Opened over in the town of Goshen by the late Mildred Rowe in 1947 as a mom and pop barbecue café called Perk’s, this once-homey eatery has become a sprawling roadside enterprise. Its long-lasting fame and its location at the end of exit ramp #222 off I-81 attract crowds on busy travel weekends and customers often have to wait for a table. Even back in the 1970s, when we came across it while researching early Roadfood, it had grown into something more than a tucked-away little gem. But Mrs. Rowe was still in charge and the place glowed with her personality. Several years later, in 1998, reviewing it for Gourmet magazine, we wrote, “Mrs. Rowe’s is a reminder that the word restaurant refers to restoring one’s self, body and spirit… A visit with Mrs. Rowe is an encounter with a culinary life-force that makes the world go round.”
Mildred Rowe passed away in 2003. Her restaurant remains in the family (now run by grandkids); and just because it has become a beacon for traveling hordes does not mean we’ve expunged it from the roster of good eats. For one thing, it really is convenient if one needs breakfast, lunch, or dinner just yards from the interstate. More important, it’s hard not to like the kitchen’s freshly-baked biscuits and sticky buns, crunchy fried chicken with mashed potatoes and/or mac ‘n’ cheese on the side, the pork chop and stewed apple plate, and pies of every stripe, including mince in the autumn. It is a repertoire of dishes like you find in Cracker Barrel, but more genuinely country. A few forkfuls into such food and it becomes easy to drop any prejudice engendered by Mrs. Rowe’s conspicuous success.
Despite its tourist-attraction ambience, Mrs. Rowe’s maintains a staff who are sincere and never less than courteous.