Best of 417 Awards 2007

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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Dining (Cont.)

Best Brunch

Hemingway’s Blue Water Café
Chateau on the Lake (Branson)

Runner-up Agrario was a previous winner, but it seems readers are turning toward the array of menu options chef Marcel Bonetti offers at Hemingway’s. Bonetti is somewhat underrated, as many sophisticated diners are likely to assume that gourmet food wouldn’t find a place inside Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World. Well, it’s not Bijan’s, but it is delish. At Chateau on the Lake, the brunch buffet is one of the most beautiful breakfast spreads in the region. The final runner-up, Nixa-based Pairings Restaurant, served the most unique brunch menu in the region, by virtue of its gourmet flavor combinations, but that didn’t stop the place from closing in late October. At press time, owner Rebecca Flynn had sold the building; manager Kernan Myers was working at Rodizio, and her husband, chef Scott Myers, was doing the job-interview circuit out of town.

Best Business Lunch

Metropolitan Grill
Steak & Ale (chain)

Ocean Zen
Springfield Brewing Company

Generally speaking, Metropolitan Grill’s lunch is a get-in, get-out, gourmet affair. We’ve recently enjoyed a manicotti with golden butternut-squash sauce ($9.99) and the classic spiedini, a beef-medallion dish ($11.99). Steak & Ale, the chain winner, offers a great list of “6 for $6” dishes. While these entrées are nothing fancy, you can enjoy a simple-but-correctly made Hawaiian chicken breast with a healthy rice pilaf while getting that lunch meeting out of the way. At peak times, runner-up Ocean Zen gets a little crowded (at its current location; the restaurant is soon to move to the former Tony Roma’s on East Battlefield), so it can’t hurt to call in a reservation. Springfield Brewing Company is pretty swift at lunchtime; this time of year is perfect for trying its “Mom’s Mac & Cheese” with broccoli or chicken ($6.93 at lunch; add broccoli for 75 cents; chicken for $2). 

Best Cashew Chicken

Hong Kong Inn
Lucy’s Chinese Restaurant
Canton Inn

While voting for this category, one reader wrote, “it’s all crap.” Best Cashew Chicken generated the most negative comments, yet it’s still our signature food.

Best Chili

Steak ‘n Shake (chain winner; tie)
Wendy’s (chain winner; tie)
Fred & Red’s (Joplin winner)

Longhorn Grill

Casper’s, in the Quonset hut on Walnut Street, is the undisputed winner based on yumminess of chili and offbeat atmosphere. With five establishments showing up in your vote tallies this year, look for more articles about chili in our pages during 2007.

Best Coffee Place

Starbucks Coffee (chain)

Anton’s Coffee Shop

MudHouse has dominated this category whenever we’ve asked readers to vote about it, despite enduring the arrival of global corporation Starbucks in the past few years. While all walks of Springfield life enjoy MudHouse’s atmosphere, readers may not be aware that the shop sells a small retail selection of loose-leaf tea, coffee beans, infusers, French presses and the lot. It’s a good place to look for a birthday gift. Among the runners-up, Springfield institution Anton’s Coffee Shop makes an appearance this year, while Cassil’s, which opened on Republic Road in 2005, is also gaining well-deserved recognition (and not just for the coffee: Try lunch sometime).

Best Desserts

Gallery Bistro
Andy’s Frozen Custard (Chain)

Beth’s Bake Shoppe

Gallery Bistro’s crème caramel ($5.50) is our favorite here. If you’ve never had one before, think “chilled crème brûlée.”

Best Fast Food

Backyard Burger

Our picks: All Thickburgers—especially the chili cheeseburger with curly fries—the Wendy’s chicken strips and Back Yard Burgers’ spicy Miz Grazi Hot Stuff burger.

First-Date Place

Gallery Bistro
Flame Steakhouse
Bijan’s Sea & Grille

Once again, the Bistro surges ahead in the Best of 417 Awards. The Bistro’s small, intimate space contributes to its dateworthy status. The most private tables are those placed in the front of the restaurant, near the windows: The Walnut Street passers-by might see you; but everyone in the restaurant probably won’t hear your conversation.

Best Fried Chicken

Riverside Inn
KFC (chain)

Rosie Jo’s
the dish

Riverside Inn and KFC always reign in this reader vote, but this year’s runners-up include the dish (the lowercase lettering is on purpose), which is worth trying along with the winners: Home-cooked eats in a family-friendly, unpretentious place. Try the pie. It’s homemade by an elderly Ozarks lady.

Best Hamburger

W.F. Cody’s
Hardee’s (chain)

Flame Steakhouse
Ebbett’s Field

W.F. Cody’s always knocks this one out of the park, along with Hardee’s; among the runners-up, we like Da Duke burger at Ebbet’s ($6.25); the gourmet appetizer-burger specials at Flame Steakhouse ($3.20 at happy hour) are a new addition this year.

Best Happy Hour

Flame Steakhouse
Patton Alley Pub
Cartoons Oyster Bar & Grill

During weekdays, a professional crowd flocks to Flame, where you can get special prices on burgers and oysters before 6 p.m. Patton Alley Pub has half-price appetizers, while Cartoons has $1.35 drafts and an $8.99 dozen-oyster deal from 5 to 7 p.m. on weekdays.

Best Healthy Dining

Gallery Bistro
Panera Bread (chain)
Sprouts Soup & Salad (Joplin winner)

Wellspring Café

Gallery Bistro’s seafood tostada ($19.95) epitomizes this trend: shrimp, scallops, fresh spinach, roasted corn, molé sauce. The salads at Panera and Joplin’s Sprouts round out the healthy choices, while at Springfield’s Wellspring Café, the entire menu is vegetarian.

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