When Dick Keller first opened Country Cousin Restaurant in Centralia in August 1973, he had a vision of homestyle cooking in an atmosphere filled with fun decorations and antiques and a staff that treated customers like family.
Fifty years later, it’s still all that and more, Country Cousin bartender Tahtie Jordan said this week.
To celebrate the restaurant’s 50th anniversary, the Harrison Avenue business is holding daily drawings for $50 gift cards and art contests for children with a $25 gift card prize, along with drink specials until the end of August.
Jordan has been working at Country Cousin for six years, but she has been coming to the restaurant since she was a child as her parents would stop in Centralia to dine on road trips — a familiar story considering the restaurant’s close proximity to Interstate 5.
While treating customers like family is still practiced, the owners treat their staff the same way, Jordan said.
“You don’t see owners that actually care anymore. They actually do care,” Jordan said.
Country Cousin is mainly managed by Stephanie Campbell and her two daughters. Campbell “still ties on an apron five days a week and waits tables just like the rest of us,” Jordan added.
The owners go above and beyond what most restaurant owners do for their staff, even offering 401K plans for staff to save for retirement. Other families work at Country Cousin, too, including a father-son duo in the kitchen who achieved their American dream and work there now after emigrating from Oaxaca, Mexico, Jordan said.
Aside from the family atmosphere, the food at Country Cousin is still made from scratch, Jordan noted, even after the COVID-19 pandemic forced many surviving restaurants to cut back on food and labor costs by purchasing pre-made frozen foods.
Jordan added both the prices and portions have stayed relatively the same, leading to many newer customers being surprised by the large meals and regulars who keep coming back for more.
“I believe Country Cousin is an iconic place for locals and travelers alike, unmatched and loved by all,” Jordan said. “We strive to maintain the simple beauty of a restaurant founded by a man that believed in great food, family and everyone is family that walks through our doors.”
The menu features classic Americana cuisine with breakfast staples such as chicken-fried steak and eggs, cinnamon rolls and biscuits and gravy along with dinner items including top sirloin steak, country-style pot roast and a variety of burgers and sandwiches. For dessert, Jordan recommends the from-scratch blackberry sour cream pie.
“(The) recipe, I believe, is older than the restaurant,” Jordan added.
Customers come in for not only the food, but the antiques, ranging from a classic 1908 Brush Motor Company farm truck to a nude painting of actor Burt Reynolds displayed in one of the dining rooms.
“I had a group of Italian exchange students wait until I closed the room off so they could go in and take pictures with Burt,” Jordan said.
There is also a chicken coop filled with Polish show chickens, known for friendly personalities and plumes of feathers atop their heads.
Having survived the past 50 years, pandemic included, Country Cousin isn’t going anywhere soon, Jordan said, as Campbell’s daughters are being prepared to take over themselves one day. They make up just one family among many who are all now part of the Country Cousin family.
Country Cousin Restaurant is located at 1054 Harrison Ave. in Centralia just west of Exit 82 off of I-5. It is open seven days a week from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
For more information, including breakfast and dinner menus, visit https://countrycousinrestaurant.com/.