Discerning Diner: Simple fare served at cozy eatery in St. John’s Place
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Discerning Diner

Discerning Diner: Simple fare served at cozy eatery in St. John’s Place

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Marie's Cafe cheeseburger

A cheeseburger is among the menu items at Marie's Cafe in Camp Hill.

When I’m out and about, I sometimes get a hankering for a plain, old-fashioned cheeseburger.

I’m not talking about the anemic, condiment-laden dreck that can be purchased at any area drive-thru. I’m talking about one that is formed by hand, slapped on a flattop and presented to the customer hot, juicy, topped with American cheese and served on a bun that is neither too thick, nor too thin.

I am pleased to say that I found the cheeseburger ($6.95) at Marie’s Café on the Carlisle Pike in Hampden Township to be all that and a bag of chips, or in this case, a side of fries.

My husband and I arrived at noon and found a parking spot in front of the eatery located on the corner of the strip mall along the Carlisle Pike known as St. John’s Place. When we walked inside, we grabbed a small table by the window and were soon greeted by a smiling waitress.

The eatery is rather small, with cheery yellow walls that make the most of the afternoon sunlight that streams into the place. Tables number about 10, and a counter where customers can watch their food being prepared seats about nine.

I have since learned that Marie’s Café has been operating at St. John’s Place since August 2006. If I had to take a guess at her recipe for success, I’d suggest that limited hours to cater to the breakfast and lunch crowd combined with a simple menu and quality ingredients equals a winning formula.

My husband chose the traditional gyro, listed on the menu as the house specialty, with a side of fries for an extra dollar ($8.95). Additional items on the manageable menu include seven classic sandwiches like tuna salad, egg salad, turkey club and ham and cheese. A similar selection of wraps is available for customers who prefer to swap out the bread with a honey wheat or garlic herb wrap.

Those who prefer lighter fare can choose from seven salads, with favorites like Greek, chef, Caesar and a house salad comprised of grilled mesquite chicken, mixed greens tomato and onion. Homemade soups are also available. Chicken and barley, and split pea and ham were the choices on the day we visited.

We didn’t have to wait long for our food and since we were both pressed for time, we welcomed the speedy service. Our sandwiches arrived in about 10 minutes, giving us time to sit back and savor our meals.

My husband enjoyed his gyro as much as I liked my cheeseburger. He described it as fresh, delicious and full of flavor, with just the right amount of tzatziki sauce. He said it ranked up there with the gyros that people wait in long lines for at the annual Greek Fest.

As we bid adieu to our smiling server, I was once again left wondering why I took so long to visit Marie’s. The cozy, homey, bright café is a cute little place to enjoy a good meal in a welcoming atmosphere. This may have been my first visit, but I doubt it will be my last.

Next Up: Dinner at the newly renovated and reopened Dockside Willie’s in Wormleysburg.

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