SOUTH OGDEN — In a roundabout way, and with doses of uncertainty and necessity, Jeff and Mara Criddle plunged into the restaurant business.

That was nine years ago. The couple set up Criddle’s Cafe in what used to be a Chinese restaurant on a South Ogden side street.

“It was still in the beginning stages and we had no idea what the heck we were doing, really,” Mara Criddle said.

On a recent Monday morning, a visitor would have had no idea that the cafe ever wanted for business. The dining room was packed, with parties standing in line for a table. The cafe’s three waitresses whizzed around the floor, keeping orders moving.

Breakfast fare is the American cuisine cafe’s hallmark. Jeff Criddle said the “Boss” breakfast is the most popular item. It features a scrambled egg with cheese, SOS gravy on hashbrowns, and a scone.

“That gravy is from my grandpa’s days in the Army,” Jeff Criddle said. “A lot of people come in just for that gravy and for the scones.”

“Uncle D’s” breakfast offers two hamburger patties, gravy on hashbrowns, two eggs and toast.

Then there’s “Elmer’s” breakfast: a full order of biscuits and gravy, two slices of bacon or sausage links, and two eggs.

Jeff Criddle said the lunch menu is “your basic diner fare,” with chicken and turkey sandwiches, burgers and other hot sandwiches. He said many lunch diners order from the breakfast menu.

“It’s basic good food that appeals to everyone,” he said.

Groups of six or eight are a common sight at Criddle’s.

“Anybody can come in here at any time and see someone else in here that they know,” he said. “A lot of our big groups have actually met here and got to know each other.”

In 2011, Jeff Criddle was the night shift cake production foreman at the Hostess bakery in downtown Ogden.

“We could kind of see the writing on the wall down there,” he said, and he and Mara were looking ahead to a new chapter for their family.

Mara was working at a cafe in Layton. And Jeff is a grandson of Golden Sill, who started Sill’s Cafe in Layton.

Jeff had no thought of going into the restaurant business himself.

“I grew up in it and didn’t want any part of it,” he said.

But Mara “was convinced that it was something we could do,” Jeff said.

They opened Criddle’s in July 2011 and the Hostess bakery closed a few months later.

Ever since the lean first days, their extended families have pitched in, the Criddles said. For instance, Jeff’s cousin and sister work there.

“My wife knew how to do most of it, and I followed her lead,” Jeff said. “We had to learn how to run a business, and we figured out how.”

Mara’s father is Polo Afuvai, a retired North Ogden police chief.

“He knows a lot of people,” Jeff said, which is one reason word-of-mouth marketing has worked so well for them.

“We’ve had growth every year since we’ve opened,” he said.

You can reach reporter Mark Shenefelt at mshenefelt@standard.net or 801 625-4224. Follow him on Twitter at @mshenefelt.

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