Each week, Faces of Kingston aims to introduce readers to others in the community or, if they perhaps know the subject already, allow them to see their pals in print. We have a wide range of people and experiences here and a lot of good folks with stories to tell.
This week we are going to talk to Sean Miller, often seen in Uptown running the well-loved to-go dining spot known as The Lunchbox at 275 Fair St.
Often touted as “Ulster County’s Smallest Restaurant,” the location offers very personable service paired with delicious food. It’s the perfect stop for a quick soup, sandwich or salad and some light conversation.
I met Sean maybe about eight years ago at one of the popular hot dog stands he also operates. Anyone who has met the guy knows he has a knack for making customers feel appreciated and for giving people the hope that not everyone you meet during the day is a jerk. There are still cool and friendly humans out there, and Sean is definitely one of them.
Morgan Y. Evans: So, I need to refresh my memory. Has it been five years yet or longer since The Lunchbox opened?
Sean Miller: Nov. 7 will be seven years.
Wow, time flies. I can’t believe it.
Yeah, it does. It really does.
How has it felt? It’s such a nice spot to dip into quick for a nice meal. A lot of people love and know it but it’s also kind of a best-kept secret.
Yeah, that’s the way I wanted it to be in the beginning, anyway. I also wanted people to be comfortable enough to feel like it’s their kitchen also. So when you look at our window and I open the refrigerator, it opens so that the customer can see exactly what I have in there in case they want something else. It bugs some other customers because they want things right, I guess. But I just tell them, “It’s your kitchen too and I want people to see.”
That’s a great concept. It reminds me of some cool little low-key New York eateries and you don’t really have that kind of personal service around here always. Not that you always want to change up your menu, but …
What’s your most popular lunch item you sell?
The most popular item ever is definitely the Thai Cobb salad wrap.
Thai Cobb or Ty Cobb, the baseball player? (laughing)
(laughing) Uh, yeah. The day after I made it someone said that. I mean Thai. But yeah it has 10 ingredients in there. Anything that is time consuming or hard to make it always popular (laughing).
That’s like people always want mojitos at a busy bar.
Exactly. But yeah, that’s one of the most popular things.
Do you also live in Kingston?
I do. I live off of Abeel Street.
Oh, it’s nice down there. Did you also grow up in Kingston?
I moved here 20 years ago.
So you’ve probably seen a … variety of things happen.
Oh my God, before I moved to where I am now where I used to live there was a drug house on the corner. People would park in front of my window and walk up there and I was like, “Oh man, I hope we can we move out of here.” Since then though there have been a lot of sweeps and it has definitely changed for the better. I think the dealers just felt uncomfortable. It’s much better.
How many people on average a week do you think you talk to out here?
It’s hard to say because even if people don’t stop to eat they stop to say hello. I guess they have known me for about 15 years Uptown. Many friends.
Have you always liked cooking?
Yep. I started when I was nine.
With your family or did you just start grabbing stuff out of the refrigerator? Was your mom mad or was she glad you were learning?
When I was nine I would do it by myself because I was a latchkey kid. So there was nobody home. I took care of myself. Before that I would make small tiny pies with my mom. If she was making a big pie I would take a top off of a peanut butter can or something and that was mine.
Hey, it is important to learn the life skills. Is there any part of Kingston you enjoy for when you get time to relax around here?
My favorite thing to do when I am not working is to have my friends hang out or go picnicking, go swimming, play miniature golf.
Do you go to that Midtown one that used to be around the Armory? I don’t know if it is still there but that place was pretty cool.
No, we go to The Sports Cone on Sawkill. It’s big and they have the batting cages.