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Broken Brick, a house of home cooking

Patti Juliano has been the owner of New England's Broken Brick for eight years. Juliano started the business because no other dining options existed in the small town. Here, Juliano concludes another modest lunch day. (Brandon L. Summers / The Dickinson Press)1 / 2
Patti Juliano, Broken Brick owner, brings in her outdoor menu at the end of another modest February lunch. The winters are the most challenging for the small-town business, Juliano said. (Brandon L. Summers / The Dickinson Press)2 / 2

NEW ENGLAND—New England's Broken Brick restaurant opened eight years ago with the same origin as many businesses: from necessity.

"At that time there was really nothing around this area as far as restaurants," owner Patti Juliano said. "The bowling alley was open but barely, and that's all there was. Since I've opened there's been the Express Stop and the bowling alley's changed hands about four different times."

Open Tuesday through Friday for lunch and Friday and Saturday for dinner, Broken Brick serves freshly made, hot meals.

"Every Friday I have patty melts and fries, and Friday and Saturday night I have ribeye steak, shrimp and walleye," Juliano said. "On special occasions, we have king crab legs usually or lobster tails."

As a proprietress, Juliano especially enjoys meeting new people.

"On the weekends you get people from all over, and through the summer you get a lot of different people passing through," she said.

Juliano is especially proud to serve only freshly made meals.

"Everything I do is home-cooked," she said. "There's seldom anything that's premade. I make soups every day, and everything is from scratch. I think that draws people in too."

Over eight years Juliano has met many new people, from near and far.

"I get a lot of British Columbia people in the summertime," she said. "There's a lot of them that come down on their way to South Dakota or Jackson Hole or someplace, and they all say, oh, we heard about this place back there, and we just wanted to stop and check it out."

For many, the existence of a restaurant in the small town is a revelation.

"A lot of people walk in the door and they're just like, wow, I can't believe this is in New England," Juliano said.

Inside, customers are greeted by a cozy, home-like aesthetic.

"I try to make it so it's warm and welcoming, and people are not tense when they walk in," Juliano said. "I try to redo things in here, just so it's not the same boring thing, even for me, because I'm here some days 16 hours, usually about 12 hours."

Broken Brick has changed its menu over eight years.

"I didn't start with steak and shrimp," Juliano said. "I started with just sandwiches, like a Subway, and pretty soon people asked me to make soups. Now I'm stuck with soup every day."

On one typical February afternoon, Broken Brick offered a fish meal.

"I usually make baked potato and chili. Chicken alfredo sometimes for lunch. And everything comes with a salad bar," Juliano said.

This could be changed starting this summer, though.

"I'm going to go back to the sandwiches two days a week and just have one day where I make whatever I want," she said.

Juliano, though, enjoyed the evolution from simple sandwiches.

"I did sandwiches for three years maybe, and people would say, I love your sandwiches, because I bake my own bread. And I'm just like, God, I can do more than just sandwiches!" she said. "That's why I decided to just start adding a little more on the menu. Pretty soon I dropped all the sandwiches and I'm making everything home-cooked."

Along with all the joys of being a small-town business owner, there are also challenges.

"January's not too bad. February and March, some days I'll make $20 a day. And every year it never changes," Juliano said. "You're like, am I doing the right thing? Should I shut it down? But then by April, May, it starts picking back up."

She added, "Your bill is still there if you make money or not."

Summer, usually, is a boon for Broken Brick.

"I'm busy for lunch even," Juliano said. "It's just in the winter time you're counting on that weekend business and some days it takes me all week long to be able to afford what I have to order."

She added, "It's never an even balance, it's always up and down."

Weekend events can also impact the restaurant's business.

"It's a small town. If anything goes on in town on the weekends, it hurts me," Juliano said. "Weekends, I do pretty good. But weekdays, you never know from one day to another."

Customers appreciate the local dining option, Juliano said.

"We have our menu on Facebook every day and there's always really good comments," she said. "I don't think I've ever gotten anything that was bad, other than being sick and not being able to open because it is just me. The doors have to be shut."

Juliano said she has enjoyed being a business owner.

"I've been born and raised here so I kind of know everybody in town," she said. "It's been a challenge, but a very good challenge."