Best of 417 2011: Food

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Best Hot Dogs

Instant Karma Gourmet Hot Dogs >>>
527 S. Main Street, Joplin, 417-206-3647
The hot dog is typically such a lowly food. It’s what you shove onto a stick during a camping trip when there’s no other option. It’s what you smother with relish at a baseball game. But at Instant Karma, the hot dog takes center stage on the menu, and it’s dressed up in all sorts of fun and creative ways. There’s an entire section of the menu devoted to bacon-wrapped hot dogs. And there are even a few veggie dogs and a smoked salmon dog.

Editors’ Pick: Best Barbecue Companion

Potato Salad at Whole Hog Café
Whole Hog Café, 224 W. Sunshine St., Springfield, 417-868-0042, wholehogsgf.com
You might ask, “How can potato salad be that good? It’s picnic food.” Yes, it is. And sure, you can make potato salad at home. You probably have a recipe for it. Maybe something your mom taught you to make. Throw that recipe away, apologize to your mother, and grab some Whole Hog potato salad take-out instead. This stuff is creamy. It’s indulgent. It’s just the right amount of salty. It’s peppered with savory bacon. Basically, it’s like a loaded baked potato, and it’s irresistible.

Five Best Independent Restaurants

Touch
Ocean Zen
Flame Steakhouse & Wine Bar
Metropolitan Grill
Ristorante Gilardi’s

Five Best Chefs

Kevin Sparks / Nonna’s Italian American Café
Pat Duran / Metropolitan Grill
Mike Jalili / Touch Restaurant and Flame Steakhouse & Wine Bar
Nicola Gilardi / Ristorante Gilardi’s and Nicola’s
Tony Garcia / Avanzare Italian Dining

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Editors’ Pick: Best Gourmet Locavore Dining

Dobyns Dining Room
Keeter Center, 1 Opportunity Avenue, Point Lookout, 417-239-1900
The menu at Dobyns Dining Room, which is run by students at College of the Ozarks along with Chef Robert Stricklin, features fine dining with Ozarks-centric flavors using local, in-season ingredients. That means the walnuts in your dessert will most likely be black walnuts. That dessert could be topped with fresh Missouri peaches or a sauce made from local persimmons. Sausage and ham is made from locally raised meat and processed on campus. Tomatoes and green beans are grown on campus. It’s a great reminder that flavors of home and those uniquely southwest Missouri ingredients can come together in some very, very delicious ways. Try the smoked tomato soup to see what we mean.

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Orange Leaf

Orange Leaf

You can be the master of your dessert at this self service yogurt bar. With the decadent flavor choices and extensive toppings bar, the possibilities are endless!

1368 E Republic Rd.
Springfield, MO 65804
417-888-2050 
»Website

Best Treat That’s Everywhere All of a Sudden (And Won’t Kill Your Diet)

<<< Frozen Yogurt
For a while, we had nothing. We heard about this mysterious “Pinkberry” in big cities, and we longed for our own tart frozen yogurt bar. And then, there was Orange Leaf. 417-landers showed up in droves. They pulled the levers, poured the yogurt, stacked the toppings… and it was good. But it wasn’t over yet. Then Fria showed up in downtown Springfield. Now, there’s a sign advertising Fruityland frozen yogurt as “coming soon.” Now, ladies and gentlemen, we’re a yogurt town.

Editors’ Pick: Best Cuban Sandwich

Grad School
434 S. Jefferson Ave., Springfield, 417-866-8163
The ham is cut so thick. The bread is so soft and dense. Everything about this Cuban is delectable. You might think you won’t finish it, but you will. You won’t be able to resist.

Editors’ Pick: Best Relocation

Emack & Bolio’s Move to Lone Pine
3521 S. Lone Pine Ave., Springfield, 417-889-3622, emacks.net
When Emack & Bolio’s moved to the teensy-cute building on Lone Pine, we thought, “It’s so small!” Now we think, “It’s so perfect!” The outdoor seating—with its mismatched tables scattered on the lawn—is picnic-pleasant on a warm day. And the sweet little building sits right across the street from Sequiota Park, making it a great stop for families during a day at the park or grown-ups after a long run on Galloway Creek Trail. You can even get a sundae for your dog—topped with a dog biscuit.

Editors’ Pick: Best Thing That’s Ever Been Done to Squid

Salt & Vinegar Calamari at Touch Restaurant
1620 E. Republic Rd., Springfield, 417-823-8383, touch-restaurant.com
There are a lot of tasty calamari appetizers in 417-land, but the salt and vinegar calamari takes the cake. It’s not chewy (like some ill-prepared calamari we’ve had), and the salty-tart topping tastes fantastic with the squid. It’s a brilliant combo.

Best Breakfast

Gailey’s Breakfast Café >>>
Runners-Up
Anton’s Coffee Shop
Aunt Martha’s
Pancake House
Chain Winner
Village Inn
417-land has an abundance of delicious breakfast restaurants, each with its own personality. But the perennial favorite among readers in the Best of 417 Readers’ Choice Awards is Gailey’s Breakfast Café. Maybe it’s the sweet location on the bottom floor of a refurbished building. Maybe it’s the diner-style bar where you can sip a cup of coffee and watch the cooks crisp your bacon. We think it’s all about the food, including the sweet browns: hash browns made with sweet potatoes and topped with brown sugar.

Editors’ Pick: Best Use of Sweet Potatoes

Sweet Potato Fries at Big Easy Grill
3027 E. Sunshine St., Springfield, 417-832-0040
Sweet potato fries are either delicious or awkwardly bad, depending on how they are prepared. If they’re too crispy, they just taste overdone. But, more often, they lack all crunchiness and are simply soggy sticks of sweet orangyness. That’s why we love the sweet potato fries at Big Easy Grill. They are just right: crispy enough for a crunch, but still retaining the naturally sweet deliciousness of a sweet potato. Topped with a sprinkling of cinnamon sugar, these puppies are the perfect complement to a plate of extra-spicy jambalaya.

Editors’ Pick: Best Foodie Trend of 2010

Tacos. Tacos everywhere!
It seems like all of a sudden, every 417-land restaurant menu has a really phenomenal taco. Touch Restaurant, Farmers Gastropub, Prima’s and Tijuana Willie’s all have fantastic fish tacos. Grad School will put any protein (beef, chicken, fish or falafel) into its spicy Long Beach Tacos, and every single one is irresistible. Purple Burrito—which serves California street-style tacos—has opened three locations that are scattered all over Springfield (try the tacos pastor). And we even have mobile tacos in at least three taco trucks: Taco Wagon, Taco Wagon II and The Traveling Taco. You can’t swing your arms in Springfield anymore without hitting a truly mouthwatering taco.

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Nearly Famous

The Grotto

A local and veteran owned, independent restaurant committed to hard work, creativity, and a passion for food done well. Come try the adult alternative to fast food.

3046 S. Kimbrough
Springfield, MO 65807
Phone: 417-886-9600 
»Website

Best Salads

<<< St. Michael’s Sports Bar & Grill
Runners-Up:
The Grotto
Touch Restaurant
Chain Winner:
Ruby Tuesday

Sometimes, the most delicious things are also the simplest. The salads at St. Michael’s are consistently oh-so-delicious. Crisp greens. Warm, spicy chicken. Sharp bleu cheese. Crunchy sunflower kernels and delicious balsamic vinaigrette.

Editors’ Pick: Best Gyros

Vasken’s Deli
1015 Highway 248, Suite D, Branson, 417-334-9182, vaskensdeli.com
While this deli has typical lunchtime fare (pastrami, anyone?), it also has a Mediterranean flair. The star is the gyro sandwich. You can order it with chicken, but we recommend going with the lamb/beef gyro meat with tzatziki sauce.

Editors’ Pick: Best Rolls

Grant’s American Family Dining Restaurant
1759 W. State Highway J, Ozark, 417-581-6770, grantsrestaurant.com
When you’re so, so hungry, that little basket of rolls that you get before your meal can be the yummiest part of the night. We love the rolls at Grant’s because the homemade bready goodness is as beautiful as it is delicious. The bread varies, so you might get something different every time you visit: herby bread, dense foccacia bread, crusty rolls. The one thing that never changes is the rustic artisanal look and the delicious home-baked flavor.

Best Branson Restaurant

Candlestick Inn >>>
Runners-Up:
Rocky’s Italian Restaurant
Bleu Olive
Level 2 Steakhouse

Chain Winner
Cantina Laredo
Just look at that picture. What could be more romantic than wine and dinner at an A-list restaurant, with a beautiful view of Lake Taneycomo? Candlestick Inn wins in this category year after year, and with food as delicious as what’s on that menu, it’s no surprise.

Editors’ Pick: Best Moonshine

Copper Run Distillery
1901 Day Rd., Walnut Shade, 417-294-0375, copperrundistillery.com
It seemed like Copper Run Distillery sprung up out of nowhere, and now the craft distillery is getting attention for its rum, whiskey and moonshine (which is basically un-aged whiskey). Distilling rum and whiskey is strictly regulated, which is why Copper Run is one of few distilleries of its kind in the state. We give them high-fives for making moonshine—dare we say it?—cool. Visit for a tasting, or keep up with Copper Run Distillery on copperrundistillery.com, where we found a recipe for cherry-infused moonshine.

Editors’ Pick: Best Piece of Tail

Fried Alligator Tail at Outback Steak & Oyster Bar
1914 W Hwy 76, Branson, 417-334-6306
You don’t find exotic meat on all that many menus in 417-land, which is why we think it’s so much fun to order the fried alligator tail at Outback Steak & Oyster bar in Branson. Some say it tastes like a chicken finger, but alligator tail meat is more buttery and less dense than chicken meat. These tasty pieces of fried alligator tail are tender and delicious.

Best Pizza

<<< Pizza House
Runners-Up:
McSalty’s Pizza Café
Finnegan's Wake

Luigi's Pizza Kitchen
Chain Winners:
Arris’ Pizza
Imo’s Pizza
Thin, crispy and a staple in 417-land for more than 50 years. Need we say more?

Editors’ Pick: Best Use of a Garage Door

Parlor 88’s Eastside Location
3653 E. Sunshine St., Springfield, 417-823-8882, parlor88.com
Everybody loves a good patio, especially once the weather starts to warm up in the springtime. Parlor 88 does the patio one better, and opens up the whole restaurant to fresh air. The East Sunshine location of Parlor 88 has a garage-like door facing the sidewalk, which can be raised up to, essentially, eliminate that pesky wall. Happy hour with a side of sunshine? Yes, please.

Editors’ Pick: Best Melted Ice Cream… Er, We Mean Chocolate Milk

Memory Lane
Available in local grocery stores or at the Memory Lane Dairy Store, 42 Rose Petal Ln., Fordland, 417-767-2697, memorylanedairy.com
If you’re the kind of grown-up who still keeps a little Nestlé Quick in the pantry (for the kids, right?), then you need to put that powder away and grab some Memory Lane chocolate milk. The hormone-free, all-natural milk is produced in Fordland and sold in glass bottles. It’s made with whole milk and is so rich and creamy, it could easily pass for melted ice cream. But when it’s served ice-cold straight out of the refrigerator, it’s the perfect nostalgic snack. Go ahead and pour it over your Cheerios. We won’t tell.

Editors’ Pick: Best Bread Accoutrement

Balsamic and sun-dried tomato mix at Bruno’s Restaurant
416 South Ave., Springfield, 417-866-0007, brunos-restaurant.net
One of our favorite ways to eat bread at a restaurant is to dip it in something. Usually, that something is olive oil. Bruno’s takes the Italian restaurant dipping mix and brings it up a few notches. Here, you get a mixture of sun-dried tomato purée, olive oil, salt and rich balsamic vinaigrette. Together, it’s a perfect combination that soaks perfectly into the bread. We love.

 

Best Catch-It-While-It’s-In-Season Dessert

<<< Mango and Sticky Rice at Tong’s Thai Restaurant
3454 S. Campbell Ave., Springfield, 417-889-5280
The worst thing to hear after you ask for mango and sticky rice is, “I’m sorry, but we can’t get any good mangoes right now.” Noooo! Dinnertime disaster. That’s why you should take advantage of the summer months and snag some mango and sticky rice while you can. The dessert, which you can find at any local Thai restaurant, is particularly good at Tong’s. The freshly sliced fruit is served with warm sticky rice, topped with coconut milk, and it sits next to a little slice of custard that—while its gray color might be off-putting–is sweet and wonderful.

Editors’ Pick: Best Alternative to Ketchup

Fry sauce at Chester’s
2005 W. State Highway 76, Branson, 417-334-7838, eatatchesters.com
This saucy little gem is not on the menu at Chester’s; you have to ask for it. And make sure you do, because it’s the ideal complement to the restaurant’s crispy French fries. The editor who discovered this sauce says she usually dips her fries in ranch dressing.
But on a trip to Chester’s, the server suggested she try the fry sauce instead. The light pink color didn’t look appealing at first, but she gave it a shot. “It’s a greasy-spoon delicious thing,” she says. “It’s really thick and creamy, perfect for scooping onto fries. It’s yummy!”

Editors’ Pick: Best Salad Dressings

Cravin’ Pizza
3641 E. Sunshine St., Springfield, 417-890-8255
There’s one editor on staff who can’t go to Cravin‘ without ordering the homemade bleu cheese dressing. Our art director can’t resist the homemade ranch dressing. And another editor is ga-ga for the homemade Italian-style house dressing. All three of these people cannot and will not branch out; their favorite is that good. That’s the thing about the homemade dressings at Cravin‘: You can’t go wrong. They aren’t anything super-fancy, but they are incredibly well-done versions of three classics. Order any one of them, and it’ll be the best darn salad dressing you’ve had in ages.
The ranch is rich with buttermilk. The bleu cheese had gigantic chunks of cheese inside a thick and creamy base. The house is packed with herbs. They are all irresistible on the Big Salad with roasted chicken. Or as a dip for pizza. Or sopped up with garlic bread…

Editors’  Pick: Sweet Combination

Chocolate Peanut Butter Fudge Shake at Braum’s ice cream & Dairy store
Several 417-land locations; braums.com.
We’ve all heard the lines from the classic Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups commercial: “You got chocolate on my peanut butter! You got peanut butter on my chocolate!” Well, that classic combo of chocolate and peanut butter marries oh-so-perfectly in this dessert treat from Braum’s. Make sure you get your chocolate peanut butter fudge shake made with a vanilla ice cream base. The peanut butter and fudge will be enough flavorful yumminess.

Editors’ Pick: Best Risk-Taker

Metropolitan Grill
2931 E. Battlefield, Springfield, 417-889-4951, metropolitan-grill.com.

Metropolitan Grill took the no-smoking plunge earlier this year and made the entire restaurant smoke-free. (Prior to that, smoking was allowed in the bar area only.) The move came around the time One Air Alliance was pushing to make Springfield more smoke-free in public places. But Metro Grill made the decision without any ordinances. How many others will follow suit? We shall see.

Editors’ Pick: Best Mom Lunch

The Grotto
3046 S. Kimbrough Ave., Springfield, 417-886-9600, gogrotto.com
It’s not that we only see moms at The Grotto. In fact, a whole lot of not-moms on the 417 staff frequent the restaurant. But it seems that lately this spot—which is utterly packed at lunchtime—is full of moms with their kids. We think that’s because the menu has a reasonable kids menu (just $4; with $1 meals on Sundays) paired with creative grown-up friendly options: great salads, great burgers, great pizza, great gluten-free and vegetarian options. Cozy up to some bleu cheese chips, and you’ve got a great lunch date with the kids.

More Readers' Choice Winners

Best Burgers
W.F. Cody’s
Runners-Up:
Ebbets Field
Whisler’s
Chain Winner:
Fuddruckers

Best Donuts
LaMar’s Donuts
Runners-Up:
St. George’s Donut Shop
Chain Winner:
Krispy Kreme

Best Bar Food
Big Whiskey’s
Runners-Up:
W.F. Cody’s
Touch Restaurant
Parlor 88

Best Beer Menu
Patton Alley Pub
Runners-Up:
Springfield Brewing Co.
MudLounge
Chain Winner:
Old Chicago

Best Kid-Friendly Restaurant
Nakato Japanese Restaurant
Runners-Up:
Grant’s American Family Dining
Arris’ Pizza
Chain Winner:
Incredible Pizza Company

Best Place for a Romantic Dinner
Touch Restaurant
Runners-Up:
Ristorante Gilardi’s
Flame Steakhouse
Branson Winner:
Candlestick Inn

Best Casual Dining
Grad School
Runners-Up:
Farmers Gastropub
Maria’s Mexican Restaurant
Chain Winner:
Cheddars

Best Outdoor Dining

Touch Restaurant
Runners-Up:
Galloway Station
Farmers Gastropub

Best Sandwiches
Sub Shop
Runners-Up:
Grad School
Nearly Famous Deli
DiGiacinto’s Italian Restaurant
Chain Winner:
Panera Bread

Best Frozen Treat
Andy’s Frozen Custard
Runner-Up:
Pineapple Whip
Chain Winner:
Orange Leaf

Best Sushi
Haruno Sushi Bar & Grill
Runners-Up:
Kai
Ocean Zen

Best Steaks
Flame Steakhouse & Wine Bar
Runners-Up:
Jimm’s Steakhouse & Pub
Argentina Steakhouse
Chain Winner:
Doe’s Eat Place

Best Italian Food
Nonna’s Italian American Café
Runners-Up:
Avanzare Italian Dining
Ristorante Gilardi’s
Chain Winner:

Zio’s Italian Kitchen

Best Mexican Food
Maria’s Mexican Restaurant
Runners-Up:
Cielito Lindo
Mexican Villa
Chain Winner:
Cantina Laredo

 

Best Cashew Chicken
Hong Kong Inn
Runners-Up:
Lucy’s Chinese Food
Mr. Yen’s

Best Tea Room
Beth’s Bake Shoppe & Tea Room
Runners-Up:
Spring Creek Tea Room
Tea Bar & Bites

Best Coffee Place
MudHouse
Runners Up:
The Coffee Ethic
Dancing Mule Coffee Company
Hebrews Coffee
Chain Winner:
Starbucks Coffee

Best Greasy Spoon/Diner
Ziggie’s Café
Runners-Up:
Casper’s
Anton’s Coffee Shop
Chain Winner:
Steak n Shake

Best 24-Hour Restaurant
Ziggie’s Café
Runner Up:
George’s Restaurant
Chain Winner:
Steak n Shake

Best Sports Bar:
Big Whiskey’s
Runners-Up:
Ebbets Field
Skybox Grille & Lounge
Chain Winner:
Buffalo Wild Wings

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