Robert Wilborn is known for leaving a mark. He has always been a motivated hard worker, moving from waiting tables at Cracker Barrel to event catering at concerts and events in Mercer County to working in NYC’s bustling corporate world. It’s no surprise that Wilborn wanted to open a restaurant in Trenton.
“I’m not a person that walks away from anything,” Wilborn said. “I wanted to leave a stamp on my city, I wanted to leave a stamp on the area.” He teamed up with his fiancé Deonna Maldonado and found a place in the heart of the City of Trenton. “We felt that the city of Trenton needed something more vibrant, something more modern,” Wilborn said.
They decided on a breakfast and brunch menu based on Wilborn’s late father’s old-fashioned southern style cooking and combined it with a modern-day hip-hop interior design with a full selfie station, fairy lights, and pop music over the speakers. “We had the name lit, originally, like, Lit-Cafe, but then we were like, okay, how do we incorporate breakfast into that? We brainstormed and brainstormed, and said you know, what about the skillet. Everything comes on the skillet.”
Maldonado chimed in that the idea struck her to combine the words. “I was like, okay, skillet, change the E to I, and then you can create a lit atmosphere,” Maldonado said. So the Skil-Lit Cafe was born on S. Warren Street in Trenton. They put out social media run by Maldonado’s little sister. On Saturday, they had the grand opening with Trentonians, family, friends and Mayor Reed Gusciora coming out to support Trenton’s newest restaurant owners.
Kenneth Lewis Sr, a local Trenton artist, came in on a whim after seeing the sign for the grand opening. Little did he know that the owner was the same guy who served him at Crackle Barrel years ago.
The two would stay connected over social media and only reconnected this past weekend. “I met Rob at Cracker Barrel. He was waiting tables at that time. He was in school, and… I’m not surprised because I saw something in this kid…and this is just a blessing to see him do this,” Lewis said.
The restaurant opened at nine and stayed open throughout the day. The staff are all friends or family of Wilborn and Maldonado. Antonio Barnes, a cook and cousin of Wilborn, explained that Trenton needs more business across the city. “Trenton doesn’t have anything like that anymore,” Barnes said, “I mean, when black-owned businesses come into Trenton, it helps the community and supplies people with jobs.”
The talk of the town were the lattes being made. Shawna Valentine, a customer on opening day, ordered the Remix Latte, a latte topped with graham cracker Oreos and whipped cream served in a coffee mug nestled in hardening chocolate. Valentine took her first sip before explaining what she was tasting. “That should be illegal. You have no idea…So I’m a big sweet girl. I’m sweet over salty. And this, this is heaven.”
Mayor Reed Gusciora ordered a bacon omelet and explained before his meal that he was happy to see another business open up in the city to create revenue across Trenton. “Well, it’s great that they have faith in Trenton,” Mayor Gusciora said. “We’re ecstatic when a new business opens. And South Warren Street is our central business district. It is important to support black-owned businesses because they create jobs for Trentonians. It just makes a vibrant city and a diverse city that we all have learned to love.”