ORIGINALLY WRITTEN CYNTHIA MARTENS
Out of adversity often comes personal triumph.
Such is the case for Karen and Rusty Peavy, who took over ownership of the Eagle Cafe-formerly Cheryl’s Cafe-on June 1.
Rusty, a former equipment mechanic, has been undergoing several surgeries for knee injuries during the past three years.
“We’re just trying to be positive about it,” Karen said.
“He won’t be able to go back to work, and that’s kind of why we bought the restaurant. With him having to do occasional re-habilitation and needing to find something else to do, we thought this might work for him.”
Rusty and his sister, Cheryl Wilson, grew up surrounded by the food industry.
“Their parents had restaurants, and that’s what they did all their life,” Peavy said.
Wilson moved from Georgia in May and joined the Peavys to take on the responsibilitiy of manager at the Canton landmark.
Peavy, a Louisiana native, holds a full-time position as a claim’s examiner for Farmer’s Alliance in McPherson and doesn’t have any previous restaurant background.
“But I’m getting my experience,” Peavy said with a chuckle.
She fills in when Wilson takes time off, is responsible for finances and paperwork, cooks and can be found after work and on the weekends helping until Rusty is able to spend more time at the restaurant.
And Peavy has also earned a reputation for her authentic Cajun cooking in the small town known as the gateway to the Maxwell Wildlife Refuge.
Patron regulars and new visitors can enjoy her Cajun cooking featured on Friday night’s special menu.
Offered on last Friday’s special menu was red beans and rice, a dish that began when Peavy soaked the beans two days before they were enjoyed by Marion County area diners looking for a new culinary experience.
That’s just one of the changes in store for hungry diners at Eagle Cafe.
Friday patrons can choose from a special Peavy Cajun dish, all-you-can-eat deep-fried catfish fillets or, in the future, char-broiled steaks.
Rusty’s forte is cooking steaks and smoked meats, both items being considered as future standouts at the restaurant.
“Before he had his last surgery, he was in here cooking, and the steaks were wonderful,” Peavy said.
“They were tender, and they were good. We were doing K.C. strips, and we’ll probably also do T-bones.”
When back after August, Rusty will also be found waiting tables, helping at the cash register and perfecting his wife’s Cajun cooking skills.
The Peavys thought long and hard before deciding on the name Eagle Cafe for their new restaurant venture.
“We had tossed around a whole lot of ideas,” Peavy said. Names considered were Lagniappe and Southern Cupboard. But the inspiration for Eagle Cafe came when the couple was returning from a doctor’s visit in Kansas City.
“On the way back, I was thinking how both my boys are Canton-Galva Eagles,” Peavy said of the school mascot and the couple’s sons, Cody and Chase.
Eagles were also a part of Peavy’s childhood, because her mother collects them, and her father and step-father were both firefighters.
“My mother always had eagles and a firefighter wall,” Peavy said.
“It just seemed like the eagle was such an American symbol. And I was told they’re planning on putting a welcome-to-Canton sign down here at (U.S. Highway) 56, and they’re going to put an eagle and buffalo on it.”
On a shelf, toward the front of the restaurant, rests a gift from Peavy’s mother-an eagle sculpture. And in a back room, a 41/2-foot cast-aluminum eagle with wings raised high-another present from her mother-is being painted and will be placed on the front of the restaurant.
“When the eagle goes up and after Rusty is feeling better, we’ll try to have a grand opening,” Peavy said.
The transition from one restaurant owner to the next has been smooth, and some menu items have remained in place.
“Cheryl (Everhart) is very helpful to us,” Peavy said about the former owner.
The ever-popular hamburger is still on the menu as well as the crowd-pleasing Sunday fried-chicken special.
But as each day dawns, a breakfast favorite at Eagle Cafe is Wilson’s omelets.
“She makes a really good omelet,” Peavy said.
The Western omelet is filled with ham, cheese, bell peppers, onions and served with hash browns, toast or biscuit for $5.95.
Wilson also has discovered the art of making a local-favorite breakfast syrup called Dutch honey.
Jereka Farner, a full-time waitress at the cafe, shared the following recipe used by Wilson:
1 C. brown sugar
1 C. light corn syrup
1 C. cream
Place ingredients in heavy saucepan. Stir constantly while bringing to a rolling boil. Allow to boil for five minutes, stirring occasionally.
Remove from pan and allow to cool for five minutes, stirring occasionally. Serve over waffles, pancakes, french toast or with dinner rolls.
In addition to hamburgers and other sandwiches on the lunch menu, the chicken salad was noteworthy, Peavy said.
“Cheryl’s chicken salad is very good, because we use mayonnaise instead of Miracle Whip.”
Diners can choose from regular menu items or daily specials in the family-run restaurant.
Tuesday and Wednesday specials are cook’s choice, such as beef and noodles or southwest steak.
“It’s never the same special,” Peavy said. “My sister-in-law will choose a special for those evenings.”
South-of-the-border aromas abound in Canton on Thursday night when Mexican fare is featured at Eagle Cafe.
“Cheryl makes her own salsa, and it’s really wonderful,” Peavy said. “We tone it down from what we eat at home. There are some who want it milder, and we can do that for them.”
On Fridays, Kansas diners can enjoy New Orleans cuisine without leaving the state.
“I’ve done shrimp gumbo, shrimp jambalaya, sausage jambalaya and a chicken and sausage gumbo,” Peavy said about her specialties.
Her jambalaya and other recipes can be found in “Hot & Cold Recipes From Canton,” a Canton Tourism Committee cookbook.
1/2 C. butter
2 Tbs. chopped garlic
1 1/2 C. chopped onions
1/2 C. chopped celery
1/2 C. chopped bell pepper
1 can Ro-Tel brand tomatoes, green chilies and juice
1 Tsp. salt
1 Tsp. black pepper
1 Lb. shrimp
1/2 C. chopped parsley
1/2 C. chopped green onions
3 C. cooked rice
Saute garlic, onions, celery and bell peppers in butter until wilted. Chop Ro-Tel tomatoes and add to vegetables. Simmer for 15 minutes. Add salt, pepper, shrimp, parsley and green onions. Cook one minute just to heat well. Mix with rice.
Sundays draw patrons to the fried-chicken special dinner that also features two extra meats, such as roast or ham.
“Cheryl will have four to five side dishes, like broccoli-cheese casserole, green beans, corn and macaroni salad,” Peavy said.
“And almost always, she’ll have sweet potatoes. People have gone nuts over her sweet potatoes. She puts pineapple and raisins in it.”
In addition to Jereka, five part-time employees work at the cafe, including Cody, who will be in fourth grade next year, and Chase, a senior in high school.
“They’re all really, really good,” Peavy said about her employees and the resulting quality of service at the restaurant.
Pleased to have Cody and Chase on the team, Peavy said she hopes the new family venture will stay in the family as the boys get older.
“I’m happy about this, because I know it’s something that’s going to be good for my husband and something that might be good for the whole family.”