I wasn't sure who my server was during a lunch at The Chow Down Family Restaurant.

Several waitresses approached my booth before, during and after my meal at the Warrington Township eatery. One employee said she hadn't seen me before and she hoped to see me again.

I'm low maintenance when it comes to dining out. However, by the end of my meal, I was well aware that if I needed something, it would be done quickly.

Owner Sharon Miller said she requires her servers to interact with customers.

"I don't like real stuffy places," she said.

A few regulars hung out at the restaurant that same afternoon. Miller and the servers joked with the patrons, frequently asking if they were "causing trouble."

Miller, 59, of Conewago Township, has intermittently worked in the restaurant industry in various roles for more than 30 years, but she never owned a place.

She and head chef, Juan Rojas, 60, of York, worked at Home Plate in North York. After that restaurant closed a few years ago, the pair eventually decided to open The Chow Down.

I noticed the year-old business on a recent trip to Gifford Pinchot State Park to swim with friends. The pink barn-styled building is hard to miss. Inside, shades of mauve and navy spill over the décor, with floral prints lining the walls. There's a counter with stools, booths and an additional dining room.

I scanned a list of daily specials - pork and sauerkraut with mashed potatoes, smoked sausage, liver and onions, cream of chicken and spinach soup - that were all less than $10. The menu includes items ranging from quesadillas to burgers to seafood, and a $1.99 breakfast deal featuring two eggs, home fries and coffee.

I ordered the barbecue chicken special, which came with two sides. I asked for a house salad - iceberg lettuce, tomatoes, onions and cucumbers - and a baked potato.

One of my servers said the chicken would take a little longer to cook. She brought the meal in about 15 minutes, so I'm guessing that Rojas prepares many of the orders super quickly.

Chicken stir-fry sells for $7.95 at The Chow Down. Prices range between $1.25 and $14.99.
Chicken stir-fry sells for $7.95 at The Chow Down. Prices range between $1.25 and $14.99. (FLIPSIDE -- PAUL KUEHNEL)

I love barbecue chicken. It reminds me of childhood summertime meals. The meat was tender, and the sauce was sweet with a bit of a tang. I didn't realize this when I ordered, but the serving was half of a chicken, so I saved half of it for later. I enjoyed the simple, seasonal meal.

Miller said that above all, she just wants to provide customers with a good place to eat. After years in the industry, she and Rojas have invested all of their experience in The Chow Down. She said she knows what people like and she caters to that. After a successful first year of business, she's grateful to her patrons.

"You get to know your people, and you get to know what they want," she said. "That's what you got to give."

Miller spends most of her waking hours at the restaurant. She arrives at 4:30 a.m. and leaves about 9:30 p.m. She likes to be there because she's a people person and so she can keep an eye on what goes on. If someone complains, she can remedy the situation.

"If you give them good service, good food and you make things right, they're usually satisfied," she said.

Cheap Eats profiles local restaurants with meals for less than $10. Reach Leigh Zaleski at 771-2101, lzaleski@ydr.com.

If you go

LOCATION: The Chow Down Family Restaurant, 7523 Carlisle Road in Warrington Township

CUISINE: American

LEIGH'S PICK: Barbecue chicken, with a salad and baked potato ($7.99)

PARKING: Yes

HOURS: 5 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday; 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday

PRICE RANGE: $1.25 to $14.99

ALCOHOL: No

SMOKING: No

ACCEPTS: Cash and credit

TAKEOUT: Yes

KID'S MENU: Yes

DETAILS: Call 432-9444

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