Milford family opens Brats on a Bun downtown

Add one more menu item to downtown’s culinary offerings. In addition to fine cheeses at the Villa Gourmet, one-of-a-kind pizza at Colony Grill, award-winning fish and chips at the Seven Seas — just to name a few — there’s a little taste of Germany now at the new Brats on A Bun.

A brat, or rather a bratwurst, is a sausage usually composed of veal, pork or beef. The name is derived from Old High German, from brät, which is finely chopped meat and wurst, or sausage, according to one online encyclopedia.

Brats come in different varieties, said Dorothy Osanitsch, who recently opened the downtown eatery with family and help from friends.

At Brats on A Bun, there’s a traditional brat, smoked brat, chicken brat, all-American brat dog, and a spicy brat.

The eatery offers them with a choice of toppings: Sauerkraut, sautéed onions, sautéed peppers, raw onions, mustard, ketchup, salsa or curry ketchup.

Potato pancakes, original or jalapeño, served with applesauce, sour cream or salsa, complete the menu that Osanitsch said is meant to be simple to ensure perfection.

“The more you have, the more complicated it gets,” Osanitsch said, adding that she and her husband, Will, followed the Subway model when planning their new business. That model focuses on doing one item and doing it really well.

The small building, at the corner of River and Daniel streets, has housed several establishments over the past few years, including an ice cream shop and takeout foods. For many years before that, it was a shoe repair shop.

Osanitsch had been laid off from her job in finance for several months when husband Will drove by and noticed the building was for rent.

They quickly tapped into a business plan they’d put together 18 years ago. Back then, Will and Dorothy were both working for Karl Ehmer meat products.

They sometimes set up shop at festivals, like the Norwalk Oyster Festival and Arts and Ideas Festival in New Haven, where people couldn’t get enough of their brats on a bun.

“People used to say they wanted to be able to get them from us more than just once a year,” Dorothy said. “They’d ask when we were going to open a store.”

They came up with a plan and had shirts made, but then life took a different course in terms of careers. It wasn’t the right time for the venture.

Timing might not have been right then, but it’s right now, said Dorothy, who is somewhat of a food celebrity in Milford. Not only did she write a column for The Milford Mirror several years ago, called Dorothy’s Kitchen, she’s also well known at her church, the Woodmont United Church of Christ, for her apple pies and other culinary creations.

Will is vice president of Bosco Family Foods, which owns Karl Ehmer Meats, and is equally known for his skills in the kitchen.

The family has always espoused its German and Austrian heritage — Dorothy’s daughter, Melissa, was crowned Miss Gottschee at the Austrian Club in New York City in 2008: She was the reigning princess, representing the culture in a parade and other events for the year.

Brats on A Bun brings all of that together, including fellow church member Eric Ortiz, who often mans the stove.

Stephanie Posner, who works downtown, said she was happy the eatery opened, offering something out of the ordinary in terms of food fare.

“There aren’t places around here that have brats,” Posner said. “This is a little more unique.”

The new eatery offers takeout and limited seasonal outdoor seating.

Brats on A Bun is open Monday through Thursday from 11:30 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Friday and Saturday from 11:30 to 9 p.m.  and Sunday from 11:30 to 6. Those hours may be adjusted depending on the crowd.

So far, it has been very good, Dorothy said as people strolled in to sample a brat and a potato pancake. It’s a career change for her, but she loves it.

“I like meeting people,” she said. “I get energized by being here.”

A grand opening and ribbon-cutting are scheduled for July 31 at 4 p.m.