Corrections or additions?

This article by Kathleen McGinn Spring was prepared for the July

18, 2001 edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.

Out to Lunch: Brothers Moon

The Brothers Moon on the main drag in Hopewell, right

next door to the hardware store, is a barometer. Outdoor tables

covered

with white tablecloths sit under deep blue cotton umbrellas in front

of a 115 year-old complex of three buildings that look their age.

The storefront at the far left, the one with the stylish logo, using

bright yellow new moons in place of the "O’s" in

"Moon,"

is the recently-renovated home of an ambitious restaurant. It was

purchased in October — one day after it went on the market —

by the brothers Mooney, Will, the chef and manager, and Sean, the

silent partner who financed the work that turned the Hopewell Village

Market into a 50-seat restaurant and take-out store.

Brothers Moon is a local affair that points to where Hopewell is

heading.

Mooney, who lives three blocks away, says, "Some days we’re

packed,

but I look outside and there are no cars. All these people can’t be

walking from Princeton." Many customers, he says, are Hopewell

residents with home-based businesses, others come from growing local

businesses like Dana Communications, which sits just across the

street.

While he takes reservations from as far away as North Jersey, Mooney

says Hopewell is a good location for his restaurant because of

"the

amazing growth around it." Princeton, Montgomery, Hillsborough,

"even up through Flemington" are all bursting with new

residents.

Residents who don’t mind a tab that can run to $30 or $40 for two

at lunch and twice that amount at dinner, especially for those unable

to resist the baked-on-premise desserts.

Interestingly, Mooney says he gets few lunch visits from cubicle

dwellers

at Merrill Lynch or Bristol-Myers Squibb, both of which have recently

established a major presence in the area. "They like to keep them

close," Mooney says of corporate lunch policy.

Corporate workers, however, whether they labor in offices along Route

1 or in bucolic campuses closer to Hopewell, would do well to make

a break for Brothers Moon, which, after all, is not much more than

15 minutes from most of the offices in the area — maybe a little

more until road resurfacing work on Carter Road is complete.

The spacious dining room was painted by Beth Mooney, Will’s wife,

a jeweler, who used a mitt to blend four shades of yellow into a

mellow

backdrop. Accents in deep blue swirls that look like wallpaper, but

not really, were added by Scott Mulhern, a Hopewell resident who owns

O’Hern Works. Renovation of the former butcher shop and market was

done by Schulte Restoration, also of Hopewell.

The room is wide, and the tables generously spaced; good for

conversation.

The view is nothing special, just traffic on the busy road outside,

screened by a white curtain enlivened by scores of tiny gold stars.

Service by attractive young people in yellow polo shirts and

nearly-floor

length white aprons is friendly and understated, but just a little

rough around the edges. A young woman led me to a table for two, and

removed the setting facing the window, which would have had me facing

the back of the room, staring at the one table — occupied by two

women — that separated mine from the back wall. When I asked to

be switched around, she quickly complied.

No matter. A leisurely lunch at the Brothers Moon was a delight, just

the thing for an office worker yearning for a treat, a quiet lunch

with a client, or a happy gathering of a small number of friends.

The dining room, separated by a curving wall from the take-out

section,

just feels good. The mood is mellow, and, at least on the day I

visited,

the eavesdropping was great. Sitting alone, I soon abandoned my

newspaper

and turned my attention to listening in on stories of sailing trips,

critiques of local restaurants, and accounts of business trips to

the Far East.

The lunch menu includes two quiches daily, plus penne with tomatoes,

mozzarella, basil and pine nuts; smoked salmon, red onion, potato

fettuccini salad (all $9); grilled chicken breast, roasted tomato,

grilled bread, and Calamata olives ($11); portobello mushroom, roasted

peppers, goat cheese, and mesclun on brioche ($6); and beef tenderloin

tips, demi-glace, green vegetable, and potato ($13). Mooney, working

in the kitchen alongside four other chefs, all recruited from Wild

Oats or Bon Appetite, Princeton spots where he recently worked, uses

organic, local products wherever possible, purchasing many of his

vegetables from Seward Johnson’s Spring Hill Farm.

Diners around me — several of them — were going

out of their way to tell their waiters how much they had enjoyed the

mussels, or the bread on which the portobello mushroom sandwich was

served, or the shortbread dessert with creme fraiche and berries.

A most contented group it was, casually dressed, relaxed, and

obviously

enjoying the food and the opportunity for quiet conversation.

A little blue wooden sign over a window table, "Allen and Ellen’s

Table," pays tribute to Allen Lepore, an electrical engineer at

Sarnoff who put in countless hours pulling down the walls of the

Hopewell

Village Market in preparation for its metamorphosis into an upscale

restaurant. Ellen Tattenbaum, Allen’s wife, and an ETS employee, who,

like her husband, also is a ballroom dance instructor, gets credit

from Mooney for the generosity with which she "lent him out"

night after night to work on the project. Local and personal on so

many levels, the new restaurant even got its funky moon-themed logo

from an acquaintance — a former boyfriend of Mooney’s wife.

Mooney is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde

Park. His mother, Valorie Goodall, was an opera performer, and his

actor father, Bill Mooney, did one-man shows and soap operas,

including

All My Children, in which he played Paul Martin, a lawyer. Mooney

graduated from East Brunswick High School and spent his spare time

working at produce stands, burger joints — any place where food

was the main attraction. While at Forsgate Country Club, he was

encouraged

to attend culinary school. Subsequent jobs included cooking at the

Peacock Inn, the Stockton Inn, Stage Left in New Brunswick, and the

Hotel Pierre in New York City.

A Hopewell resident for eight years, and the father of two young

children,

Mooney had been looking for space in Princeton or Pennington for

years,

but found the rents "astronomical, frightening." He jumped

on the old Hopewell Village Market, keeping some of its fittings,

including a massive butcher block and 85-year-old walk-in

refrigerator.

He also retained the store’s deli section, now stocked with olives,

cheeses, specialty salads, and baked goods. This part of his

enterprise

brings in a fourth of his revenue.

When things settle down, Mooney will decide what to do with the two

attached buildings he purchased along with his restaurant.

Possibilities

include expanding the restaurant, or renting out the space to

retailers.

— Kathleen Spring

The Brothers Moon, 7 West Broad Street, Hopewell

08525. Will Mooney, owner/chef. 609-333-1330; fax, 609-333-1410.

Credit

cards, wheelchair accessible, BYOB. Closed Mondays. Lunch, 11 to 3

p.m.; dinner, 5 to 9:30 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday. Sunday brunch,

10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Closed for vacation, August 12-19. Reservations

suggested.


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