Woodcliff Restaurant serves everything from fish to burgers at lakeside venue

Over the last decade running Woodcliff Restaurant, Brooke Goracke said she's served those who have lived in the lakefront community for more than 50 years.

"We hear all of the stories about the previous owners and just the history of the lake itself, and it's fun to be a part of that," she said.

From casual dinners to special occasions, Woodcliff Restaurant has given both residents within Woodcliff Lake and those from outside the area a relaxed dining and drinking experience.

The restaurant is open 5-9 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday and 5-8:30 p.m. on Sunday at 980 County Road W.

Growing up in Fremont, Goracke attended culinary school in Minneapolis, working at Lord Fletcher's Old Lake Lodge.

"It was on a lake just like this about three times the size," she said. "They had three kitchens, a huge wharf that had 60 boat slips, so I fell in love with the ambiance of it."

Goracke returned to Omaha, where she cooked for locations like V. Mertz and M's Pub for six years.

"Then once this place came available, I wanted to snag it up," she said. "So here we are."

Started in 1965 by John Poehling, Woodcliff Lakes is a private lakeside housing development about 4 miles south of Fremont. In the '70s, Poehling and his wife, Diane, started the small bar.

Having seen several owners since then, the lakeside restaurant was sold to Goracke by Joe and Kathy Watson in June 2010. The location features a bar and dining area, while a recent addition added a party room to the building.

"The back room is curtained off from the main dining room, and we can host anniversary parties, rehearsal dinners are very popular, birthday parties, all sorts of things," Goracke said.

Woodcliff serves everything from catfish to steaks, with its signature burger, "The Woody," as one of its most popular items, featuring seasoned sour cream, cheese, Portobello mushroom fries and onion rings on a hand-pattied burger.

"We also offer a New York strip that never leaves the menu that has my dad's signature peppercorn sauce on it," Goracke said. "And our menu changes seasonally. We change it twice a year just to offer more seasonal options."

The restaurant's specials include $13.95 steak night on Wednesdays, burger night on Thursdays, karaoke on Saturdays, half-price wine night on Sundays. Additionally, the first Friday of every month is catfish night.

With more than 400 homes and cabins at Woodcliff, Goracke said she wanted to always accommodate for them with the restaurant.

"We do a lot of community fundraisers and things like that to support the community, and they do a lot of changes on the lake too for the beautification and upkeep," she said. "So just seeing the things that've changed throughout the years have been really fun to be a part of."

Since taking over the restaurant, Goracke said she's been appreciative of the "incredible" community.

"It's almost like a family, so we like to offer that ambiance when you come in," she said. "We want you to feel at home and feel like part of our family here."

Although Goracke said it took a while for people outside of the Woodcliff community to find the restaurant, she said the spot has been especially popular with from Omaha restaurants.

"They like to come out here because they don't have to fight parking downtown and whatnot," she said. "But Fremont is a big pull. Growing in Fremont, I have a lot of connections and people that I know there, so they have supported us really well."

Whether they're from out of town or just down the street, Goracke said Woodcliff Restaurant's customers have enjoyed the friendly atmosphere and staff, including chef Sam Trahan.

"Our food is incredible, my chef has been here since day one, so he has created really good relationships with our guests with his food," she said. "So things have been really great."

Like Goracke, Trahan said he's enjoyed meeting with the Woodcliff community in his role.

"They've just been very welcoming to us over the last 11 years, and I've just been learning under Brooke and taking over the kitchen and just growing into that," he said.

Thanking her staff for their hard work over the years, Goracke said she's always excited to interact with the customers at Woodcliff Restaurant.

"It's really fun to be able to be with the customers as well and get out of the kitchen and be able to interact with our guests," she said, "and be able to just ensure that they have a wonderful experience from start to finish."

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