Best New Restaurants
This month, we’re celebrating the greatest new restaurants that have popped up in 417-land since early 2011.
This month, we’re celebrating the greatest new restaurants that have popped up in 417-land since early 2011. Over the course of the past year and a half, we’ve seen the arrival of our region’s first creperie, a new Southern food venue, an upscale take on New Mexican cuisine from a seasoned restaurant pro and so much more. From quick-casual Korean food that always delights to an upscale eatery in Branson that flaunts local flavors and great wine, the restaurant scene in 417-land has been blossoming. Read on to learn about the tastiest new flavors and the men and woman who create them.
Long-time 417-land foodies are familiar with the name Al Roubaie. He was first a chef in Kansas City, and one of the star chef’s former restaurants was named among the Top 100 New Restaurants in
Esquire in the early ’80s. Roubaie has had his hands in several 417-land restaurants since then, and he opened his latest venture, French Mediterranean Café (701 N. McCroskey St., Nixa, 417-724-8216), in September 2011.
The restaurant has a similar theme to his former eateries, offering an array of food influenced by French, Italian, Greek and Lebanese cooking. “I think it has its own unique class,” Roubaie says. With amenu that includes dishes such as escargot, chicken with lobster sauce and duck with pomegranate sauce, you’d think the food would be accompanied by high prices. But that’s not the case. “We want it to be affordable, so everyone can enjoy it,” Roubaie says. “It’s affordable and casual, yet elegant and romantic.”
Roubaie has a double role as owner and chef, and his son, Al Jr., joins him in the kitchen as sous chef. The duo creates many dishes loved by 417-landers, including a very popular blackened ribeye steak and a salmon with champagne sauce. And there is a lot more. The menu includes everything from stuffed grape leaves and seafood puff pastry to gourmet pasta and filet mignon with fresh herbs and garlic sauce. And if you can’t find what you’re looking for, they’re willing to take requests. “People on a special diet can ask us to fix [dishes] with or without something,” Roubaie says.
Tucked into a strip mall in Nixa, the restaurant boasts a warm, welcoming atmosphere that’s as pleasing as its prices. The tables are dressed in linens, and each seat has its own artfully folded napkin. The walls are a warm yellow, and the space they enclose is squeaky clean! “I’ve had the health department tell me that this was the cleanest restaurant they’ve ever walked in,” Roubaie says. “It’s very well known for that.”—S.W.
Most people know Pat Duran and Jennifer Grace-Duran as the owners of Metropolitan Grill. Now the pair has a new gig—they opened Santa Fe Grill (3120 E. Sunshine St., Springfield, 417-315-8745) in March 2012. “I was born and raised in Santa Fe, New Mexico,” Duran says. “That’s the concept of this place. It’s a taste of home with a little bit of the Ozarks mixed in.”
The menu is influenced by various styles of cooking, including Native American Pueblo Indian, Spanish, Old Mexico and something Duran calls Cowboy Americana. And it includes many classic dishes with a special touch. For example, you’ll find the Santa Fe Relleño, a wheat-battered poblano pepper stuffed with a shrimp, scallop and chorizo paella and served with spicy cheese sauce and roasted mariachi vegetables. And there’s also the Mas Queso Enchiladas, featuring smoked cheddar, white cheddar and blue cheeses in a corn tortilla with diced potato, pico de gallo and fresh green chili. And this green chili is what really separates this spot from the rest. “All of our green chili is brought in from New Mexico,” Duran says.
Inside Santa Fe Grill, customers can see two bars: a traditional bar and a guacamole bar (with its own guacamole chef). Using a special guacamole menu, people can choose from a variety of fresh ingredients, including chopped garlic, roasted garlic, sweet corn and cucumber, to make the tasty dip. “It’s like a sushi-style menu, but for guacamole,” Duran says. “The sky is the limit.”
The restaurant boasts an upscale feel and delicious food for a very competitive mainstream price point. “I’ve expanded the demo of the people I could cook for,” Duran says, as the prices are far less than those at Metropolitan Grill. “I’ve had this concept for a long time,” Duran says. “Metropolitan Grill is a product of my culinary experience, and Santa Fe Grill is a product of my culture.”—S.W.
There’s something comforting about customizing your meal, and that’s a key part of the experience at Bibiya (4121 S. Fremont Ave., Springfield, 417-882-0077). The brainchild of John Jung and Young Sun Jun, the husband-and-wife team who also own Haruno Japanese Sushi Bar & Grill and Kai, this Korean restaurant brings a new level of yum to order-at-the-counter joints.
The restaurant’s menu features several customizable meals, including bibimbap (which means “mixed meal” in Korean), a popular Korean dish that comes with the choice of brown, white, black or mixed rice, vegetables, meats and sauces. And at Bibiya, it also comes with the option of being served as a salad, in a cold bowl or in a very hot stone bowl that keeps the rice and veggies sizzling all the way to your table (and even throughout your meal!). Several other dishes also allow you to choose the desired veggies or sauces.
Young Sun Jun is Korean, and her goal when she opened Bibiya in November 2011 was to share the healthy, delicious and fresh flavors of Korean food with 417-landers. She does so by offering creative dishes with authentic flavors, and creating the restaurant’s sauces, bibi (a sweet barbecue), kochi, lemon soy and sesame.
It’s healthy and convenient but not expensive, as most of the menu options are less than $10. But rather than keeping the recipes strict, Young Sun Jun and the team at Bibiya fused some Korean flavors with popular American foods for many dishes, such as a chicken teriyaki burger. And in addition to the tasty eats, Bibiya boasts a contemporary atmosphere with ostrich skin booths and wood and tile. The well-stated colors and clean lines make the atmosphere just as pleasing as the mouthwatering food.—S.W.
Quality is key at Table 22 (114 E. Main St., Branson, 417-973-0022, table22branson.com). In 2006, Dr. Richard Makuch and Angie Ann Makuch opened Palate Fine Wine & Provisions.
And in June 2011, they opened Table 22, a contemporary fine dining restaurant, next door. The spot has 22 seats, and it features a seasonal menu created with collaborative effort from the Makuches and therestaurant’s chef, Aaron Brown. “We wanted to push the envelope a little bit, but still be attractive to our customers,” says Aaron.
The Makuches have eaten at fine dining restaurants all over the world. Brown prepared Asian cuisine while living in Japan for four years, and he has also worked in restaurants all around the country.
The menu at Table 22 features Rockbridge sushi and a Berkshire pork chop, featuring trout and pork from 417-land farms. And it speaks to the Makuches’ and Brown’s worldly exploration with dishes, such as the Chinese five spice–encrusted duck breast and house-made potato gnocci served with tomato Milanase, rainbow Swiss chard and ricotta cheese.
These worldly flavors are all served up in stylish presentations in a contemporary space on Branson’s Main Street. “We wanted to replicate a café in a museum of art,” Dr. Makuch says of the restaurant, which is given life with gray and blue walls, bright red chairs and a variety of art by Josh Mitchell, a Springfield artist. “We wanted to create a restaurant in southwest Missouri that people all over the country would want to go to,” Dr. Makuch says.—S.W.
Rolls-n-Bowls serves traditional Vietnamese dishes including spring and eggrolls, pho, noodle soups, Vietnamese baguette sandwiches and boba teas. We hope to introduce Springfield to a wonderful warm culture of heartwarming foods.
1402 W. Sunshine St.
1402 W. Sunshine St., Springfield,
Order the banh mi sandwich. It’s a rice flour baguette (crispy on the outside, chewy on the inside)
filled with pork, pate, pickled carrot and radish, spicy fresh jalapeno slices and tons of cilantro.
Migulito’s Wrap & Roll Café
We make our food with fresh vegetables and homemade ingredients with lots of vegetarian, vegan and gluten free options including wraps, tacos, salads and burritos.
3650 South Campbell, Springfield, MO.
Migulito’s Wrap & Roll Café
3650 S. Campbell Ave., Springfield,
This menu features falafel, something you can’t get many places in 417-land.
3433 S. Campbell Ave., Suite C., Springfield,
You don’t want to miss the oh-so-delicious French dip sandwiches. One of the best we’ve tried.
Queen City Deli
1647 E. Sunshine St., Springfield,
The Italian beef is fantastic, and so is the enormous pastrami sandwich. So much meat!
Newk’s Express Café
2639 S. Glenstone Ave., Springfield,
Pizzas, sandwiches and a good variety of entrée salads make this a yummy spot for every taste bud.
527 S. Main St., Joplin,
Go here for gourmet hot dogs with a variety of unexpected toppings. The Kitchen Sink comes
topped with… well… just about everything.The Chihuahua is topped with avocado and sour cream, and it's wrapped in bacon.
To compete with a 100-foot chicken across the street, Blue Man Grill owner Sharon Darby started looking into local urban legends to potentially help build some buzz and catch people’s eyes as they drove down the Branson strip. That’s how Darby found the legend of the Blue Man that dates back to 1865 and how Blue Man Grill (2410 W. Hwy 76, Branson, 417-239-2730, bluemangrill.com) was started. It opened March 6. You can read the legendary Blue Man’s story on the restaurant’s website.
Darby and kitchen manager Isaac Diaz were introduced through a mutual friend and began creating Blue Man Grill’s hearty menu. Darby says she would be lying in bed at night and come up with a name and email it to Diaz, so he could start working on what to make. A perfect example of this is the Blue Dude Dodgers. Darby came up with the name, and Diaz decided to take a ball of mashed potatoes, stuff it with pepper jack cheese and bacon, roll it in hash browns and then deep fry it. They ended up with an ooey-gooey crunchy appetizer that is sinfully delicious.
The Blue Man is the Ozarks version of Big Foot, so all the food is made from scratch and served in heaping portions. Blue Man Grill has a large selection of burgers with third-pound patties and an 80/20 beef-to-pork ratio. This beef and pork mixture gives the burgers tons of flavor and makes them extra-juicy. Blue Man Grill can also do all beef patties if you don’t dig on swine.
The onion rings here are amazing, and we strongly suggest you order a side of Diaz’s secret recipe chipotle ranch dressing for dipping. Blue Man uses a tempura batter that results in a fluffy and crisp crust with the chipotle ranch adding a smoky kick that pairs perfectly with the sweet onion rings. Blue Man Grill also serves a homemade French dressing that Darby’s mom used to make. Darby would not give us the recipe, but she did tell us that whatever you put it on, it makes it better. Besides the Dodgers and onion rings, people are flocking to the The Big Blue burger loaded with bacon and provel cheese and the Wildman Chili Burger topped with a mountain of chili, cheddar cheese, bacon and jalapeños.—D.W.
Establishing a reputation as a top-of-the-line coffee shop is difficult enough; trying to make the shift to a full-fledged dinner destination is just about unheard of. But no one ever said The Buzz Café (2810 E. Battlefield, Ste. D, Springfield, 417-881-4442, thebuzzinc.com) owners Deborah Bellotti and Candace Carson weren’t ambitious.
After almost three years in business, the mother-daughter team—both refugees from the finance/banking industry—moved their coffee shop from East Republic Road to East Battlefield last year. With the new space came a more dining-friendly atmosphere, with more seating and less noise. So they have decided to put their longtime chef, Brandon Davis, on center stage by adding delicious dinner entrées (with prices that hover around the $10 mark) to the menu, and expanding hours to 8 p.m. every day that they’re open—The Buzz Café is closed on Sundays.
In addition to the new full-time dinner service, The Buzz Café has dinner events on the last Saturday of every month. Davis puts together a themed, high-end tasting menu for a limited number of diners. For $45 each, attendees can taste 10 to 12 courses, from smoked salmon to short ribs to a warm blackberry bacon salad (available on the daily menu now). Just call the restaurant to reserve a spot; the dinners fill up quickly.
Bellotti urges diners to set aside at least a couple of hours for the event. “I hope people take some time to experience the food,” she says, adding that the art of “enjoying a meal” has been lost in the daily hustle-and-bustle of our lives. “We’ve made the act of eating really unimportant,” she says. But with a multi-course tasting menu that lasts a couple of hours, there’s plenty to savor.
And The Buzz Café’s menu—the dinner items as well as its ongoing bakery and lunch fare—is designed for maximum enjoyment. The flexibility of the menu is one of Bellotti’s favorite things about The Buzz Café. The flexibility trend is even taken so far, on occasion, to include “surprise salads” where whatever Davis finds at the market that day goes in the salad, and diners order without knowing what it will include. It’s the rare chance for diners to be as ambitious and bold as the folks in charge.—M.L.
Aviary Cafe and Creperie (400 E. Walnut St., Suite 100, Springfield, 417-866-6378, aviarycafe.com) owner Debbie Burgess says she and her husband, Mark, had both toyed with the idea of opening a restaurant before they met. They didn’t have specific experiences in restaurant ownership. “But we like to eat,” Burgess says.
Burgess had enjoyed visiting creperies in big cities and saw them as a versatile theme; you can put anything in a crepe and please a lot of people. In the fall of 2010, she says, they got serious. All they needed was the chef.
That’s where John Allen comes in. “The way we found him was very serendipitous,” Burgess says. She and Mark had found the space Aviary currently occupies, and they were returning with a real estate agent for a second look. A man was there painting, and he happened to be an instructor at Victory Trade School. He mentioned that he had a promising student who was getting ready to graduate: John Allen. Allen cooked a meal for the Burgesses as a sort of audition, and he won them over right away.
Now Allen is creating the dishes that have won over Springfieldians, too, at the adorably decorated 48-seat restaurant. There are luscious Limoncello dessert crepes, decadent steak and bleu cheese crepes, beautiful salads and monthly theme dinner menus. The menu is affordable, too, with dessert crepes costing around the $10 mark, and entrée crepes around $10 to $15.
Burgess says opening their first restaurant together has been a lot of work, and they have seen challenges along the way. But it’s all worth it. “It’s a labor of love and a love of labor,” she says. They’ve even expanded the business to include a food truck, Aviary on the Fly, that serves up crepes at Farmers Market of the Ozarks, catering projects and on the street.—K.E.
Paul Sundy is at it again. Well-known in the restaurant world for his part ownership in Springfield’s three Big Whiskey’s American Bar & Grill restaurants, two Parlor 88 Lounges and downtown’s Fedora Social House, Sundy recently teamed up with a handful of his usual partners to open Dublin’s Pass (2767 W. Republic Rd., Springfield, 417-877-7625, dublinspass.com). Along with Matt Caetano, Mike Heslin, Randy Gildehaus and Jame Clark, Sundy opened the Irish Pub-themed restaurant in June 2011. Sundy describes Dublin’s Pass as a low-key Irish-style pub. The group wanted to open an Irish-themed bar to fill a gap that wasn’t yet met in Springfield, they say.
Dublin’s Pass is dimly lit, and the décor looks just like what you’d expect to see in an Irish pub: filled with blacks, grays and browns yet surprisingly upbeat and friendly. Tucked away on West Republic Road, it’s actually quite large inside with room for a pool table, plenty of seating and live Irish music on the weekends. The menu itself isn’t quite as large, but it has a strong Irish theme. “We specialize in all things Guinness,” Sundy says. This includes an entire page of Guinness mixed drinks on the back page of the menu and many of the spot’s specialty dishes, including Guinness wings, a Guinness burger and the Dublin nachos, which are layered with Guinness cheese sauce. Don’t want to eat your beer? That’s okay, too, because you can drink it. “It takes 119.53 seconds to pour the perfect pint,” Sundy says. In just less than two minutes, the team at Dublin’s pours their Perfect Guinness pint, a beer Sundy says has just the right consistency, and the time is broadcast to the entire bar via a digital clock.
Menu favorites at Dublin’s Pass include the cottage pie, a dish of chopped steak, celery, onions, carrots and peas with rich brown gravy that’s topped with mashers. Diners also love the Scottish eggs: pickled, hard-boiled eggs wrapped in sausage and bread crumbs and lightly fried. And you can also order items such as a Reuben, bangers and mash, an open-face corned beef sandwich or fish and chips. But when it’s time to pay, you won’t find any computers. “It’s all hand-written, like it would be in a real Irish Pub,” Sundy says. “We don’t use computers here for a reason. It’s a very low-key, relaxed place.”—S.W.
For 417-landers who have been keeping up with the Asian dining scene—particularly in Springfield—since the mid-’00s, it might be easy to convince yourself that there’s nothing new under the sun. Chinese is ubiquitous, Japanese is everywhere, and even Indian, Korean and Thai have landed on the scene. But what if you could get all of these tastes on one menu, with nothing priced higher than $10 to boot?
Open, (Blu) Sesame.
The eclectic Asian bistro Blu Sesame (431 S. Jefferson Ave., Ste. 172, Springfield, 417-719-4141, blusesame.com) in the Wilhoit Plaza in downtown Springfield opened in July 2011, but the menu is anything but dated. The brainchild of longtime friends Arthur Coats and Angel Kim, Blu Sesame features items inspired from across Asia. The top three menu items, according to Coats, show off the range nicely: Korean BBQ, thin-sliced, marinated meats with soy, garlic and citrus; Japanese sushi (many rolls you’d expect, and some you wouldn’t); and Vietnamese stir-fry.
“I think our variety sets us apart,” says Coats, who is the face of the business, sets the menu and serves as head chef. Coats grew up in a local restaurant family—Silk Road and Mijuri are both tied to his uncle. He says at any given time Blu Sesame’s menu will feature 40 or so items, not a single one more than $10.
While diverse and affordable are the staples of the Blu Sesame concept, there have been some changes since the restaurant opened. Gone is Side-by-Side Dessert Bar, the short-lived sweets spot that took up nearly half of Blu Sesame’s space. Currently under construction is a bar space (the restaurant only serves bottled beers right now), which Coats hopes to open by the time students return for the fall semester.—M.L.
In 1989, Enoch Morris was the opening executive director of Juanita K. Hammons Hall for the Performing Arts, making him one of the first individuals to give 417-landers the opportunity to see first-class artists performlive. A little more than 20 years later, Enoch teamed up with his wife and kids to open Enoch’s BBQ & Southern Classics (2101 W. Chesterfield Blvd., Suite B102, Springfield, 417-881-2888, enochsbbq.com), a Southern-style restaurant they say is the first of its kind in 417-land.
Enoch owns the spot with his wife, Debbie, and the two run the restaurant with help from their daughters, Devon Morris and Ryanne Farabee, and son-in-law, Andrew Farabee. “We go above and beyond to make it have a family atmosphere for everyone,” Ryanne says. “We want it to be a place where you go and you feel like you’re going home.”
Enoch is originally from Memphis, and Debbie is from North Carolina. That’s why they both have first-hand experience in preparing many popular Southern dishes, including barbecue. “Enoch has been smoking food pretty much all his life,” Debbie says. Today, he’s the head honcho in charge of preparing the restaurant’s tasty meat selection, which includes St. Louis-style ribs, slow-smoked brisket, southern pulled pork, tender turkey breast and smoked chicken.
But that’s not all the spot serves. The blue plate specials change daily Monday through Friday and feature things such as fried chicken, meatloaf and fried catfish. And in addition to the usual sides of cole slaw, smokedbarbecue beans, Southern green beans, potato salad, fresh-cut fries and onion rings, the spot creates a homemade Brunswick stew, a tomato-based Southern classic made with smoked meats and veggies. And they have daily side specials, too. “You just don’t know what you’re going to get,” Devon says. “It’s kind of like, ‘What’s Mama going to make for dinner?’” Past specialty sides have included mashed potatoes and a super-popular baked macaroni and cheese. No matter what you order, you can bet it will be delish, and you can always know that you’ll be welcomed with Southern hospitality.—S.W.
The newest and best addition to Branson Landing is Black Oak Grill (601 Branson Landing, Branson, 417-239-0063), which opened back in April. The restaurant space is large and has a lot of glass doors on the north and east side to give you a great view of Lake Taneycomo. The best part is all the doors can be opened on nice days to let in fresh air and give the restaurant an open feel.
General Manager Scott Bryant, who has been with Consolidated Restaurants (the company that owns Black Oak Grill, Cantina Laredo and several other restaurants) for 15 years, along with trained chef Kyle Bruton have teamed up to put together a type of food they refer to as “comfort cuisine” and “mom’s down-home cooking with a twist.” Black Oak Grill does this by preparing fresh, made-from-scratch food each and every day. Bryant jokes, “The only frozen items in the restaurant are our French fries and ice.” Fish is flown in to Hollister daily, and bread is delivered fresh from Neighbor’s Mill down in Arkansas. A dedication to fresh food helps set Black Oak Grill apart from the competition. It also allows the restaurant the flexibility to make gluten-free dishes when requested. This business model is already paying off; there’s a second Black Oak Grill location opening in Omaha, Nebraska.
At Black Oak Grill customers love the chicken-fried flat iron steak, and Mom’s Meatloaf is a top performer. We had the pleasure of trying the chicken fried steak and also gave the Bald Knobber pulled pork a try. The chicken-fried steak was scrumptious from top to bottom and served with garlic mashed potatoes, sautéed mushrooms, asparagus and creamy gravy.
The pulled pork is prepared with IBC Root Beer to add sweetness, but it also has some spice from Black Oak Grill’s house-pickled jalapeños. The sweet and spicy pork is piled on a fresh pillowy soft bun and topped with fresh cilantro and curtido, a lightly fermented relish similar to kimchi or sauerkraut. In Black Oak Grill’s version of curtido, you can taste the vinegar and pepper in julienned carrots and other vegetables. It all comes together for a tremendous sandwich.—D.W.
Does your neighborhood drive-in serve prime rib? What about an impressive array of truly gourmet burgers?
Probably not. That’s the territory of more upscale eateries, not greasy spoons. But The Eagle Drive-In (422 S. Main St., Joplin, 417-623-2228) isn’t a greasy spoon. Rather, it takes some components of the typical greasy spoon theme (big ol’ burgers, piles of fries) and turns them on their heads with a gourmet twist. Those burgers come topped with things like onions cooked with malbec and clover honey. You can even get burgers with falafel or patties made from black beans, leg of lamb, buffalo, elk or even oysters.
Delicious salads are topped with primo proteins like flat iron steak or ahi tuna, and French fries are hand cut and luxuriously crispy. Appetizers include mussels cooked with pancetta and wheat beer, or plates of beautiful feta cheese served with tzatziki and pitas.
But despite not really being a greasy spoon in the literal sense, this spot doesn’t shy away from indulgence. There are beautiful pies for dessert, for example. On a recent Saturday, the special was a Frito burger: A third-pound of Angus beef that was blended into a patty along with Fritos, Frank’s Red Hot, serrano peppers and onions then topped with Swiss cheese. Now, that’s a burger.
Once you go through the front doors at The Eagle Drive-In, you see a small, cozy space that is decorated with darkly painted walls and big pieces of art. It was opened last fall by Jason and Suzanne Miller (who also own Instant Karma Hot Dogs), and it and has been serving impressive fare ever since by talented head chef Jeremy Canada.
And The Eagle Drive-In isn’t just a better-burgers joint. It is also open for breakfast with a tantalizingly tempting menu of morning fare. Homemade lamb sausage is served with onion, tomato, feta, hash browns and tortillas. (That dish is called Lambdextrous… clever.) The Norwegian burritos are filled with smoked salmon and a dill sauce. The Meat Candy Pancakes have bacon cooked right in. And a breakfast with a sense of humor: The Saturday Morning French Toast is rolled in Count Chocula, Fruity Pebbles or Captain Crunch cereal.—K.E.
at Las Margaritas
They are made with fresh, hand-squeezed juices for a super-authentic flavor.
Curry turkey wrap
at Boca Mocha
The curry sauce on this wrap is craveable, and the mix of turkey, fresh spinach and black olives go perfectly with it.
at The Flying Tomato
So crispy! But the best part is the delicious mustard-based dipping sauce.
at Metropolitan Grill
There are four kinds of oysters on Metro Grill’s new raw bar, along with peel-and-eat shrimp and prawns.
at Avanzare Italian Dining
Now you can get authentic Italian gelato at Avanzare! It’s made by Benissimo!, based in Springfield.
at Dobyns Dining Room at The Keeter Center
Everything is always so fresh here, so it’s no wonder the mushroom risotto is mouthwateringly good.
at Ocean Zen
A new-ish addition to the menu, these boxes let you sample a variety of tasty flavors in one meal.