In their new restaurant, owners Danyel Cini and Susan Michel want you to stop in and stay awhile. The pair have set up a homey vibe at Michel’s Hometown Cafe, a 28-seater on Cinnaminson Avenue in Palmyra, originally occupied by the Mulberry Cafe.
The twosome have launched a new culinary career in the cafe, which features colorful artwork, sage-hued walls and earthy wooden floors.
“Not much needed to be done,” says Michel, a native from the area who now lives in Palmyra. “But we wanted to add our touches.”
Michel, 60, and her husband, Carl, 73 have been in the restaurant business for decades. Before the arrival of Michel’s Hometown Cafe, she was at the helm of Michel’s Kitchen (these days it's called the Moore's Towne Cafe) on Chester Avenue in Moorestown from 2000 to 2007.
Carl’s family ran the famed German Kitchen on Route 73 in Maple Shade for 60 years until it closed in 1984. A popular destination for local folks—as well as for Philadelphians who would travel across the bridge just for Sunday supper—the original restaurant was a mere house, with a speakeasy in the basement during prohibition, Carl says.
“Route 73 used to be a dirt road. Nothing else was around us in the early days,” remembers Carl, who started washing dishes in the restaurant's kitchen when he was only 8. “I used to stand on boxes to reach the sink.”
The couple left the area when they thought they wanted to retire and live in Richmond, VA, to be closer to their son and his family.
Plus, escaping the food business with its long hours, grueling schedules and grinding demands seemed like something they wanted to do.
Except they didn’t.
“Being in Richmond wasn’t really what we wanted,” Michel says, laughing. “We missed it up here.”
She and Carl now live in Palmyra.
Cini also worked in the restaurant business for years and knew Michel through Cini’s aunt.
When Michel returned to the area, she and Cini felt they had underused skills that were destined for a collaboration—plus they longed to get busy again.
The cheery spot, which debuted on Jan. 29, has a brand spanking new industrial kitchen with grills and ovens installed for making eggs Benedict and Western omelets during the busy breakfast hours. Lunch favorites include other yummies like the Michel burger (with cheese and pork roll), as well as the Philly steak sandwich.
The gals also removed the glass cases where the former owner stored desserts and cold sandwiches, allowing more room for tables and chairs.
For those seeking lighter fare, there are daily soup specials (German cabbage soup, from a recipe passed down from the German Kitchen) and salads, like the Hometown, consisting of chopped chicken breast with grapes, craisins, and walnuts, mixed with raspberry walnut dressing. (Tasty stuff!)
Other favorites on the menu include shrimp bisque soup, tuna and chicken salads served on a choice of breads, or ham and turkey clubs.
The restaurant has four employees and is open daily for breakfast and lunch.
“For a long time, I wanted to get into a partnership with Susan. We both know what we're doing,” says Cini, 40, of Mount Ephraim. “So far, things are going good."