Rural Missouri - May 2018 - 15

by Paul Newton |


t's part carport, part cargo container, part garden shed and part homemade barrel smoker.
It's 100 percent tasty.
Since 2010, Pam Wright and Jeff Beachner have been dishing up delicious lunch, dinner
and more at The Cook Shack BBQ & More in the
northeast corner of St. Clair County. Their faithful patrons get hearty servings of classic barbecue,
unique burgers, down-home dinners and decadent
desserts at their restaurant which sits just off of
County Road ZZ.
The full-service restaurant has evolved from the
novel idea Pam had nearly a decade ago. "I thought
what if we closed in the carport at the end of our
drive and make a little diner," she says of the restaurant that now seats 40. "It was going to be like a
walk-up window, something I could do on my own.
It ended up being something much bigger."
The dining room is in the area where the carport
once was. A cargo shipping container was added to
the structure and has been made into the kitchen
and a garden shed finished off the building for dry
The bright red building sticks out in the quiet,
rural area near Truman Lake where nearby restaurant options can be limited at best. The Cook Shack
gives locals a place to gather to enjoy good food and
good company. "There are a lot of farmers around
here that work in the field all day," says Jeff. "They
know we're here and they like having somewhere
close to go."
Pam realized she needed some diversity when
creating her menu. "I knew barbecue alone wasn't
going to be enough," she says. "When you get families here, you want to have different dishes that
everyone will like."
If you leave The Cook Shack hungry, it's your
own fault. The 4-foot-by-8-foot homemade barrel
smoker behind the restaurant does the heavy lifting
in preparing the succulent smoked brisket, pork,
sausage, ham, turkey and more, mainly using white
oak. The smoked meat is available both between
two buns and served as a dinner with two sides,
garlic toast and a hot roll.
One customer favorite featuring the tender
smoked pork is the Smothered Pork Sandwich. A
heaping helping of the restaurants' smoked pulled
pork is piled on a toasted bun and covered with
Pam's homemade coleslaw.

"It's so much better to make your own coleslaw,"
she says. "It has fresh ingredients and I like it to
be a little chunkier than standard coleslaw, a little
more coarse. That's why I chop it by hand instead
of buying something premade or doing it in a food
Pam and Jeff - Sac Osage Electric Cooperative
members - offer a variety of build-your-own and
specialty burger options, but one definitely stands
out above the rest. The Shack Burger is their signature burger and will be sure to send you home in a
food coma.
One-third pound of Angus ground beef is handpattied and Jeff cooks it to perfection next to a serving of onions on the grill. Beef is just the base to
this carnivorous creation. A slice of Swiss cheese
starts the piling on, followed by the grilled onions,
two slices of bacon, one-quarter pound of The Cook
Shack's smoked pulled pork, sweet barbecue sauce
and one last slice of Swiss cheese on top. The massive meal is served between a pair of toasted buns.
"It's really popular," Pam says. "The juiciness
of the burger and the sweet smokiness of the pork
work together. And then the bacon and cheese, how
can you go wrong?"
Plan your trip to The Cook Shack right and you
can take advantage of some of their delicious daily
specials. Friday nights the eatery offers oak woodfired steaks seared to perfection. The approximately 14-ounce entree is served with a baked potato,
salad and roll. Butterfly shrimp steals the show on
Saturday and The Cook Shack's fried chicken is the
Sunday special.
opefully the generous portions haven't filled
your stomach too much - there's still dessert. Pam
takes great pride in her "Dangerously Delicious
Desserts," with cheesecake being her specialty. She
says her favorite books are recipe books and her
mother bought her a book one time with a recipe for
a New York-style cheesecake.
"II took that recipe and developed and tweaked it
into The Cook Shack's cheesecake offerings," she
says. "If you're a cheesecake lover, it is
worth the drive just for that.
The bottom layer is actually a sponge cake
that is baked first.
It's not the traditional graham
cracker crust."
The lineup of

Specials at The Cook Shack include (left to right) tenderloin
dinner, fried catfish dinner and chocolate chip cheesecake.
Below: The Shack Burger is stacked high with Angus beef,
bacon, onions, Swiss cheese and barbecue sauce.
cheesecakes is full at the restaurant. You're likely
to find the plain, chocolate chip and turtle cheesecakes - featuring chocolate, caramel and pecans -
all year. Seasonal cheesecake options may include
lemon-cream or key lime in the summer, caramelapple or pumpkin in the fall and creme de menthe
or candy cane around Christmas.
Pam says each cheesecake takes approximately
four hours to make, but the quality of the sweet
treat is what she enjoys.
"If I could buy one as good as what we make, I
would. But I can't," she says. "It's a time-consuming
process, but I enjoy doing it. It's my zen and quiet
time. And it makes the customers happy."
Making those customers happy is what Pam and
Jeff see as the purpose for their restaurant serving
rural residents, lake visitors and more.
"Seeing them happy and the friendships we've
made throughout the years is what we remember,"
Pam says. "Seeing customers become friends with
each other and getting to know each other makes a
difference in the community."

The Cook Shack
Specialties: Smoked brisket, pork, sausage, ham, turkey and ribs. Smothered Pork Sandwich, Shack Burger, Swamp Burger and pork tenderloin. Fried chicken, shrimp and catfish dinners. Desserts include homemade cheesecakes.
Price: Appetizers from $3.99 to $6.99, burgers and sandwiches from $2.99 to $8.99 and entrees and dinners from
$9.99 to $16.99. Daily specials such as rib-eye steak are more.
Details: Open Thursday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m; Sunday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Closed Monday through Wednesday. Cash, checks and major credit cards accepted.
Directions: Located at 8827 NE Highway ZZ in Iconium.
Contact: 417-646-5516


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