Sommerset Hall Cafe - Topeka, Kansas
Sommerset Hall Cafe in Dover, Kansas has an interesting history. The building began as the Sage General Store in the late 1800s. The owner, Alfred Sage, named it Sommerset Hall after his birthplace in Somersetshire, Bristol, England. The Oddfellows Lodge began meeting in the upstairs in 1902 and purchased the building in 1905. The Dover Lodge (I.O.O.F #490) still meets in Sommerset Hall today.
The Cafe which occupies the lower floor of the building became nationally famous in November 2008 when Good Morning America Weekend announced that the Coconut Cream Pie baked by Sommerset Hall Cafe's Norma Grubb was the winner of their Best Slice Challenge. The notoriety increased demand for the pies to the point that whole pies could no longer be purchased and the slices of pie must be eaten in the Cafe. Norma only baked about 8 pies a day, and the manager wants her customers to be able to have a slice of pie with their meals.
Norma passed away in 2009, but the pies are still baked from the same recipes and on my last visit to the restaurant in 2013 it may have been the best coconut cream pie which I have had.
Servers still take the pie orders first thing, and sometimes the pie comes before the rest of the meal. In additional to limited breakfast and lunch menus, the Sommerset Hall Cafe has a $6.50 lunch buffet. Friday is the only day of the week that the Cafe is open for supper, and the Friday evening buffet is $9.90, including drink and dessert. (2013 prices)
After the visit, I was impressed by everything about the Sommerset Hall Cafe, but the food. We tried the BLT, cheeseburger, onion rings, sweet potato fries, and coconut cream & strawberry pie. The sweet potato fries were OK and the BLT was the best dish sampled. Although the cheeseburger was on a good, toasted bun, the meat was overcooked and dry. The pies we sampled were simply average.
But the food during our most recent visit was much better. The lunch buffet had fried chicken which could have been a bit warmer, but tasted quite good and was not greasy. The mashed potatoes were very good. The large cinnamon rolls would have been better warm (they were actually chilled), but were still good.
The Cafe offers three "meals" at lunch. For just $7.50, you can choose from chicken fried chicken, chicken fried steak, pork tender or a hamburger patty, along with mashed potatoes, gravy, roll and salad which you get for yourself from the buffet. The chicken fried steak was very good, tender and well flavored. It wasn't very large, but the price was only $7.50. Sommerset Hall Cafe is very reasonably priced.
The Sommerset Hall Cafe doubles as a local market, with a variety of canned and boxed food items available for purchase. Many grocery items have only one or two on the shelf.
copyright 2009-2015 by Keith Stokes