German couple flies to Milford for breakfast
MILFORD >> Thomas Grubmueller said his longtime girlfriend is hard to buy for, so for her 32nd birthday, he flew them 3,945 miles from Germany so they could have breakfast at one of her favorite eateries, The Corner at 105 River St.
The couple, who live in the Bavaria area, flew into New York where they stayed for a couple of days, then rented a car to drive on her birthday on a recent Tuesday morning to the downtown breakfast and brunch spot.
Grubmueller told his girlfriend, Martina Duemler, they were going to America for breakfast.
She fell in love with the restaurant during a New England road trip last year, but she had no idea how special restaurant owner Michelle Lebel was going to make it after exchanging secret emails with Grubmueller before the trip. He asked Lebel to create a birthday look and buy a cake for which he would reimburse her.
When Duemler walked in to the eatery, the couple was brought to a long table by the window with a carrot cake bearing her name, “Happy Birthday” balloons, orange juice in stemmed glasses with an orange wedge on the rims, a party hat and a tabletop sign that read: “Happy Birthday Martina. Welcome Back to The Corner Restaurant.”
“This is a very big surprise,” she said of the thoughtful extras. “I’m a very lucky girl. ... This is the best birthday present ever.”
Although they’ve been dating for 10 years, the couple had a starry-eyed look. She beamed at him and he back, giving her a two-thumbs-up.
“It’s a hard to find a present for her,” Grubmueller said.
Lebel owns the restaurant with husband, Amer, who designs and cooks the menu items. She was so touched she wiped away tears after handing them menus and chatting.
Lebel said it felt like “hope for humanity” in these troubling times to see such “romance and love.”
“This is the best feeling for me on a personal level,” she said.
Amer Lebel, who popped his head out of the kitchen for a minute, said he’d like to do something that special for Michelle some day.
“We have witnesses” to what he said, Michelle Lebel joked to her husband.
The restaurant, once voted by Connecticut Magazine as having the best French toast in the state and featured on the Cooking Channel’s “Road Trip with G. Garvin,” is a destination spot for diners from throughout Connecticut — but no one the Lebels have heard of have traveled that far for their food.
Duemler and her beau found the restaurant on TripAdvisor last year when they stayed at a local hotel during a two-week road trip through New England. Duemler fell in love with the place, couldn’t stop talking about it and commented to her boyfriend that she’d love to have breakfast at The Corner on her birthday. Grubmueller decided to make it happen. He is a travel agent in Germany and got a good deal on tickets.
Grubmueller made it clear that while they did some sightseeing in New York City to pass time, the purpose of the quick trip was the birthday breakfast.
Duemler, a marketing and sales agent in Germany, said that first time at The Corner, she was struck by the magnificent food — she had duck and eggs Benedict — and the warm, homey atmosphere that made them stay two hours.
As news spread of the special visitors from Germany on Facebook, two state Department of Correction officers stopped in to get a glimpse, but missed out because the couple arrived a little later than expected.
One regular customer, artist Ren Farnsworth, was so excited after reading the Facebook post that she brought Duemler a handmade gift of miniature blown-glass flowers in a pot.
“If someone’s going to bring their girlfriend all the way from Germany, I’m going to get them a gift,” Farnsworth said. “I think it’s adorable. This is so adorable.”
The birthday girl was floored with the gesture and said she’ll display it in a very special spot.
The couple sat next to each other to pose for a picture, with a few long smooches before returning to their face-to-face seating. They were flying back to Germany the next day, but said they’ll be back again to dine at The Corner some day.
“I’m a happy little camper,” Duemler said.