“I was doing menu research when it hit me: this is the food I ate as a child,” chef Crista Luedtke says with a laugh. “I never thought of it as being German; it was just what my Mom and Grandma cooked.”
It will also be the food that Luedtke cooks, as her newest Guerneville restaurant, a German-influenced spot called Brot (pronounced broat), opens its doors for evening service on Friday, May 25, with lunch soon to follow.
Brot translates roughly to “bread” as well as “livelihood,” and it’s a way for Luedtke to underscore that her life’s work has value. It’s also a homage to her parents, whose full-service Wisconsin restaurant, Luedtke’s Bratskeller, was her earliest training ground. Her father recently sent her the former Bratskeller sign, rescued from 40 years in storage, to hang in the new place.
Each German town has a bratskeller, Luedtke says by phone as she works to finish opening details on Brot. “It translates to ‘the council’s cellar,’” she explains, adding that it’s generally located underneath each city’s town hall.
Replacing the former Three Alarm Grill space just adjacent to the Rainbow Cattle Company on Guerneville’s main drag, Brot will be a town hall of sorts, with approachable fresh food served all day and possibly, just maybe, what Luedtke is gleefully calling “a late-night wienie window” serving sausages to-go after 10 p.m. for the late-night drinking crowd.
“I’m taking a modern German approach to things,” Luedtke says, “playing with the ingredients and flavors but keeping it very West County – very fresh and seasonal. There will be fish and chips on Fridays because growing up German Catholic that was the thing, and we’ll come out the gate with a white asparagus salad, because that’s very German, too.”
Brot also pays attention to the Turkish street food now common in German cities with a chicken doner kebab, and will have two different types of potato salad on constant rotation because there are so many variations to express. The pretzels will be house-made and the pizza, Alsatian-style.
For the kitchen, Luedtke didn’t need to look far. Seaside Metal, a nearby oyster bar that didn’t return after the recent floods, had employed an excellent team so she recruited former chef Joey Blank for the back of the house and manager Mags Van Der Veen to run the front. Van Der Veen was raised on the German border in the Netherlands, so Brot is like coming home for her.
It reflects a homecoming for Luedtke, too.
“This may round out the portfolio,” Luedtke says, referring to her other Guerneville businesses, including the boon hotel + spa, boon eat + drink, and El Barrio. (She opened Big Bottom Market with a partner before selling her interest in 2018.) “This may be the last one.”
But any poignancy quickly dissipates. “I’m really excited,” she says. “This is bringing me full circle, back to the beginning.”