ORIGINALLY WRITTEN CYNTHIA MARTENS
It’s not listed on the menu, so mark this down-try the peanut-butter pie at Doug’s Dari Creme in Peabody.
“That’s our specialty pie,” said Teresa Cole, wife of owner Doug Cole. “I make all our pies-they’re all made from scratch.”
Every day, Teresa bakes a different pie, such as butterscotch, cherry, peach or coconut cream. But the peanut-butter pie is so popular, she makes sure to roll out one of those each day, too.
Home for the Coles is in Peabody. After the popular landmark restaurant sat idle for about a year, the couple chose to re-open it in October.
“This building is very old,” Doug said. “It was probably built in the early 1940s.”
The beginning of the 1940s was a time frequently referred to as the Big Band Era, but the decade was defined by World War II.
Returning soldiers created the baby boom, commercial television became available, and computers were being developed. People were anxious to move into a better future.
The sign atop the old building still reads Dari Creme in red letters.
Squint just right to catch a classic 1950s image of teenage girls in poodle skirts and boys in high-top shoes jostling in line to get ice cream on a hot summer night.
The Dari Creme was located on what is now referred to as old U.S. Highway 50-East Ninth.
“I think it’s only been since about 1995 that the new highway was built,” Doug said.
The new highway made traffic from Newton to Emporia faster and the route from Wichita to Marion Lake a breeze. But it also by-passed a cultural icon-the Dari Creme that previous U.S. 50 travelers frequented.
Prior to owning the business, Doug had an easy way to keep an eye on his future enterprise. He was the assistant manager at the former Costal Mart located across the street from the Dari Creme.
Teresa worked as a pharmacy technician at Halstead Hospital before it closed its doors.
“This business had been empty for about a year,” Doug said. “We thought it would be a good business and from what we heard, it was successful. So we thought we’d give it a try.”
Teresa’s mother cooked in restaurants for several years and passed down her cooking skills to her daughter.
“I learned from her and my grandmother,” Teresa said.
Doug had no previous restaurant experience and sought advice from others.
“I have a lot of friends I know that ran restaurants,” he said. “So I got their expertise.”
The former owners-Joan Stovall and her brother, Don Stovall-still own the building and rent it to the Coles. The Stovalls added a dining section to the original building.
“I thought it was a successful business before when the Stovalls ran it, and everybody liked it,” Doug said. “So I just try to pattern it after what made it successful before-with some changes.”
A new menu bordered in a red and black checkered design includes a motto that reads “Your old favorites, plus some new ones!”
The Coles introduced new sandwiches, such as the grilled chicken and chicken club. They also added Mexican fare to an already-extensive sandwich and ice-cream menu.
“We sell a lot of Mexican food,” Doug said. “People really like that. Another restaurant here has (Mexican food) on Wednesday night, but we have it every day.”
One of the previous owners attempted to offer fancier menu items, but Doug said he opted to continue with more traditional drive-up-restaurant fare.
“They can go to Applebee’s for things like ribs,” Doug said. “I was just looking for basic food.”
The menu lists 12 burger choices, ranging from the popular double-bacon cheeseburger to a pizza burger.
“The double-bacon cheeseburger-we sell a lot of those,” Doug said.
A total of 16 different sandwiches are offered, with the standouts being chicken-fried steak and pork tender.
Diners can add side items to their sandwich selection-such as french fries, fried okra, creme-cheese poppers and onion rings.
“And we sell a lot of the grilled-chicken salad,” Doug said. “The salads have picked up quite a bit since we’ve started.”
Customers can phone in orders, sit down at tables inside, or come up to the carry-out window to choose not only sandwiches but ice-cream favorites.
The ever-popular vanilla can be enjoyed in a cup, cone, shake, twister, sundae, banana split or in quart and pint-size containers.
“There’s no other place in town that really serves ice cream every day,” Doug said.
“People come to the window in the winter all the time, even when it’s freezing cold, they’ll stand out there. They’re waiting for their ice cream.”
A tempting variety of shake flavors includes old favorites, such as chocolate, vanilla and strawberry. But for a change of pace, try a pineapple, cherry, butterscotch, hot fudge, banana, caramel or peanut-butter shake.
On Thursdays and Fridays, the Coles offer dinner specials to add variety to their menu choices.
“We’ve had stroganoff, goulash, barbecue pork, and chicken and pasta casserole,” Teresa said. “The barbecue pork-that’s real popular.”
The barbecue pork has been served with baked beans and potato salad. Green beans and garlic toast have accompanied the chicken and pasta casserole. The specials range from $4.50 to $5.50.
The staff takes care of a dining room that seats 25 people, and a red picnic table outside the front door can handle additional diners in warmer-weather conditions.
“I have a cook, Barbara Raner, who works about three hours a day over the lunch hour,” Doug said. “And then Teresa and I do the dinner.”
Cheryl Magathan waits tables, and two high-school students work during the evenings.
One Friday in mid-February- around the noon hour-the dining room seats were all taken, a car was waiting to get a carry-out order, and couples walked in looking for a place to sit in the bustling restaurant.
“Friday is our busiest day, by far,” Doug said.
Four months into owning their restaurant, the couple talked about future plans.
“We’re thinking about opening for lunch on Sunday and having a children’s menu, but we haven’t done that yet,” Doug said.
The couple is also considering expanding the popular Mexican menu.
“We’re still experimenting with adding new things and changing some things to meet the needs of our customers,” Doug said.
Although the couple shares cooking duties, the pie making belongs exclusively to Teresa.
The peanut-butter pie recipe will remain a guarded secret, but she was willing to share the following:
Butterscotch Meringue Pie
1 9-inch pie crust, baked
3 egg whites
1/4 tsp. cream of tartar
1/4 c. granulated sugar
3/4 c. packed brown sugar
1/4 c. cornstarch
1/4 tsp. salt
1 (12 ounce) can evaporated milk
3 egg yolks
1 c. milk
3 tbs. butter, sliced
1 tsp. vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. For meringue, in a large mixing bowl, combine egg whites and cream of tartar. Whisk to blend. With electric mixer, beat egg whites at medium speed until peaks form and tips curl.
Gradually add the sugar, two tablespoons at a time, beating at high speed until stiff peaks form and tips stand up straight. Let stand at room temperature while making filling.
For filling, in a medium saucepan, combine the brown sugar, cornstarch and salt. Whisk in about 1/2 c. of evaporated milk and then the egg yolks. Whisk in remaining evaporated milk and 1 c. of milk.
Cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, until mixture is thickened and bubbly. Remove from heat and stir in butter and vanilla until blended. Pour into baked pastry shell.
Spoon meringue over top, spreading evenly and sealing it to the pie shell.
Bake 15 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool on a rack away from drafts for one hour. Chill three to six hours before serving. Cover for longer storage. Serve cold.
“I make this at the restaurant,” Teresa said. “It’s one that’s pretty popular.”
The couple agreed it’s been a difficult time to go into the restaurant business. But they are determined to continue to do their best and offer a good product as long as the customers continue supporting them.
“I would invite people to at least come in and give it a try once,” Doug said.
“This town doesn’t have much variety as far as food goes, and I think people are happy to see another restaurant open. Everybody says our food is good.”