Last February, someone name Laura Loewen posted a rave about a small little breakfast-and-lunch joint in Doylestown, the Cross Keys Diner (see link below). Laura liked it so much that she later got a job in the kitchen there! (a fact that she disclosed in a follow-up post)
Last week, just before New Year's Eve, our family and another family (four adults, four kids in all) visited Bucks County for a couple of days' vacation/diversion/Mercerfest. We had a *lot* of very bad, tasteless food in the short time that we were there. (It wouldn't be worth singling out the places where we ate, even if I could recall their names.) In addition, although we found the people of Bucks County extremely friendly, service (in restaurants; in museums; on the phone; etc.) was, almost uniformly, how shall I put this?, deliberate, bordering on indifferent, to the point that it became a running joke to see which restaurant/museum/hotel would win the award for "Least Responsive." (In fairness, this might have been a function of the holiday week -- perhaps many regular employees were on vacation.)
Well, early on the morning of the 31st, not wanting to suffer through another drab breakfast in a touristy hotel, I decided to give the Cross Keys Diner a try.
Folks, Laura was absolutely right. This is the real deal; *the* place to eat in Doylestown. Nothing fancy, or life-altering, mind you: I don't want to unduly heighten anyone's expectations; this isn't a destination spot, such as Lotus of Siam or Mina or the French Laundry. But it is 180 degrees removed from everything else in the vicinity -- the sort of diner that every town should have, but few do. It seemed to me as if everyone in the place knew everyone else, and they all appeared to have come to expect basic, satisfying fare from the CKD. None was disappointed, I'm fairly certain.
The person who waited on me was named "Laurie" (or "Lori") which I mistook for "Laura," assuming it was our Chowhound correspondent. In fact, Laura was in the kitchen, helping to whip up the food. She was shocked to hear that someone had read, let alone followed up on, her Chowhound post!
A bacon/egg/onion/etc. scramble was perfectly delicious, the coffee tasted like coffee (believe me, that's saying something), and Laurie, Laura, and even folks whose names didn't begin with "Laur," couldn't have been nicer or more hospitable. Breakfast conversation (Laurie and me and a couple of obvious "regulars" at the bar) principally concerned what Laurie should prepare for her extended family for NYE. Her constraint was that it had to be seafood. After a diversion to discuss the origins of soft-shell clams, and several go-rounds in the Joy of Cooking (did I mention that there are shelves of cookbooks in this diner's kitchen?), I think she settled on Seafood Newburg -- and I'll bet it was the best Seafood Newburg served in Bucks County that evening (if not in all of 2003).
Laura apparently has become a baker at the Diner, and she reluctantly recommended (this was at 7 a.m.) that I try her apple cake or sacher-tort-like bars (I forget the name). Of course, I picked up both for the road.
Later that day, I brought back our whole brood/gang, and Laurie quickly rounded up a couple of tables to seat eight, in what was by then a packed diner (wonderful mix, btw, of students, blue-collar workers, buisness folks in suits, local characters, and eight very relieved and delighted tourists). The soup was good; the turkey (roasted in-house, I think I heard Laura say) was really good; the tuna melt was, perhaps, best of all. Laurie helped us with directions, with dinner reservations, with good cheer, etc.
That evening, on the long trek back to D.C., my hunger got the best of me, and I decided to try Laura's apple cake. When I had bought it that morning, it was mostly to humour her, and as a tip of my (proverbial) cap to thank her for the head's up on the diner. But -- wow! The best apple cake I've had since my great-grandmother died (that would be 1979). Really. Fortunately, fearing that my family would find the cake, I had purchased two pieces, and the other became New Year's Day breakfast for my wife and me. I'm now going through serious apple-cake withdrawal. (Perhaps Laura will start a wholesale business.)
Only downside -- The CKD is not open for dinner; so when in Bucks County, you'll have to subsist on two meals a day.
One final, important bit of touristy information on the Diner: It's only a couple of blocks up from Fonthill (and the Moravaian Tile Works), which *every* visitor to Pennsylvania, and everyone who's interested in American folk art and/or Bucks County, ought to visit -- there's nothing like it. (Be certain to set aside a couple of hours for Mercer's "museum," too.)
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