Cooky’s has been serving up home cooking since 1942
GOLDEN CITY, MO. – On a winding, curvy, country highway in Southwest Missouri, which leads to a small town, seemingly lost in a historic period of yester-year, named Golden City, you will see a lighted red sign for a small cafe named Cooky’s, the nickname of its original owner. Cooky and his wife, Ellen, opened this small town treasure in 1942. A picture of the hard-working couple can be found hanging on the wall as you first walk through the front door.
Cooky himself used to arrive to the kitchen at 3 a.m. to begin his cooking regime. With no electric dishwashers, all dishes were cleaned by hand, by Cooky and his wife Ellen.
The historic restaurant has floated through several hands over the years, which is chronicled the napkin dispensers on the wooden tabletops throughout the restaurant. The current owners are Willie and Holy Stefan of Lockwood,Mo., who took over in July 2022 from the Eldred family, who owned Cooky’s for three generations.
“Cooky’s is a mom and pop restaurant known for pies and friendly service,” 27-year employee Shawnda McDonald said, adding that her customers are like family.
Waneta Knight, of Webb City, Mo., is the niece of the original owners. “I remember my Aunt Ellen could wait the whole restaurant by herself. She was feisty, to say the least.”
Waneta told a story about a well-to-do customer who did not want to wait in the long line snaking out the front door. He blatantly said to Ellen, after demanding a table without standing in line: “Do you know who I am?” Her response: “I know exactly who you are and you will wait your turn like everyone else,” she is rumored to have said.
Another instance Waneta recalled was a particular lady unable to make up her mind when perusing the extended menu. Ellen, walked away as the lady yelled: “Hey! You didn’t get my order!” Ellen confidently responded, “I didn’t think you wanted anything because I have been here for a long time and you could not make up your mind.”
The restaurant has always been busy, full of loyal patrons, and holding the same first come, first served mentality for 80 years.
In modern days, walking into the street-side single-level restaurant, there is a transparent pie buffet, showcasing gooseberry, Dutch apple, cherry and fresh pecan pies, just to name few. Customers can also order a whole pie.
The old-fashioned orange booths and Formica tabletops lead to the historic atmosphere, which hasn’t really changed all that much in 80 years. Cooky’s has a massive array of unique and well-appreciated meals in which to choose. The only difficulty lies in choosing which savory meal to order. Fried chicken fresh from the skillet, fried liver and gizzards, tender to the fork brisket, the largest homemade biscuits imaginable, topped with a heavy layer of fresh sausage gravy, and a number of other delightful dinners destined to shock the taste buds and excite even the pickiest palate.
Nestled upon each wall are black and white pictures from the era in which the restaurant was born, colorful canvases of historic and modern-day Presidents, as well as a vibrant window of stained glass that is sure to have a semblance of historical meaning to the lifeline restaurant of this small-town’s hidden gem.
Waneta said the original restaurant had no prices on the menu; it was a surprise how much the bill would be. Today’s menu does list the prices, but it’s typically a case of more bang for your buck compared to the larger city restaurants.
Once a visitor samples the magic of Cooky’s, they may never again bypass Golden City without stopping in for a taste of historic nostalgia, topped with a dollop of fresh vanilla ice cream, and surrounded by local strangers, who may just become familiar old friends.