It was Saturday morning in Bentonville, and Rock City Eats editor Greg Henderson, Brewed in Arkansas editor Becca Bona and I were planning out our day. We had to stop at several breweries and had a couple of ideas about lunch, but no dinner plans. After debating a few spots and checking Facebook (of course), Greg half-seriously suggested going to see Matthew Lowman’s new restaurant in Missouri. The idea wouldn’t go away. Nine hours later, the three of us were making the 40-minute drive to Cassville, Missouri, for a stop at Lowman’s restaurant The Farmer’s Daughter.
For those who don’t know, the affable Matthew Lowman started his culinary career in Central Arkansas, first completing his degree at Pulaski Tech and then working in the kitchen with the uber-talented team at Ashley’s Restaurant. After a stint at YaYa’s Euro Bistro and a brief job at The Hermitage in Nashville, he went with Matthew Bell to South on Main and produced some of the most whimsical, memorable desserts the city has ever seen. Lowman briefly worked with Loblolly Creamery before heading up to Northwest Arkansas. It was there he met and fell in love with Abby Carr, whose father owned a cattle ranch in Missouri. And so, the two joined forces in the tiny community of Cassville to open a new restaurant.
The drive to Cassville is an easy one, with long straightaways cutting through scenic farmland and gentle slopes. The uphill, gravel driveway to The Farmer’s Daughter is clearly as new as the bright red restaurant itself. Lowman greeted us with his trademark contagious grin and gigantic hug, his denim overalls gleefully proclaiming that Lowman is still not taking himself too seriously. The restaurant is a comfortable one, with seating for around 70 situated on two levels. A cozy patio has seating for about 20 more.
Lowman sat down with us to eat, but even if he hadn’t, the food would have made his presence known. Even with his now-wife Abby pitching in ideas and recipes, this restaurant is unmistakably a Lowman joint. The first appetizer to the table, called The Full Spread, holds nothing back, with two housemade sausages, buttered sourdough toast, pimento cheese, pickled vegetables, candied pecans and bacon jam. There were only three of us; this appetizer could have served six. The bacon jam made a second appearance in the delicious Fried Brussels Sprouts, which had us eagerly coming back for seconds.
While we ate, Lowman talked of the oddities of running a small-town Missouri restaurant on a cattle ranch. His now father-in-law decided to try raising Wagyu cows, and suddenly a restaurant in rural Missouri was full-to bursting with Wagyu steaks. Lowman said at one point using them just as steaks wasn’t enough to get through the supply, so The Farmer’s Daughter served Wagyu country fried steak, and Wagyu bratwurst, and anything else he could think of. What’s more, the restaurant doesn’t have a walk-in freezer, so Lowman reached a deal with a nearby gas station to use their freezer.
The entrees were as playful and robust as the appetizers. A Roasted Chicken Hot Brown on sourdough bread hid its treasure under pepper jack cheese and white pepper gravy. The Soggy-Bottom married chuck roast braised in pepperoncinis with pickled onions and cheddar. And the beautiful Beef Stroganoff impressed us the most with its red-wine sauce, handmade pasta and tender sirloin steak.
It came time for us to leave, as well as Lowman. He and Abby left us to hop on a plane for their wedding in Colorado. But of course, he stayed to sit and chat and laugh with us when he should have been packing, because that’s who Matthew Lowman has always been. And now, he has a wonderful wife and a restaurant that’s as generous and earnest and friendly as he is. It literally couldn’t happen to a nicer guy.