Off-the-bone ham, fried chicken and coconut cream pie have kept Cooky’s Café a dining staple since 1942

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“Cooky” Ambler, his wife Ellen and employee Pearl Hutton are pictured around 1949. 

It’s around 4:30 p.m. on a Tuesday, and Todd Eldred is getting ready for the evening rush. He stands behind the cash register, fryer at the ready and juicy hams nearby waiting to be sliced. The day’s pie selection sits temptingly on the counter, showing off for guests as they make their way to claim an orange booth or vintage table for the duration of their meal.

The café’s legacy dates back to 1942, when Cecil “Cooky” Ambler and his wife Ellen opened their doors with a pound of hamburger, a loaf of bread, an onion and some dill pickles. “When they ran out, there was a grocery store across the street and she’d run out and get (more),” says Todd, who along with his mother and brother-in-law own and operate the café today.

That hamburger must’ve been magic, because the customers started pouring in – and before long, they weren’t clamoring for only ground beef. “The big claim to fame back then was hot dogs,” recounts Todd. While dogs were the staple main dish, sweet-toothed guests made white-peach pie all the rage. “You can hardly find white peaches (now), but that was one of the big things when he started.”

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