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
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
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
Mooney, who lives three blocks away, says, "Some days we’re
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
While he takes reservations from as far away as North Jersey, Mooney
says Hopewell is a good location for his restaurant because of
amazing growth around it." Princeton, Montgomery, Hillsborough,
"even up through Flemington" are all bursting with new
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
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
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
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
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
just feels good. The mood is mellow, and, at least on the day I
the eavesdropping was great. Sitting alone, I soon abandoned my
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
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
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,
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
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
Mooney had been looking for space in Princeton or Pennington for
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
He also retained the store’s deli section, now stocked with olives,
cheeses, specialty salads, and baked goods. This part of his
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.
include expanding the restaurant, or renting out the space to
— Kathleen Spring
08525. Will Mooney, owner/chef. 609-333-1330; fax, 609-333-1410.
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
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