Santiago Cuellar spent 32 years with the U.S. Army, stationed around the country and overseas, rising to the rank of master sergeant.
His wife, Gina, and their family traveled with him for many of those years, until they were able to settle in Central New Jersey. Last year he retired from the service and the couple embarked on a new career: owning the Flemington Coffee Shop, a location institution for more than half a century.
Santiago’s parents had owned a small coffee shop when he was growing up, and it was that comfortable setting that he wanted to emulate. “People came hungry and they left happy,” he said, saying that is what they wanted to do in Flemington. “We like to make people feel welcome.”
They painted and renovated the restaurant when they took over, kept most of the existing menu and retained the cook who had worked at the restaurant for many years. Their only food changes were the Latin touches they added to the menu.
Still in place is breakfast all day, featuring the popular pancakes, omelets, breakfast sandwiches, wraps and waffles people have come to expect there. Also still in place are meatloaf, fish and chicken cutlet platters, soups, salads, sandwiches and a variety of burgers and hot dogs.
They have added Gina Cuellar’s empanadas filled with chicken or beef as well as tostones, quesadillas and Cuban sandwiches. Gina Cuellar also makes her personal recipe for flan, selling as many as 70 servings each week of the creamy custard with a light caramel sauce.
The restaurant continues to be busy serving plenty of breakfasts, especially on weekends when there can be a wait for a table. Santiago Cuellar said they go through an average of 100 dozen eggs each week serving customers who return again and again.
“What makes us stand out is the freshness of the food,” he said. Each dish is made to order for the customer.
He also has extended the restaurant’s hours, staying open until 3 p.m. each day for those customers who need a little extra time. In the future he said he may add limited dinner hours, but that is something he is still working on.
In the meantime the couple is busy keeping their customers happy and maintaining the quality of food that has keep the restaurant going for more than half a century.
FLEMINGTON COFFEE SHOP
23 Reaville Avenue
6 a.m.-3 p.m. Mon.-Sat., 7 a.m.-3 p.m. Sun.
Breakfast (all day) $2.80-$11.30, lunch platters $7.50-$11.30, lunch sandwiches $4.95-$9.55.
Pork roll sandwich, beef empanadas, Cuban sandwich, pancakes, flan.