Lawyers swoop in on humble Slope eatery

The Brooklyn Paper
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Some high-priced Manhattan lawyers have forced a reasonably priced Park Slope restaurant to change its name.

Little Dishes, a well-reviewed cafe on Seventh Avenue, is now Little D Eatery, thanks to a settlement with Uncommon Grounds, a Manhattan restaurant chain that claims to own the exclusive right to the word “dishes.”

“Your use of ‘Dishes’ in ‘Little Dishes’ creates the likelihood of confusion in that the public will mistakenly believe that your restaurant is related to Uncommon Grounds’ ‘Dishes’ restaurants,” lawyer Kevin Lake wrote to Little Dishes owners Colin Wright and Mira Friedlaender.

“The use of a descriptive term such as ‘little’ does not eliminate the likelihood of confusion.”

But confusion is unlikely. Uncommon Grounds’ three “Dishes” restaurants are high-volume lunch places in Manhattan, while “Little Dishes” is a dinner-only restaurant with a full wine list.

“We think the public could have figured out the difference,” said Friedlaender. “We’re a table-service, fine-dining, Mom and Pop establishment that’s only open for dinner, They’re a fancy buffet lunch place for business people.”

The most troubling thing for Friedlaeder is that “Little Dishes” actually has a strong claim to the name. She said the name of her restaurant is a reference to Turkish “meze”-style appetizers. “Meze” means “little dishes” in Turkish.

“My mother was Turkish, and when I took Colin to Turkey, he fell in love with the fish restaurants — where one starts out choosing from meze,” Friedlaender said. “We don’t do traditional Turkish food, but we love that style of eating — and wanted to use that template for new American food.”

Given that thematic hook, Friedlaender said that if she had “unlimited funds,” she would have fought the legal assault from across the river.

“I understand they are trying to protect their trademark, but it’s all so corporate,” she said. “That mindset is so far from what we do.”

Friedlaender has already altered the restaurant’s Web site — — to forward customers to the new — another legal hoop through which she was required to jump.

“And we get to say, ‘Formerly Little Dishes’ until Nov. 1,” she added.

Lake, of the Park Avenue law firm of Kurzman Karelsen & Frank, did not return calls.

Updated 4:00 pm, November 10, 2010
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