Dining Discoveries

If variety is the spice of life, this feature is all the seasoning you need to add a little vim and vigor to your dinners out.

DISCLAIMER: The information in this article was fact checked and accurate at press time, but 417 Magazine cannot guarantee its accuracy indefinitely.

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Aside from 10 years in New York City, Jason Miller has lived in Joplin his entire life. And when it was time to leave the Big Apple and return home, he noticed one thing southwest Missouri was missing: A spot to get a good hot dog. “In New York City, you can get a hot dog at almost every corner,” Miller says. Inspired by Crif Dogs, a hot dog hot spot in New York, Miller decided to open up a gourmet hot dog restaurant in Joplin. In creating the menu, he added fun twists to traditional dogs, creating Philly dogs, BLT dogs and more. He also added a variety of burgers to the menu, with patties made from everything from beef to salmon. A vegetarian, Miller also serves vegetarian hot dogs and even vegan items. 

In addition to an indulgent menu filled with black Angus dogs, veggie dogs, batter-dipped dogs, burgers and more, the restaurant features innovative specials. “I think our specials are what have made us so popular,” Miller says. “We’ve had duck hot dogs, lobster hot dogs, ostrich hot dogs and wild boar hot dogs. We’ve made ahi tuna burgers. There’s almost nothing you can name that we haven’t done.” The restaurant also does specialty beer dinners and vegan dinners (with faux foie gras lollipops made with Portobello mushrooms). 

Miller has managed to take the lowly hot dog to a whole new level, and he created a must-try restaurant in the process. “What a lot of people don’t know is that our restaurant is not just a hot dog stand,” Miller says. “We use china and cloth napkins. We elevate hot dogs and hamburgers.” 


From a not-so-typical take on typical bar food to fine french cuisine in Fordland, these restaurants are all doing things a little differently.


1| Dugout Does Bar Food Big

Dugout Bar & Grill & Sports & Music
1218 E. Trafficway St., Springfield
417-866-2255, dugoutsgf.com

In the middle of cooking an array of delicious dishes for hungry guests, Dugout Bar & Grill & Sports & Music co-owner Chris Lisle stopped to make himself a mouthwatering meal: a blue cheese and portobello mushroom–stuffed ribeye with bordelaise sauce. Yes, you can eat this at a bar. “I sat down to eat, and eight people came in and wanted the same thing,” Lisle says. With a large menu that features a lot of typical bar food with not-so-typical twists, this spot is a great place to enjoy watching a game and eating something more than just pretzels. 

Try it Now: The made-from-scratch onion rings.


2| Level 2 rewards Customers

Level 2 Steakhouse 
200 E. Main Street, Branson, 417-243-3433, 

Level 2 Steakhouse rewards its frequent diners with a membership in the Kut Klub. “After five dinner visits, you become a Kut Klub member,” says Nathan Read, the director of food and beverage at the Hiltons of Branson and The Branson Convention Center. This means you get to choose one of five specialty steak knives, and the restaurant will engrave it with your name and have it waiting on your table on your future visits. “We have almost 3,000 members, and close to 700 of them have knives,” Read says.  


Hot News: This year, Level 2 is dabbling with domestic Wagyu (instead of Wagyu steaks from Australia), including some from Mishima Ranch in northern California.


3| Ocean Zen Gets a New Chef

Ocean Zen
600 E. Battlefield Rd., Springfield
417-889-9596, eatoceanzen.com

Recently, Flo Eatery and Wine Bar’s Chef Rick Ramos transferred to Ocean Zen. He joins the OZ kitchen with Chef Johnson Tan, and the duo now offers Ocean Zen guests two styles of cooking. Ramos comes from New York, bringing a cutting edge and trendy touch to food prep, and Chef Johnson always keeps things elegant and gourmet European-style. 


Hot News: For the fall, Ocean Zen is introducing Wine Down Mondays, where it will offer select wine at 40 percent off.


4| You Can Cook Your Own Food at Kai

306 S. Campbell Ave., Springfield
417-832-0077, kaiafterdark.com

Looking for a not-so-ordinary experience on your next dinner out? You can be your own chef with Kai’s Hot Rock Grill. For this experience, stones are baked in a 500°F oven then brought to your table, and you can cook your own marinated beef on the rock.

Try it Now: A longtime favorite appetizer here is The Tower, which features cream cheese, mango, avocado and tuna that you can scoop up with seasoned wonton skins.


5| Food Gets a Korean Twist at Koriya

4121 S. Fremont Ave., Springfield

People often order the bibimbap at Koriya, but you should know the quick-dine hotspot also has several other menu items that are worthy of some attention. These include the bulgogi burger, which features marinated bulgogi beef served with tomato and cheese, and a teriyaki chicken burger. 

Try it Now: For a fun combo of Korean and Mexican foods, try the bulgogi quesadilla, which features bulgogi, salsa, mozzarella cheese and kimchi.


6| Bruno’s Brings a Taste of Sicily to Springfield

Bruno’s Il Ristorante 
416 South Ave., 417-866-0007, 

Bruno’s Il Ristorante owner Bruno Gargiulo and his staff make many of the restaurant’s offerings from scratch, including Sicilian sausage. “It’s made from pork shoulder, and we add salt, pepper, fennel and spices,” Gargiulo says. You can try the savory treat in the Salsiccia Siciliana Con Funghi al Vino Rosso entrée, which features the sausage sautéed with onions and mushrooms in red wine sauce. 

Try it Now: A brick oven pizza topped with homemade Sicilian sausage


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