Stepping away from the present-day NBA melodrama, I slide back into the sublime – this time reminiscing about the Toddle House (I don’t know about Seattle, but this popular nationwide chain was in New Orleans, also, according to

According to,

Toddle House was formed in 1932 by Fred Smith – his son Frederick Wallace Smith started Federal Express.

To this day, the diner chain is revered by many posters on the internet. For example, from a poster at,

As a sailor stationed on board the USS Mississippi home ported in Norfolk in the late 40’s and early 50’s I would stop at the Toddle House in Norfolk at the end of every liberty. On board our ship we were blessed with eating powdered eggs, for breakfast. My deal was eggs sunnyside up, sometimes 4ea and bacon. They cooked them in a small frying pan in butter then turning them out on the griddle then on your plate. The Toddle house saved me from starving for eggs for 4 years. When I settled in Oklahoma City, there was a little Toddle House on N. Walker about 12th Street. There I discovered chocolate ice box pie!! That was great. I miss the Toddle House.

Toddle House also provided the venue of more serious history. From comes this image and description (circa 1963-64) by Danny Lyon, Memories of the Southern Civil Rights Movement, credit Edwynn Houk Gallery:


A Toddle House in Atlanta has the distinction of being occupied during a sit-in by some of the most effective organizers in America when the SNCC staff and supporters take a break from a conference to demonstrate.

As far as I know, Oklahoma City’s Toddle Houses were not the the setting of any civil rights sit-ins (but other restaurants were, a post for another day yet to come).

When coming to Oklahoma City for those exhilarating debate trips during 1959-1962, not only did we stay at the Park-O-Tell and eat at the Lincoln Boulevard Chicken-In-The-Rough, when the debate trip destination was Oklahoma City University, we’d also partake of the fine food at the Toddle House diner located on NW 23rd somewhat near the OCU campus on the south side of NW 23rd.

If you are lucky enough to be able to find them, the Vanished Splendor series published between 1982 (Vol I) and 1985 (Vol III) by Abalache Book Shop Publishing Co, Okc, written and assembled by Jim Edwards, Mitchell Oliphant, and Hal Ottaway (as to Vol III) are all incredibly helpful for learning obscure historic detail as to both images and facts. Sad to say, the books are out of print. But, Vol III of the series provides the only image I’ve been able to locate of this venerable presence of Toddle House in Oklahoma City.

From Vanished Splendor, Vol 3, Item 507, comes this image:

Describing this postcard, Vanished Splendor’s text reads:

The “Toddle Houses” were a national chain of small cafes specializing in breakfast. Each tiny outlet was built to the same plan, and contained no tables, but merely a short counter with a row of stools. At one time there were three Oklahoma City locations: 1307 North Broadway, 329 Northwest Twenty-third, and 1221 North Walker. Former customers still remember the fluffy scrambled eggs prepared in a special way. Payment was on the honor system: customers deposited their checks with the correct amount in a box by the door on the way out. In business in Oklahoma City some thirty years, the Toddle Houses closed here in the 1960’s.

Why is this Toddle House significant to me? The answer is simple – its Chocolate Ice Box Pie!!! Oh! If you’ve not had the privilege of letting this scrumptiously firm-but-creamy pie mesmerize your mouth’s taste buds yearning for nirvana, you’ve missed out on one of the finer experiences (excepting, of course, your husband or bride, children and grandchildren) that you could possibly have had in this or any other lifetime! Well, maybe that’s too much hyperbole, but you get my point.

Over the years, I’ve not been able to locate the “real” recipe (maybe until yesterday, below). I’ve had to settle with this one which I’ve fine tuned to make as closely as possible to my taste buds’ recollections:

This recipe is for 2 pies (recommended); halve the ingredients for only one pie.


• 2 nine inch pie shells (make your own if you must; but Pillsbury’s are great)
• 2 ½ cups sugar
• 2 tbsp. all purpose flour
• 2 tbsp. cornstarch
• ½ tsp. salt
• 5 cups whole milk
• 8 egg yolks
• 6 one-ounce squares of unsweetened chocolate
• 2 tbsp. real butter
• 1 tbsp. vanilla extract
• 1 tbsp. almond extract (this is my innovation – probably 2 tbsp. vanilla is more “pure”)
• 2 cups of whipping cream

What You Do

• Bake Pie Shells: bake your pie shells in the oven, per the supplier’s recommendations (as said, I like the Pillsbury pie shells – they are nice and flaky); you want the pie shells done by the time the next steps are finished; don’t overcook – you want them to be light-tan, but not more brown than that

• Combine 1st Ingredients: sugar, flour, cornstarch, salt, in a medium saucepan

• Combine 2nd Ingredients: in a separate bowl/pan, beat the milk & the egg yolks

• Combine & Heat 1st & 2nd Ingredients: mix them together (using your wooden spoon) in a sauce pan until fairly smooth; stir constantly over medium heat until the mixture becomes thick and at full boil; then, continue stirring and boil for an additional minute; remove from heat

• Add chocolate squares, butter, vanilla and almond extracts: in the same pan, with no external heat, add these ingredients, stirring with your wooden spoon until the chocolate and butter is melted and the mixture is smooth

• Pour Mixture Into Cooked Pie Shells: this is a no-brainer; you might want to use a spatula to make the top of the pies relatively flat, but it’s no big deal; cover the pies with plastic-type-wrap to seal moisture, and put them in the fridge; they need to remain there until they are cold/cool (if you don’t, the whipped cream (next step) will “melt” and you don’t really want that to happen)

Next-To-Last Steps

• Disingenuously Offer Another Person To Lick the Pan: remnants of the mix will still be in the cooking pan; if you’re into being generous, allow someone else to do this, or, if you’re not, lick it yourself – it will be their gain or your loss; this has nothing to do with the recipe

• Whip the Whipping Cream: “real” chocolate ice box pies don’t use “canned” whipping cream – but do what you must; to do the real deal, whip the whipping cream, adding about a teaspoon or a bit more of sugar, with/in your mixer until the whipped cream is “very firm” (not in any way “runny”); cover it with plastic or other wrap and stick in the fridge while the pies cool

• After the pies are cold, remove them and the whipping cream you’ve made from the fridge; spread the whipping cream over the top of the pies with a spatula; garnish the top, if you like, with curls of raw chocolate (use your potato peeler); cover with plastic or other wrap & stick ‘em back in the fridge.

Important Last Step

• Discourage your company from eating the pies; tell them it is not what you had hoped for, with profound apologies; later, when they’re gone, eat the remainder or keep it in a safe place until you are ready to do so.

The above is my recipe. But, yesterday, I found what may be the “original” recipe, I don’t know. From comes this recipe for the Toddle House Chocolate Ice Box Pie:

Toddle House Chocolate Pie (they left out “ice box” – Toddle House never did)
By Michael Hastings
Journal Food Editor

Suzanne H. Chambers’ request for Toddle House Chocolate Pie and Mrs. Harris’ Pound Cake prompted a flood of responses from our readers. Judging by the dozens of letters we received, these two are among the favorites printed in the Winston-Salem Journal over the years.

2 ½ cups plus 2 tablespoons sugar
½ cup plus 6 tablespoons cornstarch
½ cup cocoa
¾ teaspoon salt
1 ½ pints milk
2 ½ egg yolks
¾ teaspoon vanilla
Baked pastry crusts
Whipping cream

1. Sift together sugar, cornstarch, cocoa and salt into bowl of mixer. On medium speed, add half the milk and mix thoroughly. Add egg yolks; mix thoroughly, being careful that mixture does not foam.

2. Place remaining milk in top of double boiler over boiling water. When milk is scalding hot, add chocolate mixture. Stir with wooden spoon and cook until the consistency of whipped cream is reached.

3. Put in bowl of mixer on medium. Allow to mix (just until combined). Cool. Add vanilla and mix for 5 minutes.

4. Cover with wax paper and completely cool before placing in refrigerator. Use 1 pound and 8 ounces of filling in each pie shell. Top with whipped cream. This should make 2 to 3 pies or more.

I’ve not tried the above, being quite content with what I’ve achieved, but there it is for those that want it! I’ll probably try it sometime.

Hash Browns

For those of you who might have been taken with Toddle House’s hash browns every bit as much as I am with its chocolate ice box pie, here’s another recipe I found for that yesterday morning at

From the Winston-Salem Journal:

WSJ Living Food Recipe SwapArchive
Hash Browns ‘Toddle House’

By Michael Hastings
Journal Food Editor

The following recipe for hash browns, requested by Charles Eldridge of the Zephyr community near Elkin, was sent in by Cheryl Dinkins of Yadkinville.

Dinkins got the recipe from her stepfather, Bill Johnson, who used to operate the Toddle House restaurant in Winston-Salem. Dinkins said her stepfather told her that the secret is to use prebaked potatoes.

Toddle House Hash Browns
Baking potatoes
Vegetable oil
Salt and pepper

1. Bake potatoes. When done and cool enough to handle, peel and dice.

2. In a saute pan over medium heat, put about 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, or enough to prevent potatoes from sticking.

3. When oil is hot, measure 1 cup diced cooked potatoes, add them to pan and sprinkle with enough paprika to give them a nice color.

4. Flip and fry potatoes until golden brown. Serve hot with salt and pepper to taste.

Once you’ve eaten of these sumptuous treats, you may well forget about the Okc-New Orleans-Seattle drama!

Or not!