By Mike Harris – Special to The Alpine Mountaineer
(Photos by Mike Harris)
I would venture to say that just about every small town across America has a special dining place where friends and family gather to enjoy a good meal, grab a cup of coffee, share stories and talk about what’s new in their lives.
Crestline has one of those special places and it’s the Crestline Café, located right in the middle of town on Lake Drive next to the Crestline post office.
Like many small town cafes, the Crestline Café serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. Owner Amber Crubaugh says the cuisine style is what she would call American. Traditional dishes range from breakfast favorites such as pancakes and waffles, to eggs and bacon and omelets; luncheon selections such as burgers, classic sandwiches and salads; and dinner choices such as grilled salmon, sirloin steak, chicken Alfredo and teriyaki chicken with mushrooms. Portions are generous.
Of course, there are many specialty dishes, daily specials and items not on the menu that regular customers know about and simply ask for.
One of those specialties not found on the menu are Crestline Café’s delicious Fruit Burritos, a flour tortilla filled with fruit such as apple, peach or berries, rolled up tight, grilled, then plated with whipped cream on top and gently drizzled with chocolate sauce. It’s one of my favorites and is big enough to make a meal or share with a loved one. My wife, Glynne, also loves it.
One of my breakfast favorites is Eggs Benedict. Traditionally, Eggs Benedict is created with the bottom half of a toasted English muffin, then a thin slice of Canadian bacon, then a poached egg and topped with hollandaise sauce. Crestline Café takes this dish and kicks it up a notch or two.
A special thick English muffin from Wolferman’s Bakery in New York serves as the base, and then a ham steak is placed on it, followed by a poached egg topped with Crestline Café’s own special version of hollandaise.
If you enjoy Eggs Florentine, made with a poached egg on a toasted English muffin with cooked spinach and homemade hollandaise sauce, while it’s not on the menu, ask for it and the café’s chefs will prepare it for you.
Everything is made fresh each day, from sauces and gravies to soups.
“We don’t just open a can,” Crubaugh said. “We take the time to make everything fresh.”
Crestline Café has a community history that dates back to 2006 when it was located in Top Town. Eventually it moved to its present location and sold to George Hoenig, who remodeled it and brought Crubaugh on board to be the manager.
In 2022, Hoenig sold it to Crubaugh; March 10, 2023, marked her one-year anniversary of being the café’s owner.
“I had been a manager at McDonald’s in Blue Jay for five years,” she said, “before an opening came up at the Crestline Café and I was recommended for a job here. I’m really enjoying the business, and it’s also been challenging,” she added.
Crubaugh has lived in the Crestline area since she was a child. She and her husband have three children.
The Crestline Café has a new manager, Rachel Gregory, which allows Crubaugh to focus more on the business side. Crubaugh will also help as a server from time to time, something she really enjoys. “I am an active owner, and I enjoy waiting tables. I enjoy talking with our customers.”
Many of the chefs and servers have been at the café for several years, and customers get to know the servers by name.
Crestline Café is open during the summer from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m., and 9 p.m. on weekends.
Does she have many customers at 6 a.m.?
“Oh, yes,” she said. “We have contractors who want to eat early before they head out to the job.” There are early bird specials, usually posted on a chalk board.
During lunch time, you’ll see local women who meet with their friends to catch up on news over a salad or a sandwich. Weekends tends to see visitors who are up to enjoy the mountain.
One of the favorite corners on the menu is called “The Comfort Zone” and dishes include chicken tenders, chili spaghetti, country fried steak and fish and chips.
Soups are made from scratch daily and include Old Town fresh onion, hearty vegetable and a soup of the day. Bowls are served with sourdough bread.
As summer approaches, Crubaugh plans to bring back patio service, and she also plans to add a BBQ smoker.
Also in the works, she said, is a discount program for local residents. She’s still working on the details.
She’s also thinking about inviting residents to share a favorite family recipe, and maybe it might show up on the menu.
“We appreciate our customers and know how important they are to our business,” she said. “This is a great town and the people are wonderful.”