At the Stupid Cow Café, the owner aims to know your name, how you take your coffee, and even when it’s time for you to try something new.
Customers are “a guest once, and then after that, they become family,” said Dave Daley, who opened the Spokane Valley café a year ago.
“If you make it a personal experience, they’re going to come back and make this their place,” he said.
Brian Wells, a customer who lives down the road from the café, enjoys coming to the Stupid Cow because of the down-home cooking and family atmosphere.
“You can come in here and it instantly feels like not like a normal restaurant – in a good way, of course,” he said, polishing off a breakfast burger before ordering a stack of pancakes to go for his wife. “It’s just got that country feel to it.”
“Country” is a fitting description for the historic building. When it was built in 1927, the building was surrounded by apple orchards and sat just down the road from the Morrison Ranch, which is still in operation today. Originally rumored to be a train station, the café has also served through the years as a gas station, diner and car dealership. Some locals remember walking over from the high school across the street (now the site of Greenacres Middle School) to grab a bite from the diner on their way home from school.
To keep the quirky, country vibe going, Daley mounted a working stoplight outside the front entrance (green means the café is open, red means it’s closed). A dozen round wooden tables in varying sizes dot the dining area. They can be pushed together to accommodate large groups.
The Stupid Cow’s breakfast menu is loaded with comfort food. Signature items include the Heavenly Sandwich (vanilla-cinnamon French toast filled with egg, cheese and your choice of meat) and Biscuits and Sausage Gravy (the gravy is made from scratch in small batches each morning). Omelets, French toast and sweet cream pancakes also make an appearance, among many other things. Smaller portions are an option, although most meals are generously sized.
“If you leave here hungry, you did not get treated properly,” Daley said.
Lunch is of a similar vein. The PBJ Burger comes with jalapeno jelly, creamy peanut butter, diced jalapenos and bacon. The Smokestack Lightning Burger is smothered with “hopped up” barbeque sauce and then covered with an Applewood smoked “blanket” of bacon. And the Philly Cheesesteak Sandwich is so good, according to Daley, that “I would put [it] against any cheesesteak in Spokane.”
“I LOVE the food,” Daley said. “I screw up most things in life, just not food.”
Daley, an Army veteran who owned and operated Daley’s Cheap Shots bar on East Trent for 10 years, decided to open The Stupid Cow Café to pursue his passion for cooking.
“No matter how much I loved Cheap Shots, I knew it was time to do what I learned I truly loved to do – and that was just cook,” he said. “I decided I was a better cook than a bartender.”
Daley purchases all their food locally whenever he can, going out each Thursday to various grocery stores and vegetable stands. All their meat comes from Sonnenberg’s Market & Deli. Most items on the menu are made to order from scratch.
“It makes a massive difference when you’re not using pre-packaged things and you can do it all yourself,” he said.
He believes that the café’s food is what sets them apart from other restaurants in the area.
“I am a weirdo about the food,” he said. “It has to be perfect. It has to be right. And we haven’t been perfect every time. But I do everything in my power to make sure that (customers) want to come back. I make sure I make it right.”
The first weekend the café opened, Daley says they were completely unprepared for the number of customers who flooded the café.
“We were just absolutely, positively overrun. (We) did not expect it,” he said. “I was so dissatisfied with the service, I was so dissatisfied with the speed of the food coming out, and with some of the quality.”
Daley says he ended up comping about $1,400 that weekend, all in an effort to make it right for those customers.
“Almost every single one of those customers that were here on our first weekend are still coming back today,” he added.
Now that the café has found its footing, Daley has plans to expand with eight extra tables on a patio out back. And opening a sister location is in the works within the next two years. The name? The Angry Chicken.
As for the Stupid Cow Café’s unique moniker, Daley insists he has no cow-related trauma in his past.
“They’re just kind of weird to me,” he said. “I find them strange and they’re goofy and they’re just kind of dumb.”
When he was renovating the restaurant prior to opening, no catchy names were coming to mind. Then, as he was driving one day to Moses Lake to pick up some restaurant equipment, he saw a bevy of bovines along the side of the road and uttered a common phrase of his: “stupid cows.”
“And as soon as I said that, I was like, ‘Huh, Stupid Cow Café. There it is,’ ” he says. “It has become a blessing because now everybody knows the name ‘Stupid Cow.’ ”
The quirky name may draw people in, but Daley believes that – along with the food – it’s the friendly, family feel that keeps customers coming back.
“I like my little family here. I like what we have going,” says Daley of his small staff of five. “We work together – they don’t work for me.”
Adds Lenore Thompson, Daley’s long-time co-worker and friend who came with him from Cheap Shots, “We all have fun. It makes it so much nicer for everybody – and the customers know it.”
“I would not be able to do this without those people around me that are helping me,” Daley says. “They are really the backbone. I can go out there and run my mouth and turn a spatula all day long, but without them helping me, I wouldn’t be able to do it.”
Subscribe to the Spokane7 email newsletter
Get the day’s top entertainment headlines delivered to your inbox every morning.