Slide open the door to Doyle’s restaurant and suddenly you’re in a 1950s diner. From bright red seats to the original sky-blue tiling, Doyle’s has remained a classic with authentic Delmarva recipes that have kept people coming back for decades.
Back in the day, Doyle’s was the major landmark on a simple two-lane road. When giving directions, people were to be considered “down the road from Doyle’s,” recalled owner Mike Doyle. “Now we say we’re across from Food Lion.”
“People don’t realize a lot of things. We still make food from scratch,” said son and owner Brandon Doyle.
Above the old sliding door, a metal plate labels the restaurant’s front section as an authentic Silk City Diner car, from Patterson, N.J. This was originally called “Woody’s Diner” after original property owner Woody Sturgis.
Mike Doyle would buy the building in 1983, and 31 years later, his son Brandon has taken over operations.
“We are a family restaurant,” emphasized Brandon Doyle, ready to promote a menu that hearkens “back to the original roots” of the eatery, including “good quality food and prices,” Mike Doyle added.
All-you-can-eat food specials continue, too: Monday’s fried chicken, Tuesday’s beef and dumplings, Wednesday’s ham and cabbage, Thursday;s chicken and dumplings, and Friday’s fried flounder. And then, Saturday is prime rib night.
“People religiously come in for whatever they’re into. If they like chicken, they’re here every Monday,” Brandon Doyle said.
All the meats are cooked fresh, so a turkey club sandwich is carved from a whole turkey. The same goes for ham or roast beef.
Two ladies make all the soups, including Manhattan clam chowder, cream of crab, old-fashioned bean soup, lima bean and corn, peas and dumplings, homemade vegetable and more.
“A lot of customers go to Florida in the winter,” Mike Doyle noted. “When they return to Delmarva, the first place come is here for our fried chicken.”
Brandon Doyle himself knows how it feels to come home to Doyle’s. Having lived in other states, he came home to familiar Eastern Shore flavors.
Three generations might come in for family dinner, and there’s a dish for all tastes, whether they want a children’s menu or an adult drink, including beer, wine and mixed drinks.
The staff laughed, remembering the story of a little boy whose family tried a different restaurant one night.
“Hey, this isn’t Doyle’s!” he fretted.
Upscale eaters can also enjoy seafood, homemade crabcakes and chicken Chesapeake. Classic country flavors include beef or chicken liver, plus hamburger steak. They also aim to make lunch specials “affordable for everybody,” they said, such as sandwiches served with soup or salad.
And, not to brag, but Mike Doyle is certain they serve “probably the best pancakes” around.
While the restaurant’s menu hasn’t changed much, it’s digs have. From just a short-order dining car, the restaurant got a second entrance and dining area in the 1960s, eventually growing to seat almost 250 in another dining room, added in the 1990s.
“There’s so much history here,” Brandon Doyle said. “This is where we grew up. This is where we hung out … worked … played.”
The Doyles remember that longtime Baltimore mayor and Maryland governor and comptroller William Donald Schaefer “rarely missed all-you-can-eat flounder” nights when he was fishing in Ocean City, Md.
In between restaurant chores, Brandon and the other kids played baseball (behind the restaurant, decked out in Orioles gear, until their swings became strong enough to send fly balls into the parking lot) or Atari video games. There are photographs of Brandon’s younger brother, Brian, standing on a milk crate to wash dishes.
Sure, things have changed a bit. An old menu shows that $1.50 used to be for a pricy item. No longer does each booth have a mini radio and coat rack. The fields of strawberries and flowers that were their only neighbors were replaced by a shopping center. But Doyle’s still makes milkshakes and chocolate nut sundaes with real ice cream.
“We have a blast around here. We had so much fun growing up,” Brandon Doyle said of the family atmosphere. “I don’t bring anyone in here that I wouldn’t invite to my home.”
Doyle’s has hosted every kind of family function, transforming the dining room for marriages, funerals, fundraisers and everything in between.
The restaurant also hosts a Sunday buffet brunch until 1 p.m. and offers catering service.
Doyle’s is located at 38218 Dupont Boulevard (Route 113) and can be reached at (302) 436-2112. Hours are 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, and 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Friday and Saturday and every night in summer.