ORIGINALLY WRITTEN BY LAURA CAMPBELL
With sounds of country music twanging softly in the background, Stone City Cafe at 211 E. Main in Marion invites passersby to slow down, step inside and enjoy a hot and hearty breakfast–for any meal of the day.
It’s the way Debbie Cook and her mother, Donna Boone, have run their cafe since 1988, and it’s the way it’ll continue to be even after Boone fully retires from the business, a process she has already begun, Cook said.
“I’m kind of taking over,” Cook said. “I’ll have to find someone to take (my mother’s) place.
“It’ll probably take two or three people,” she added with a laugh.
Cook and Boone work full-time at the cafe, in addition to one other full-time and six part-time employees.
Cook said she and her mother have their own specific roles in running the cafe.
“My mom’s the PR person,” she said. “I just stay in the kitchen.”
Cook has been honing her skills in the kitchen since she was 14, she said.
But there’s no special source for the recipes she uses at the cafe.
“I’ve just picked them up here and there,” she said. “Some have been given to me.”
Before moving to Marion about 22 years ago, Cook worked at Brown’s Grill in Wichita.
Now she cooks breakfast, lunch and dinner for quite a few regulars at her cafe, most of them retired individuals from Marion and surrounding areas.
“My daughter says it’s the old folks home,” Cook said with a laugh. “We just have a lot of retired people.”
But anyone’s welcome to stop in, she said, and for those who are new to the cafe’s selection she especially recommends the biscuits and gravy.
“We have it every morning until we run out,” she said. “And then we have it on Monday nights. It’s kind of our breakfast night.”
Cafe hours are 6 a.m. to 2 p.m., Monday through Saturday, and 5 p.m. to 8 p.m., Monday and Thursday.
The other favorite dish, Cook said, is Hash Brown Delight, a delightful mixture of hash browns, onions, cheddar cheese and white gravy.
But customers can order much more than breakfast at the cafe.
Cook offers hamburgers, sandwiches, spaghetti, soups, salads and desserts in addition to her “Chef’s Suggestions,” which include shrimp, roast beef and chicken strips.
Side orders like toast and jelly run as low as 60 cents, and the priciest item on the menu is the breakfast steak, two eggs, hash browns and toast for $6.25.
Regular customers have noticed a few recent changes in the cafe’s menu, Cook said.
“You have to pay for your drinks now,” she said. “We changed our menu at the beginning of this year.”
They also changed the look of the cafe by removing the more than 200 coffee cups they had displayed around the cafe.
“I decided to do something different,” Cook said. “So we took them down.
“We might bring them back up,” she added. “But we’ve got hundreds of them, and some of them got broken.”
In their place, Cook has proudly displayed an assortment of Dallas Cowboys paraphernalia she has collected since the 1970s.
“I’m a Dallas fan,” she said. “All this stuff has been given to me, or I’ve gotten it at one time or another. And I thought, ‘Why keep it at home? I’ll just bring it down here.'”
Other walls in the cafe are decorated just as brightly with Marion High School athletic posters and awards donated by Marion Ogden, posters from the annual Chingawassa Days in Marion Central Park and a mural by Marion’s own Judy Christensen.
But despite minor changes in appearance and service, Cook said the cafe will stay mostly the same even after her mother stops working there full-time.
“We’ll just keep on working,” she said. “At least as long as we’re here it’s job security.
“As long as we keep the customers happy and coming in, we’re just going to keep doing what we’re doing.”
THE COOK COLLECTION
11/2 cups sugar
11/2 teaspoons soda
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
11/2 cups flour
Pinch of salt
3/4 teaspoon allspice
11/8 cups vegetable oil
3/4 teaspoon vanilla
21/4 cups grated carrots
1 cup chopped nuts
Sift dry ingredients together. Mix in oil. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each. Stir in vanilla, carrots and nuts. Place in greased 9×13-inch pan. Bake 30 to 40 minutes at 350 degrees. Cool and frost.
One 4-ounce package cream cheese
2 cups powdered sugar
1/4 cup butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla
Beat cream cheese and butter together. Gradually add sugar, beating until smooth and creamy. Mix in vanilla.
1 cup milk
1 cup water
3/4 cup butter
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons dry yeast
7 cups flour
Dissolve yeast in 1/2 cup of the water (very warm, not hot). Boil milk and add butter, sugar and salt. Add rest of water and let stand until mixture is cool. Add yeast and flour. Set in warm place, covered. Let rise until doubled. Work down. Let rise again. Shape into zwieback. Let rise again. Bake in preheated oven at 400 degrees for 12 to 15 minutes or until golden brown.
“This recipe belongs to a lady at church by the name of Theodora Koslowsky,” Cook said. “I make these at the cafe every Wednesday to go with our fried chicken.
“They are a hit.”