By Tom Votrain
As a salesman on the road with more windshield time than the bugs on the glass, I find myself eating chainfood most lunch hours. But I recently experienced a nice diversion in Cowan's Restaurant in downtown Washington, Missouri. The place is simple, clean, historic, and broadcasts the slogan 'the place to meet.' Of course I didn't know a soul in the eatery, but perhaps that was because I wasn't meeting anyone for lunch. (Sorry Cowan's for not abiding by your marketing quip.)
But the place was bustling with locals and that tells us something. In small towns everybody knows everybody else. And for that reason alone, the food better be above par, otherwise the grapevine of bad reviews will travel into most homes by the end of the day.
Cowan's serves a surprisingly wide variety of sandwiches for lunch, with steaks, chicken, and seafood for dinner. But Generican food is nowhere on the menu. Everything is fresh and cooked to order. The Cowan's hamburger reminded me of what real meat should taste like—not the strange, pseudo beef that's been dried under unforgiving heat lamps and obligingly fits perfectly on a bun.
After lunch, take a look at the east wall photo displays for a pictorial history lesson of downtown Washington and the railroad influence. There are chain restaurants that claim to be the neighborhood bar and grill, but Cowan's is the real thing.