When the Cross Keys Diner in Doylestown went dark last summer, its regulars were shaken. So abrupt had been the closing, people couldn’t help but worry about the owners, Steve Auslander and Ann Boyer, though they’d promised things would return to normal soon.
As the weeks then months passed, thoughts turned more selfish. How could this Doylestown landmark, in business for over ten years, suddenly evaporate from our lives? What would we do for lunch? For weekend breakfasts? Don’t even mention some of the alternatives. Chain restaurants aren’t diners.
Then a whisper of a rumor began. Someone was buying the diner. Although it took a little longer than expected (restaurant openings always do), the Cross Keys Diner reopened on November 24th. At the helm are Paul Markert, Jr. – a line cook at the diner for the last eight months – and Scott Edwards, a friend and culinary colleague of many years.
Paul and Scott have worked together at the Carversville Inn and the Centre Bridge Inn. Although both have backgrounds in fine dining, they’ve always loved the Cross Keys. “I have loved this place from the very beginning,” says Paul, whose sister Amanda Markert has worked there for six years. Before joining the diner’s staff, “I used to be a regular,” he notes. Scott, too, had a regular spot at the counter.
That’s all fine and good, but as a regular myself I wanted to know more about who they were, and their “philosophy” of diner eating. Were things going to change?
After the diner reopened a few weeks ago, Mark and I had breakfast there. As we settled in at the counter, we glanced around, checking things out. After studying the menus, the specials board, even the crowd, we turned to each other with the same conclusion: Nothing had changed.
That’s pretty much the way Paul and Scott intended it. They recognize the value of the trade Steve and Ann had built up over the years. “Most of our business is regular, so when we went into it, one of our main focuses was to keep the regulars happy,” says Scott.
“Our main idea is to try to get the place running the way it was and then go from there,” adds Paul. The menu is the same, just reprinted. The produce vendor, Amoroso breads and rolls, Ellis True Blue coffee (“We didn’t want to touch the coffee; the coffee’s wonderful here.”), and Haring Brothers meats are all the same. Even Nancy MacNamara and Amanda are working the tables, clearly happy to be back themselves.
“We wanted people to feel, ‘we’re back home again.'”
Like the previous owners, Paul and Scott will introduce new items through the eclectic specials board. A new menu may come in the summer, incorporating past “specials” into the regular lineup to make room for new Blue Plate specials and diner comfort food. And: A dinner menu may be in the future.
Among the changes Scott and Paul have made: The home fries are homemade now, and the french toast has been upgraded to Challah French Toast (made with Jewish egg bread).
Reassured that my old diner was back, I asked how things were going. Was business good? How did the opening go?
Paul and Scott laughed at the question. “It was like turning over an old car that hadn’t been run or maintained for five months” says Paul. “Everything broke,” recounted Scott. “The coke machine – eight times. The dish machine, the ‘Good Eats’ sign. The coffee wasn’t right. And the sink just broke today.”
But business is good. On their first day, no advertising, they hosted 160 customers. “We’ve been very fortunate,” Paul says. “Everyone’s been great. Everyone seems to be really happy.”