Best of 417 2012

Our 13th annual guide to the Best Of everything in 417-land!

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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Are you ready for the big reveal?

We know you’ve been anxiously waiting to find out who won the 2012 Best of 417 Readers’ Poll Awards. After all, they’re your awards. In September, we asked 417 Magazine readers to nominate their favorite local people, places and things in more than 60 categories in the Best of 417 Readers’ Poll ballot.

You made your voices heard, and we tallied the nominations. The top vote-getters in each category went on to a second round of reader votes. The winners, as you defined them, are on these pages.

We also added Editors’ Picks to honor dozens more delicious, fun, exciting and noteworthy food, people, places, services and shopping in our corner of the state.

The following pages hold so much excitement, and we just can’t wait to share it with you. These are the things that we’re all excited about. So dig in, and find new ways to enjoy your 417-land.

Chicken Wings at Hackett Hot Wings
One of the best parts of working at this magazine is finding surprising and delicious food discoveries all over the region. During his reporting for a “5 Best Hot Wings” story, staffer Dylan Whitaker got to taste the wings at Hackett Hot Wings in Joplin. The revelation? They are, we think, the best darn wings in this corner of the state, and the hot and honey and dry Greek options are worth a drive to Joplin from wherever you happen to live.

Best Reason To Eat Dinner Super-Early
The Banh Mi Sandwiches at Rolls N Bowls
You know something is good when it is constantly selling out. You have to get to Rolls N Bowls early to get the banh mi sandwiches because they tend to run out of the homemade bread. It’s worth it to eat early or to trek over there at lunchtime. Those sandwiches are fantastic and a don’t-miss part of 417-land’s Asian cuisine landscape. The refreshing and filling banh mi consist of pork, cucumber, picked radish and carrot, loads of cilantro, fresh jalapeños and more, all served on soft Vietnamese baguettes.

Best Reinvention of Itself
Gem of India
This past year, it seems like we’ve been hearing more and more from Gem of India. The restaurant’s website is updated (and includes its truly enormous menu). It has become active on Facebook, interacting with patrons and pumping up potential diners about upcoming events. One of those was last October’s Diwali Festival of Lights. They bumped the event up to four nights and included a community aspect: A food drive. The restaurant and its skilled kitchen crew are even doing regular cooking classes now—just another way they are getting their patrons a little more involved. Our favorite change: They removed the weirdly sarcastic quotation marks from their name (Gem of “India”) and got a new logo and signage. They even put “Not everything is spicy!” on the marquee. From the street, this spot looks a little more updated, a little more welcoming. If you have been toying with the idea of giving Springfield’s Indian cuisine a try, now’s the time to do it.

Best New Foodie Trend
Bibimbap (and Other Korean Flavors)
Here at 417 Magazine, we’ve long loved the complex flavors in a big portion of Korean bibimbap, served in a crackling-hot stone bowl. So imagine our delight as that dish—along with other Korean flavors—has gained popularity in 417-land. We’ve been eating it at Soo’s Korean Restaurant and Golden Korean for years, but now you can also find it on the menu at Haruno. Jin’s Fine Asian Cuisine opened up last year with its own tasty take on the dish. And newest to the scene: Bibiya serves bibimap prepared to diners’ preferences, along with other healthy Korean options. Plus, Soo’s has remodeled and expanded its menu. We visited on a recent Tuesday night to find the place full nearly to capacity. Clearly, 417-land is loving Korean flavors.

Best Reason to Bypass the Grocery Store on Taco Night
Tortilleria Perches
This authentic Mexican eatery sells—in addition to a menu full of spectacular tacos, burritos and tamales—its homemade tortillas. You can run in and grab a package of about 25 fresh corn tortillas for around $2. It’s a steal, and it’ll impress your significant other on Taco Tuesday.

Best Soda Selection
Garden Cafe on South National
If it’s carbonated, alcohol-free and available in a glass bottle, this spot probably serves it. The selection of bottled sodas is impressive at Garden Café. Root beer variety? Got it. Old-fashioned bottles of Coke? Got ‘em. Retro stuff like Moxie? You bet! It’s worth a lunchtime stop to this pizza, pasta and sandwich spot, even if only to pop the top off of something fizzy and delightful.

Best French Onion Dip
Hammons Field
Sure you can make French onion dip at home. Sure you can buy it in a tub at the grocery store. But we don’t care how simple this dip might be; we want to sing the praises of a place that does it oh-so-well. A visit to one of the stadium’s luxury suites had some of our staff raving about the stuff. They could not stop talking about how tasty it was.

Best Garlicky Crust
Grant’s Restaurant
We already knew Grant’s had the bread thing down. The restaurant’s rolls and bread service are varying and delicious. Well, add pizza crust to the list of yeasty wonders this place produces. Slathered in garlic, it’s the perfect base for a pizza. Best part: It’s even good leftover, straight from the fridge.

Best Month for Food-and-Drink Lovers
Did anybody else notice that October has become the don’t-leave-town month for local foodies? There are loads of events to create packed calendars. If you happen to admire a good brew, there are numerous Oktoberfests, including the gigantic craft beer tasting at Brown Derby International Wine Center, the local music-beer-and-food celebration at Mother’s Brewing Company and even some smaller Oktoberfests at places like St. Joseph’s Academy. For gourmands, there was the Springfield Food Day Celebration, the Springfield Oyster Festival at Cartoon’s and the Diwali Festival of Light at Gem of India. And finally, with its new go-ahead-and-drink-on-the-Square policy, Taste of Springfield combined the foodie fanatics and the beer enthusiasts with its many outdoor booths with local restaurant fare, and plenty of Oktoberfest Village fun.

The Breakfast Buffet at Bistro Market
In the wee hours of the morning, downtown Springfield’s bar-goers start to emerge from their favorite nightlife hotspots. And they are hungry. As they wander the streets searching for something to fill their bellies and soak up the fun time they just had, they can find plenty of the obvious: late-night sandwiches, late-night drive-throughs. Lately, though, we’ve been in love with one particular downtown middle-of-the-night food option: The hot breakfast at Bistro Market. It might be delicious. It might be nourishing. It might be just what people need at the end of a fun night. But our favorite way to think of it: A method of continuing today right on until tomorrow. Oh, is it morning now? Pancakes, please!

Rocco’s Pizza & Subs
With locations in Republic, Willard and Marionville, this fast-growing little pizzeria serves up slices that are more like New York–style pizza than we’ve had anywhere else in 417-land. According to one 417 staffer, “Rocco’s serves enormous, foldable slices I want to wrap around my body.” We’re obviously not alone in our love of this spot. Its first franchise location opened in Lebanon, with more on the way.

Best Way to Meat-Up Your Veggies
Warm Bacon Vinaigrette at Beth’s Bake Shop
One of our staffers orders the same thing every time she visits Beth’s Bake Shoppe: The baby spinach salad with hot bacon dressing. The salad’s tender spinach, Mandarin oranges, red onion, egg, bacon bits, garlic-roasted almonds, feta cheese and croutons make it tasty in itself, but it’s the hot bacon dressing that makes this salad to-die-for. It’s made fresh every day with peppered bacon, red onions, vinegar and sugar, and a mouth-watering little pool of it is served warm and ready to meat-up the pile of fresh greens.

Best Meal for Indecisive Diners
Small Plates
We love the growing number of 417-land restaurants offering more and more tapas and small plates. For foodies who just can’t make up their minds, it’s a way to try a bit of everything (and share it with fellow diners, too). Houlihan’s, Flo and Touch all offer tasty, affordable small plates, and we just can’t get enough of it. Plus, it feels good to indulge our more gluttonous tendencies: Why yes, I’ll take the sliders, the fish tacos, the asparagus salad and some sushi, thankyouverymuch.

Best (Only?) Chance to Eat Kangaroo in 417-Land
Exotic Jerky at Silver Dollar City
If your only reason to trudge to one of the farthest corners of Silver Dollar City is to jump onto Powder Keg, you’re missing out. Just outside the Powder Keg exit is a tiny little shop selling exotic jerky, and finding it would be worth the walk even if it weren’t right outside a heart-stopping roller coaster. At Smokehouse Jerky & Sausage Company, you can find beef jerky alongside more interesting dried meats, like elk, boar, ostrich, alligator and kangaroo. Best part? You can even get a mixed pack and sample several options at once.

Best Super-Addictive Bite-Size Eat
Bacon-Wrapped Peppadew Peppers
You can get these little wonders at Jimm’s Steakhouse & Pub. The roasted peppadew pepper is just a little bit sweet and the perfect amount of spicy. The cream cheese filling is silky, warm and smooth. The bacon that surrounds the whole thing is always cooked to crisp perfection. And a bite that includes a little bit of each component? Well, it’s one of the most mouth-watering appetizers in 417-land, and you won’t want to share.

Best Wall o’ Beer
In a separate giant room off of the main giant grocery store, is the liquor section of Hy-Vee. And in that liquor section is a big cold room full of chilled beer. Yes, that’s impressive, but draw yourself away from it for just a second, and keep walking to the far wall of the liquor section instead. There you’ll find a big long wall with loads of bottled beer. And its expansiveness isn’t its only perk; the variety is the best part. There are tasty microbrews that just go on and on and on. It’s a new haven for Springfield beer-lovers.

Best Vista During Dinner
Candlestick Inn
The only thing that holds a candle to the food at Candlestick Inn is the restaurant’s perch up in the bluffs. What else can we say? This Branson mainstay has long held bragging rights for its lovely view. Dine outside, and you can look out over Lake Taneycomo and the hustle and bustle of downtown Branson.

Best Use of Black Light
The bathrooms at Classic Rock Coffee
Classic Rock Coffee (with its rock ‘n’ roll theme and its music blaring out onto the sidewalk) is not decked out in your typical coffee shop décor by any stretch of the imagination. And the bathrooms? With black lights? Our best advice is to just go there and see it for yourselves.

Best Place to Get a Cocktail with Your Breakfast
Coyote’s Adobe
We all know breakfast is the most important meal of the day. But the best part of breakfast at Coyote’s is that you can grab a cocktail before 11 a.m. Whether you need a little hair of the dog, or you just want to start your day with a bang, it’s a nice option. Plus, orange juice is full of vitamin C—so a screwdriver might be the healthy part of your meal when you are scarfing down the Glenstone Pile-Up.

Best Restaurant Space Makeover
Boca Mocha
It was Randy Bacon’s studio. Then it was the (sadly) short-lived Rendezvous Coffee Lounge. Now, this sweet little space on Park Central West is home to Boca Mocha, which wins our award for best restaurant makeover. The space, previously filled with lots of dark wood, is now a bright, airy and charming space with serene grays that are complemented by bright greens and happy yellows that eat up any sunshine that pours in from outside. The uplifting organic look is quite a face-lift and we love it. (The food’s pretty great, too!)

Best Coffee with a Side of Draft Beer
Coffee Ethic
We love Coffee Ethic’s top-notch coffee, espresso and tea drinks. But did you know the spot also serves up beer? It’s true. This superb little coffee house also has a few superb little microbrews on tap, giving us yet another reason to swoon.

Best Condiment to Clear Your Sinuses
Hot mustard at Leong’s Asian Diner
For all the nostalgic reasons to visit Leong’s Asian Diner (original Springfield–style cashew chicken, egg rolls reminiscent of Leong’s Asian Tea Room), our favorite menu item is simply a condiment. The hot mustard has an intense sinus-clearing punch of wasabi that we just can’t get enough of. If you like spicy bites like we do, you’ll want to slather this stuff all over everything you order. It’s good on crab rangoon, egg rolls, rice… you name it. Maybe not dessert.

Five Best Restaurants
Grad School
Jimm’s Steakhouse & Pub
Ocean Zen Pacific Rim
Metropolitan Grill
Flame Steakhouse & Wine Bar
Touch Restaurant
Avanzare Italian Dining
Ristorante Gilardi’s
Aviary Café and Creperie
Haruno Sushi & Grill

Best Chef
Mike Jalili of Touch Restaurant and
Flame Steakhouse & Wine Bar
Nicola Gilardi of Ristorante Gilardi’s
and Nicola’s Ristorante
Pat Duran of Metropolitan Grill
Kevin Sparks of Nonna’s Italian Cafe
Tony Garcia of Avanzare Italian Dining
Best Branson Restaurant
Candlestick Inn
Level 2 Steakhouse
Table 22
Dobyns Dining Room at The Keeter

Best Joplin Restaurant
Red Onion Café
Woody’s Woodfire Pizza
Crabby’s Seafood
Mythos Euro-Kuzina

Best Burgers  
Ebbets Field
Grad School
The Grotto

Best Breakfast
Gailey’s Breakfast Café
Anton’s Coffee Shop

Best Donuts
St. George’s
Daylight Donuts
Ray’s Donuts
Chain Winner
Krispy Kreme

Best Bar Food   
Big Whiskey’s American Bar & Grill
Ebbets Field
The Roost

Best Sports Bar
Big Whiskeys American Bar & Grill
Ebbets Field
Bair’s All-American Sports Grill
Chain Winner
Buffalo Wild Wings

Best Beer Menu
Patton Alley Pub
Big Whisky’s American Bar & Grill
Parlor 88
Finnegan’s Wake

Best Kid-Friendly Restaurant
Incredible Pizza Company
Mexican Villa

Best Romantic Restaurant
Flame Steakhouse & Wine Bar
Ristorante Gilardi’s
Metropolitan Grill

Best Casual Dining
Maria’s Mexican Restaurant
Nearly Famous Deli & Pasta House
Bambino’s Café

Best Outdoor Dining
Galloway Station
Springfield Brewing Co.
Touch Restaurant

Best Frozen Treat  
Andy’s Frozen Custard
Orange Leaf Frozen Yogurt
Gelato Mio
Pineapple Whip

Best Sweets Shop
The Cup
Beth’s Bake Shoppe
Elle’s Patisserie

Best Sushi
Haruno Sushi & Grill
Nakato Japanese Restaurant
Ocean Zen Pacific Rim
Mijuri Sushi Bar & Grill

Best Pizza
Pizza House
Bruno’s Restaurant
Cravin’ Pizza
Chain Winner
Arris’ Pizza

Best Steaks
Flame Steakhouse & Wine Bar
Jimm’s Steakhouse & Pub
Doe’s Eat Place
Argentina Steakhouse

Best Cashew Chicken
Leong’s Asian Diner
Hong Kong Inn
5 Spice China Grill

Best Tea Room
Tea Bar & Bites
Beth’s Bake Shoppe
Spring Creek Tea Room

Best Greasy Spoon
Ziggie’s Café
Anton’s Coffee Shop

Best 24-Hour Restaurant
Ziggie’s Café
Chain Winners
Steak n Shake
Waffle House

Best Salads
The Grotto
Nonna’s Italian Café
St. Michael’s Sports Bar & Grill

Best Sandwiches
Nearly Famous Deli & Pasta House
St. Michael’s Sports Bar & Grill
Big Easy Grill

Best Mexican Food
Maria’s Mexican Restaurant
Cielito Lindo
Tortilleria Perches
Chain Winner
Cantina Laredo

Best Coffee Shop
hebrews coffee
The Coffee Ethic
The Buzz

Nonna’s Italian Café
Avanzare Italian Dining
Ristorante Gilardi’s

It has exceedingly darling décor and a menu that would lead even the most reluctant diner to drool. Maybe that’s why you chose Nonna’s Italian Café (pictured here) as the Best of 417 Readers’ Choice winner for Best Italian.

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