Brooklyn Heights

Brooklyn Heights mourns as Teresa’s Restaurant closes its doors after 31 years

January 10, 2020 Francesca N. Tate and Mary Frost
Teresa’s Restaurant, at 80 Montague St. in Brooklyn Heights. Eagle photo by Mary Frost
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Brooklyn Heights residents and restaurant aficionados alike are mourning Teresa’s Restaurant, a Montague Street mainstay for 31 years. The restaurant, which gained fame for its wholesome Polish cuisine and hearty breakfasts, was packed during its final weekend of Jan. 3-5 before closing its doors forever this past Sunday.

According to diners who frequented Teresa’s this past weekend, the owners were ready to retire.

In September 2019, the owners listed the business as up for lease, shocking Brooklyn Heights customers.

Teresa Brzozowska and her brother Bogdon Brzozowska opened the restaurant at 80 Montague St. in 1989, and it quickly became popular for its blintzes, pierogis, babka, challah French toast and other hearty breakfast fare, as well as garlic kielbasa and sampler platters.

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“I’ve been coming here as long as I can remember,” Maureen Salter, who has lived in Brooklyn Heights for 21 years, told the Brooklyn Eagle last September when the news first leaked out. “It’s almost like a community center, where you see people coming and going. Maybe you don’t know their name, but you certainly know the faces.”

A sign on the door of Teresa’s says goodbye. Photo: JoAnne Wasserman
A sign on the door of Teresa’s says goodbye. Photo: JoAnne Wasserman

Teresa’s has been, in its day, the Sunday brunch spot for gatherings of writers like Norman Mailer, Brooklyn’s poet laureate Norman Rosten and illustrator David Levine; a place where literature lovers held private Shakespeare readings at tables in the back; where chess players met for a friendly round; and where parents brought their kids after play dates at the Pierrepont Street playground.

As they bid farewell last weekend, a number of diners spoke with Brzozowska.

Paul Olson, dining with friends and members of the Grace Church Choir, told the Eagle, “Teresa came over to our table on the final day they were open, Sunday, Jan. 5, and said, ‘It was time.’”

Frequent customers Mary Bowen and Val Vollmer said that Teresa’s was a “great place to eat.” Vollmer, whose ancestry is Polish, praised the dishes for their authenticity. Among their favorites: the Gołąbki, or stuffed cabbage. They also loved Teresa’s pancakes.

“I just love that place, and so does everybody else I’ve been speaking to,” Heights resident Linda Hirsch told the Eagle in September.

Brzozowska immigrated to the U.S. in 1980, settling in Williamsburg. She worked in delis — German, Jewish, Polish, French, and American — until 1985, when she opened the first iteration of Teresa’s in the East Village.

The Brooklyn Heights location stayed open 12 years longer than the one in the East Village, which closed in 2007.

In the 1940s, 80 Montague St. was the site of an H.C. Bohack store. Photo: NYC Municipal Archives
In the 1940s, 80 Montague St. was the site of an H.C. Bohack store. Photo: NYC Municipal Archives

A New York Magazine article once raved, “The blintzes are crisp, but smooth and crêpelike inside, with a semisweet farmer’s cheese filling that is pure Eastern European grandma. And although pierogis don’t sound like breakfast fare, steamed mushroom-and-sauerkraut with a dollop of sour cream can easily become a go-to order. The classics, of course, are executed flawlessly: eggs any style, crisp and salty home fries, sausage links, and spiced and garlicky kielbasa.”

“Not having Teresa’s in the Heights will be a heavy blow,” long-time customer Andrew Porter told the Eagle last September. “Man does not live by Chinese food alone!”

He added, “I’ve been eating there for decades, and I will really miss Teresa’s when they close. When I published a magazine, I’d take my Hungarian-born editorial assistant there for Lazanki. I’m a big fan of their mushroom-barley soup, the liver and onions, and many other dishes.”

The NYC Retail Listing website says the building’s owner is looking to lease the space for $18,000 a month.

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    • Andrew Porter

      In this tight job market, I think they will find new jobs soon enough. I also can’t see the owner booting them out with nothing to show for possibly years of service.

      Also, Teresa owns the building, and wants to maintain control over future uses of the retail space.