The Abandoned Luncheonette Opens a World of Fine Food and Music in an Unlikely Corner of South Jersey
Great vegetarian food, vintage music, vinyl records, and good company draw customers to Dave and Jen’s Abandoned Luncheonette on Mill Street in Moorestown, NJ.
Explore Moorestown’s new gathering place for good food, friends and music
By Sean Fallon
Moorestown, NJ – I swing open the door of the tiny Abandoned Luncheonette on a Thursday evening on Mill Street.
It’s an oddity, sitting close by the town RR tracks, and I have no idea what to expect.
As I walk through the door, owners Dave Khanlian and Jen Hilinski invite me to sit at the counter as they prepare for a busy evening of feeding hungry Moorestown residents.
I sense it’s more than just a small dinette and soon discover that this tiny establishment nurtures amazing food, great music, close friendships, and the dreams of a couple with two young boys.
Jen stirs her homemade couscous in a large stainless-steel bowl. Dave walks over to the record player behind the counter, and carefully selects a vinyl record from his vast selection.
Jen places her salted tahini chocolate chip cookies, figgy bars and other exotic, healthy sweets on the counter as the room fills with the warm velvet-like crackling and popping of the needle settling into the grooves.
Otis Redding sings one of my favorite songs, “Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay,” as I sink into my seat to enjoy Jen’s creation: a chopped kale-romaine salad with red cabbage, dates, feta cheese, sunflower seeds, and jicama.
It has been a long day for me. I relax. This is a welcome retreat.
Passionate Music Lovers
Dave grew up in Moorestown. College sweethearts, he and Jen moved to Moorestown together, marrying 13 years ago. They are raising their two boys in a modest home near the center of town.
They purchased the then-abandoned luncheonette in November 2016 as a place to blend their passion for good-tasting healthy food, folk-country-blues-and-rock music, and the company of good friends.
Their desire to bring people together over food and music started 20 years ago after attending a few house concerts for popular music artists. They decided to try their hand at it and have been hosting sold-out concerts in their small living room for the last 15 years.
Dave is a fourth-grade teacher at Kirby’s Mill Elementary School in Medford NJ, and Jen is a substance-abuse counselor for the Maple Shade and Lindenwold school districts. They love working with young people and families in the community. Their two sons, Bruce and Stanley often play board games and do their homework at the luncheonette when it is open.
Abandoned? Not Any More
When Dave and Jen bought the luncheonette, it had indeed been a recently abandoned lunch spot. The original establishment featured the usual eggs, bacon, pancakes, coffee, sandwiches, hamburgers, and other standard fare.
So, why do they call it the Abandoned Luncheonette?
It’s a fun play on words with a nod to their passion for good food and music. It is in fact named after the Hall and Oates album of the same name, produced in the 1970s. It so happens Dave heard Hall and Oates at his first live concert.
Inside the luncheonette, you will find all kinds of vintage records, CDs, books, knick-knacks, trinkets and toys. The walls are lined with hundreds of records—from Bruce Springsteen, Public Enemy or a late 70’s recording of Sesame Street Disco.
I finish my salad and start digging through milk crates full of records from the ‘60s through ‘90s, a vinyl aficionados’ dream.
As I joke with Dave about some of the amusing records in his collection, my hand stops on a humorous “Sesame Disco” album featuring Ernie, dressed in white and dripping with gold jewelry, looking very much like Isaac Hayes.
The vocalists? The Sesame Street Muppets, of course.
I show my selection to Dave, who chuckles as he rings it up. Awesome, I think. Much as some people might question my taste in music, where else could you find such a treasure?
At the Abandoned Luncheonette, of course.
This Article was written by Sean Fallon and Edited by Christopher Biddle. Christopher Biddle is President of Biddle Communications & Public Relations in Moorestown, NJ. Sean Fallon is an independent communications professional based out of Monmouth County.
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