Rural Missouri Magazine

There are no strangers at Evans Cafe

by Jim McCarty

Cindy Walsh takes an order from Don and Edna Littrell of Wheeling, two of the many regulars at Evans Cafe in Meadville. Edna says all the meals at this north Missouri diner are served “with a lot of love.”

When a tornado took the roof off of Evans Cafe last summer patrons of the Meadville restaurant worried that it might close. “One man woke up in the middle of the night because he thought, ‘What if Evans doesn’t reopen,’” says Edna Litrell of Wheeling. “Another woman said, ‘Where will I get my hugs?’”

More than just a great place to eat, Evans Cafe is a social center for the regulars like Edna and her husband, Bob, who gather there for lunch. Anyone else might enter as a stranger, but they will leave as friends.

A day at Evans Cafe, which is served by Farmers’ Electric Cooperative, begins at 7 a.m. when owner Marylyn Evans and her sister, Cindy, arrive. By 8:30 the rest of the “girls,” as Marylyn calls the group of three good friends who help with the cooking, shows up and the little 1930s diner hums like a beehive.

Evans Cafe

Specialties: Country cooking. Daily specials include roast beef, pork chops, lasagna, spaghetti and, on Fridays, fried chicken. Meals served with homemade rolls. Other specialties include a huge selection of fresh pies, made-from-scratch onion rings and hand-breaded tenderloins.

Price: Daily specials are $5 plus tax, drink included. Menu items vary.

Hours: Open for lunch only from 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday through Friday.

Credit cards: Not accepted. Cash only.

Directions: Take Highway 36 to the Meadville junction with Route W and Highway 139 North. The cafe is on the south side of Highway 36.
Mapquest Map

Contact: (660) 938-4563.

Evans Cafe is a no-smoking restaurant.

Like an orchestra where each part contributes to the whole, the workers pull pies from the oven, slice pieces for individual servings, mash many pounds of real potatoes, bake the rolls, whip up the daily specials and have it all ready when the first customers walk through the door at 10:30 a.m.

So efficient is the staff in the little kitchen that when Marylyn leans against the wall for a quick rest, a cup of coffee is already waiting for her.

As the first guests arrive they are greeted by name, and Marylyn disengages herself from the hubbub in the kitchen to give each guest a hug. “Everyone gets a hug, if they want one,” says Marylyn with a smile. Some ask for two.

“Very rarely do we have a crabby person in here,” she says. “If we do we try to work them over. We have the best customers. They are fun and interesting.”

Evans Cafe could be called “north Missouri’s Cheers.” The cafe, located on the south side of Highway 36 at the Meadville junction, was built in 1933 as a roadside garage and cafe.

Marylyn and her husband, David, bought the historic building six years ago. While Marylyn put her efforts into the cafe, David runs an alternator and starter repair shop next door.

“Everyone knows everyone here,” Marylyn says. “Everyone is concerned about everyone’s health. This is a real personal place.”

Marylyn Evans serves up old-fashioned country cooking at her Evans Cafe near Meadville.

While there are one or two tables that seat two people, most are set up for groups. “The cafe has no booths, only tables and chairs,” says Don Dupy, a regular here.

“Some of the tables are the large communal type that seat as many as 10 people. If you choose to sit at one of these large tables, be prepared for someone you may not know to come and sit next to you. It won’t be long before you know each other’s pedigree.”

He warns that many of the regulars come armed with pictures of their grandchildren, and the only defense is to have some of your own.

Even if the food wasn’t good those who frequent Evans Cafe would most likely gather here on the four days a week it’s open for lunch. But the fact is, the food is excellent.

Regular customers have made Evans Cafe the "Cheers" of northwest Missouri.

Country cooking is the place’s specialty, meaning roast beef so tender it falls apart on its own, turkey and noodles, creamy mashed potatoes with lots of gravy, light dinner rolls made on the premises, and just about every kind of pie you could want.

Every day a dry erase board is lettered with the daily special, which might be spaghetti, lasagna or pork chops served with a choice of cole slaw or apple salad. On Fridays the place fills to capacity for the fried chicken.

For those who want to order off the menu, the cafe offers hand-breaded tenderloin sandwiches and hand-battered onion rings. In the winter months they serve soups and stews.

“I’ve never had a bad thing to eat here,” says Dee Johnson of Brookfield. “Everyone from our town comes here. There isn’t any other place like this left.”

Adds Edna, “A lot of love is served with the food.”

Rural Missouri | June 2020 Issue

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Association of Missouri Electric Cooperatives

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2722 E. McCarty Street
P.O. Box 1645 • Jefferson City, Mo. 65102

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