avenue
Open 8:00AM – 8:00PM daily