Preserving history: Berry's Restaurant will open under new ownership and name in the next month

Carlyn Wall and her family have been working to get Berry’s Restaurant in downtown Norwalk open again for a couple of years.

That work is just about finished.

“Some of the things were out of my control as far as inspections,” Wall says. “We had to wait for that, but now we have moved past all of that, so now I’m ready to get staff in and start training.

“I’m hoping to be open in the next couple of weeks,” she adds. “There’s no reason why we shouldn’t be, but it will take a little time to get the staff trained and the food ordered. Definitely, within a month.”

Wall is a nurse by profession, but when the family moved to the Norwalk area, they fell in love with the town and put down roots. Her son and daughter are students at Norwalk High School, and she got started in the restaurant business when she bought the Hound Dog Hop in Plymouth.

“I have always been a firm believer that if you follow your passion in life, you should  because that’s something that will set you up for success,” she says. “I’m passionate about serving people, which is one of the reasons I became a nurse because I wanted to take care of people. The other thing I’m super passionate about is food, so to take those passions and put them into a business is something I love doing.”

Wall installed this stained glass fixture to add to the overall aesthetic at Berry's.Wall, who will reopen the restaurant under the name Berry's on Main, purchased the business and building from Brian and Leslie Chase. Leslie Chase is part of the original Berry family and, as longtime residents of Norwalk know, the restaurant has been a landmark on Main Street. The familiar location is actually what’s left of the St. Charles Hotel, a three-story building that opened in 1867.

The restaurant area of the building started as a candy shop in 1902 and eventually operated as a restaurant and confectionery until Dean Berry bought the business in 1944 and turned it into the restaurant. The Berry family ultimately tore down the hotel portion of the building in the 1980s, remodeling the location in the process and turning the east room of the building into its main entrance with a second room that still has its distinctive original tin ceiling.

A third room, known as The Dinky Pub and Grille, opened in 2004 to serve liquor, beer and wine with an old Lyman boat featured directly behind the bar. There’s another room behind the bar and a basement kitchen that Wall envisions as a banquet room and additional catering opportunities at some point in the future.

“I know this has been in the same family for decades,” Wall says. “I bought it from Brian and Leslie, but I don’t think it was an easy thing for them to do. They really wanted to keep it going in the family, so I feel really honored that they chose me. I feel they wanted someone who would be passionate about this. I love them. They are wonderful.”

However, there was plenty of work to complete before Wall could even schedule the inspections required for the restaurant to reopen. Wall and her family have been busy replacing flooring throughout and the ceiling in the kitchen area, as well as rebuilding and re-covering all the booths.

“It’s a lot of hard work,” Wall says. “This is the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life, but it’s been really rewarding. It hasn’t even opened yet, but I’m really excited because I feel that Berry’s is such an important part of the community and has been open for so long and so many people have so many memories.

“With the Hop, we’ve been able to do a lot of things with the community,” she added. “Right now, I just want to get open and get serving good meals. Then, down the road, I want Berry’s to be involved in the community.”

Part of a Lyman is a visual feature behind the bar of The Dinky Pub.As a nod to its history, Wall has adorned the walls with photos of the building and downtown Norwalk from the Firelands Historical Society.
“I just want to this to be a place where people can come again and share more memories because that’s what food is about,” she says. “It’s about coming together and sharing with each other.”

Wall is working on a menu that will include old-fashioned milkshakes, homemade desserts, soft-serve ice cream and a place for customers to come in for a cup of coffee and a bite to eat, just as it’s always been at Berry’s. She calls her vision of a menu as “polished casual” that features locally sourced comfort items, along with a surprise or two.

“What ‘polished casual’ means to me is casual dining, but I want to use local ingredients as much as possible,” she says. “I would love to have some really nice specials, get a little creative with the menu and make things homemade. That’s what I think of when I think of polished casual.”

That casual dining will carry over to The Dinky Pub and Grille. However, Wall is still working on getting the necessary liquor license for the area.

“What I see for the bar is if somebody wants to get a cocktail or a beer and appetizers, they can, but there are tables back there where they can also have dinner,” she says. “It’s still going to be casual dining.”

Wall and her chef are hard at work on the menu that could include surprises such as Scotch eggs. Scotch eggs are boiled eggs wrapped in a meat such as sausage, coated in breadcrumbs and baked or fried, and are traditionally served during the holidays.

“There will be a lot of things that people will be familiar with that are comfort foods,” Wall says. “My chef has a lot of ideas to incorporate, too.”

One menu item that will definitely be back is the rice pudding that Berry’s has long been known for. Wall found a recipe for the iconic dessert during the cleaning process and has successfully tested it.

“I feel a lot of pressure because I want this to be right," she says. "I want people to love it and I want people to make memories and enjoy this. Part of me feels really honored that Brian and Leslie chose me to move this forward, then there’s excitement, so I’m feeling a little bit of everything.

“I know people are ready for this to open. I’m ready for it to open as well.”

For updates on Berry's reopening, visit the restaurant's Facebook page.