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THE PRIZE/July 1999


Upscale is not a term generally associated with family restaurants, but that's how owner-operator Keith Matinchek describes the Brownstone Cafe in Middletown.  "But, boy I hate that 'upscale' word," he says.  Yet he can't think of any other way to depict an eatery where you can order anything from shrimp scampi to potpie, stuffed cabbage to filet mignon, perogies to stuffed mushrooms.

When he opened the Brownstone Cafe, Matinchek wanted to create a place where you could bring your two-year-old, your mother or your boss.  The restaurant is not just family-friendly, it's family-run.  Since the cafe opened in June 1998, Matinchek, his wife, Carole, and their children, Alexis, 18, and Zachary, 15, have been busy.  "I expected it would take two or three years to build the business up, but there's been an overwhelming response from people in the area - it has been a pleasant surprise," he says.  The family is no stranger to the Middletown food scene.  For 15 years they operated Ierley's Kitchen, a seasonal ice cream and sandwich shop, but they've sold that business to focus on the Brownstone Cafe.

Matinchek got his start at Middletown's haute cuisine haven, Alfred's Victorian, when he was still in high school.  That was when he decided to pursue a restaurant career.  "Actually I was more interested in wildlife management and forestry, but I felt that the career potential in the culinary field offered a better chance for advancement and a better chance to make a living."

Matinchek went straight from high school to the Culinary Institute of America.  Although Matinchek speaks highly of CIA's program, he says it was tough to go there as a younger student.  "They have tremendous chefs from all over the world, and you get more out of it when you are older and more mature and you are not intimidated - if I had any recommendation to a young person,

I would suggest working in the field until you are sure this is what you want to do, get as much experience as you can, and then go to a culinary school."

Unlike many graduates of CIA, Matinchek did not pursue job opportunities at  restaurants in exotic locations.

 "I was born and raised in Middletown, and I never had any doubt that I wanted to stay in this area.  It is a really nice area to raise a family, and I always wanted to raise a family," he explains.  He first landed a job at Lombardo's Restaurant, and later did a stint in the kitchen of The Office.  To get a well-rounded background so that he could one day open his own place, Matinchek moved into restaurant management.  He was the general manager at Leeds Restaurant in Harrisburg for 17 years before leaving to open the Brownstone Cafe.

The cafe's building was a bank from 1892 until 1997 when the Matincheks bought it.  The new owners decided to salvage what they could from the bank's decor and theme their restaurant around it.  They also enlarged historical photographs, including some from before 1930 when a mezzanine level was built.  The bank's remains pop up all over the place.  The vault, a real space-waster, had to go, but the door to it remains, as do the teller gates and the marble floor.  Safe deposit boxes numbers 1 through 52 are used as a coffee station by the wait staff.  And a safe dated 1870 that was in the vault is also used for a practical purpose.  "We keep our money in it," says Carole.

The breakfast recipes Matinchek shares below reflect the Brownstone's casual, fun approach to food.  The breakfast burrito is a spicy switch from the usual cheese omelet, and the crab quiche is an upscale (sorry, Keith) take on this classic brunch dish.

Jenifer Whitten Woodring




3 Eggs

1 (10-inch) flour tortilla

Butter, to taste

1 Tbsp. sour cream

1 Tbsp. finely diced fresh tomatoes

1 tsp. finely diced scallions

1 tsp. seeded, deveined and finely diced jalapeno

1 oz. salsa

fresh fruit and guacamole dip for garnish (optional)


servings - 1


Scramble the eggs.  Butter one side of tortilla and place it butter-side-down on the grill.  *As the tortilla cooks, spread sour cream over it.  Add tomatoes, scallions and jalapenos.  Add eggs.  Remove tortilla from grill and form and burrito by folding one side over about two inches to make the bottom and rolling from one side to the other.  Top burrito with salsa.  If desired, garnish with fresh fruit and guacamole dip.

*This burrito can also be prepared using a large, heavy saucepan over medium heat instead of a grill.

Click to enlarge



1 (9-inch, deep dish) pie shell

1 1/2 C shredded mozzarella cheese

1 Tbsp. salted butter

1 Tbsp. finely diced green peppers

1 Tbsp. finely diced  onion

1 tsp. old bay seasoning

7 eggs

1/2 C half & half

4 oz. backfin lump crabmeat, picked well


servings - 4 to 6


Pre-bake pie shell according to package or recipe instructions, and allow it to cool.  Mix together the cheeses and add half of the mixture to the pie shell.  In a saute pan, melt the butter and saute the green peppers, onions and Old Bay seasoning until onions are transparent.  In a medium mixing bowl, combine eggs and half & half, and whip well.  Add peppers-and-onion mixture to egg mixture.  Pour half of the egg mixture over the cheese in the pie shell.  Add crab meat to the pie shell.  Add remaining cheese and pour the remaining egg mixture on top.  Bake for 40 minutes at 350 degrees or until the center is firm.  Remove from oven and allow the quiche to set for 15 minutes before serving.

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Patriot News Article/1999