Just like in an old town saloon, you can saddle up to the bar for friendly conversation and heaping portions that will fill you up. Overseeing the chuck wagon at Cannon Smoked Saloon is head chef Kevin McCowan, who puts the emphasis on comfort food while providing customers with a taste of the Old West.

Just like in an old town saloon, you can saddle up to the bar for friendly conversation and heaping portions that will fill you up. Overseeing the chuck wagon at Cannon Smoked Saloon is head chef Kevin McCowan, who puts the emphasis on comfort food while providing customers with a taste of the Old West.

In addition to the eclectic décor ― think horse saddle seats and a shoe shine station ― it’s the menu that draws people to this Sunrise Beach location. Known for its slow, hickory and oak-smoked meats served with a signature sauce, it's no surprise that some of the popular items on the menu are the ribs, burnt ends and wings.

McCowan has worked at Cannon Smoked Saloon since its opening, having moved over from the kitchen at Captain Ron's. A 1994 graduate of Camdenton High School, he spent ten years working for Tan-Tar-A Resort. During his tenure, he traveled for Marriott and worked at the Marco Island, Florida Marriott and The Westin Casuarina Resort in the Grand Cayman Islands. McCowan then spent time at The Embassy Suites in Hot Springs, Arkansas before heading back to the Lake to work at the former Plaza III Steakhouse at Old Kinderhook. In 2008, he came aboard Captain Ron’s to work for restaurateur Ron Duggan.

“I love being a chef because of my artistic drive combined with my passion for food,” McCowan said. “I am always trying to learn and experiment with new foods and flavors. Especially with the changing seasons here in the Midwest. Each season offers a different bounty. I'm always on that quest for the perfect flavor combination that brings people a new food experience or revisits the comfort of the food your mom made when you were a kid.”

Q&A with McCowan

What food do you crave?

Sometimes I crave exotic mushrooms like truffles, morels, chanterelles. Seasonal fresh mushrooms.

What is your favorite dish to make at home?

The one I don't have to prepare. My wife, Kari, makes the best spicy spinach and chicken enchiladas.

What do you always have in your kitchen?

We have a good supply of beer, wine and whiskey. I think these are must-haves to the party going.

What foods do you hate?

I don't know why but I can't stand olives of any type, color, stuffed or not. I try one every couple of years just to see if my taste buds have changed.