Fork in the Road: Cook’s American Grill

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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) -- Always cooked fresh. That’s the motto for the owners of Cooks American Grill. A place where you know the people who own and run the restaurant, and cook your meal every day.

“Day in, day out. We’re the ones in here doing it,” Jessy Holcomb said.

He and his wife Shawnda make sure one of them is there to open and close their restaurant at 21st and Gage every day.

“Every day. Doing the work and just taking care of the customers. Doing it the way we want to do it. Not serving stuff we wouldn’t eat ourselves,” he said with pride.

The pair took over the restaurant 18 years ago, from founders Jeff and Rhonda Cook.

“It was already doing well and they were just ready to retire, so it was just an opportunity really,” Holcomb explained.

It’s been at the same location more than 30 years. And the business model stayed the same. Buy from local vendors, and keep it fresh.

“We don’t use hamburger pucks out of the freezer. We use fresh patties. That makes a big difference. We’ve got our vegetables. We chop them daily. We bread our own onion rings. We do all that stuff in house,” he promoted.

“The food is always good. There isn’t anything that isn’t good here. It’s all home cooked and it really is great,” said longtime customer, Nancy Sides, who visits after bible study up the street.

That’s what Holcomb says makes his place stand out.

“You’re always fighting the chain restaurants because they can flood their restaurants with money and staffing and everything. We don’t have the luxury here. So we just gotta work,” Holcomb said.

Aside from their usual, they try to do something a little special now and again.

“We do the bierocks once a year. First week of October. It’s something we’ve been doing for probably 15 years like that. They’re just so labor intensive and we sell so many of them that one week of making bierocks is about all I want to do,” he chuckled.

Despite the work and the stress, Holcomb says he wouldn’t want to do anything else.

“This is small town America and that’s us. Mom and pop shop. We come in, we’re trying to make a go at it and that is America,” Holcomb proudly said.

Cooks is open 7 am to 8 pm Monday through Saturday. They’re closed Sundays.