Best of 417 2014

Your guide to the best of everything to eat, do, buy and enjoy right here 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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Readers' Choice Food & Drink

5 Best Fine-Dining Restaurants
Haruno Japanese Sushi Bar & Grill
Flame Steakhouse & Wine Bar
Aviary Cafe and Creperie
Jimm’s Steakhouse & Pub
Best New Restaurant
The Big Slice
Second place: Iguana Roja Restaurante
Third place: Café Cusco
Best Chef
Johnson Tan
Second place: Mike Jalili
Third place: Peter Tinson
Best Burgers
Bair’s All-American Sports Grill
Second place: Grad School
Third place: Big Whiskey’s
Best Branson Restaurant
The Keeter Center
Second place:
Level 2 Steakhouse
Third place:
Florentina’s Ristorante Italiano
Best Bakery Item 
Cinnamon rolls from Amycakes Bakery 
Second place: Caramel rolls from Tea Bar & Bites Bakery, Café and Catering
Third place: Croissants from Elle’s Patisserie
Best Joplin Restaurant
Red Onion Café
Second place: Crabby’s Seafood Bar & Grill
Third place: Instant Karma Gourmet Hot Dogs
Best Bar Food
Big Whiskey’s 
Second place: Dublin’s Pass
Third place: J.O.B. Public House


⬆Best Italian
Nonna’s Italian Café
Second place: Avanzare Italian Dining
Third place: Ristorante Gilardi’s

Best Fries
Grad School
Second place: Big Whiskey’s
Third place: Ebbets Field 
Best Place for Lunch
Grad School
Second place: Nearly Famous Deli & Pasta House
Third place: The Grotto
Best Salads
The Grotto
Second place: Jimm’s Steakhouse & Pub
Third place: Nearly Famous Deli & Pasta House
Best Desserts
Andy’s Frozen Custard
Second place: The Cup
Third place: Aviary Cafe and Creperie
Best Brunch
Hemingway’s Blue Water Café
Second place: Aviary Cafe and Creperie
Third place: Gailey’s Breakfast Café
Best Pizza
McSalty’s Pizza Cafe
Second place: Pizza House
Third place: Rocco’s Pizza & Subs
Best Casual Dining
Big Whiskey’s 
Second place: The Grotto
Third place: Farmers Gastropub
Best Breakfast
Gailey’s Breakfast Café
Second place: Aunt Martha’s Pancake House
Third place: Aviary Cafe and Creperie 
Best Outdoor Dining
Second place: Big Whiskey’s
Third place: Bambino’s Café
Best Steaks
Flame Steakhouse & Wine Bar
Second place: Jimm’s Steakhouse & Pub
Third place: The Argentina Steakhouse


With a plethora of homemade brews up for grabs, Springfield Brewing Company won for the best beer menu.

⬆Best Beer Menu
Springfield Brewing Company
Second place: Patton Alley Pub
Third place: Farmers Gastropub

Best Soup 
Tomato soup at Nearly Famous Deli & Pasta House 
Second place: French onion soup at Jimm’s Steakhouse & Pub
Third place: Loaded potato soup at The Hungry Farmer
Best Tea Room
Tea Bar & Bites Bakery, Café and Catering
Second place: Spring Creek Tea Room
Third place: Beth’s Bake Shoppe & Tea Room
Best Barbecue
Buckingham’s Smokehouse BBQ
Second place: Crosstown BBQ
Third place: Enoch’s BBQ & Southern Classics 
Best Coffee Place
The Mudhouse
Second place: Classic Rock Coffee
Third place: Hebrews Coffee
Best Asian Dining
Nakato Japanese Steakhouse & Sushi Bar
Second place: Ocean Zen Pacific Rim
Third place: Haruno Japanese Sushi Bar & Grill
Best Cocktail Menu
Parlor 88
Second place: Scotch & Soda
Third place: MudLounge
Best Sushi
Haruno Japanese Sushi Bar & Grill
Second place: Kai
Third place: Nakato Japanese Steakhouse & Sushi Bar 
Best Happy Hour
Big Whiskey’s 
Second place: Touch
Third place: Parlor 88
Best Mexican
Maria’s Mexican Restaurant
Second place: Prima’s Mexican Restaurant
Third place: Mexican Villa
Best Vegetarian-Friendly Menu
MaMa Jean’s Natural Market
Second place: The Grotto
Third place: Grad School
Best Cashew Chicken
Leong’s Asian Diner
Second place: Hong Kong Inn
Third place: 5 Spice China Grill
Best Service
Jimm’s Steakhouse & Pub
Second place: Metropolitan Grill
Third place: Big Whiskey’s
Best Chicken Wings
Coyote’s Adobe Café & Bar
Second place: Big Whiskey’s
Third place: Grad School


We can’t get enough of the sorbet push pops from Benissimo! Gelato & Sorbet.

⬆Best Portable Sweet Treat
Push pops from Benissimo! Gelato & Sorbet
Locally made sorbet, served in push-pop form? We love it! Because we love anybody who makes sorbet that we can eat while we also keep one hand free to hug our kids, walk our dogs, tweet our tweets, ride our bikes or high-five our neighbors. The lemon sorbet and raspberry sorbet are both exceptional. You can find Benissimo! Gelato & Sorbet’s sorbet push pops at Farmers Market of the Ozarks. 

Best Unexpected Place for a Great Cuban Sandwich
Country Girls Espresso
First things first: When you order a Cuban sandwich at Country Girls Espresso (2671 E. Sunshine St., Springfield, 417-877-7777), make sure you ask for it pressed. The hot presentation takes this amazing sandwich to the next level. Cuban bread is packed with tender roasted pork, ham, Swiss cheese, mustard and pickles. It’s hearty and huge, and we would eat it twice a day if that weren’t weird.

Best Hidden Gem
Pavilion Grill at Hilton Garden Inn 
When you’re looking for a local dinner spot with a tasty menu, don’t forget to check out what’s inside the Hilton Garden Inn (4155 S. Nature Center Way, Springfield, 417-875-8800). More than just a ho-hum hotel eatery, this spot features good food that’s made with local ingredients. Plus, they recently served up one of the best homemade barbecue sauces we’ve ever had—the bourbon peach ancho sauce on the pork shanks entrée.

Best Salad Bar
MaMa Jean’s Natural Market
You can truly eat the rainbow on the salad bar at MaMa Jean’s Natural Market (three Springfield locations,, with beautiful fresh veggies of every color. Dressings are homemade—we loved the seasonal basil-lemon dressing last summer, or the creamy ginger anytime—and the bar features delicious toppings you don’t see on other salad bars: pumpkin seeds, hemp hearts, wasabi peas, purple cabbage, roasted Brussels sprouts, goat cheese and more. It’s also pricier than other grocery store salad bars, but we think it’s worth it. In fact, we are a little bit addicted.

Best Authentic Cappuccino
The Coffee Ethic
This cappuccino is made the way it should be—served in a tiny little portion, always perfectly brewed with a perfect little design on the perfect amount of perfectly fine foam. We savor this cappuccino every time we go to The Coffee Ethic (124 Park Central Square, Springfield, 417-866-6645). It’s not a drink to get in a monstrous to-go cup. It’s a drink to savor while you sit down to catch up with a good book or an old friend. 

⬆Best Bar with a Big-City Feel
Scotch & Soda
When we want to feel sophisticated (or, let’s admit it, super-cool) when we drink, we like to head to Scotch & Soda (310 South Ave., Springfield, 417-719-4224). The swank interior makes us feel like we’re in a much bigger city, and the window seating that looks out onto downtown Springfield makes for some great people-watching. The drinks menu is filled with carefully crafted cocktails that look as pretty as they taste and often feature house-made infusions and a just-right little garnish. It’s like taking a little vacation, if only for happy hour. 

Best Something-for-Everyone Sweets Shop
Elle’s Patisserie
We don’t think it’s possible to walk into Elle’s Patisserie (1454 E. Cherry St., Springfield, 417-832-2171) and not find something you’ll drool over. The shop is teensy, but the menu is delectable. Are you a chocoholic? Get the salted caramel truffle. Hungry for breakfast? Pecan sticky bun. Adventurous sweet tooth? Queen City Cayenne ice cream. Want something that tastes pretty? Lavender iced coffee. Lover of fluff? Homemade marshmallows. And with a darling little patio outside a darling little purple building, it’s the perfect stop to relax with friends on a warm spring day.

Best Fish Tacos
Café Cusco
Fish tacos are like heaven. Fish tacos that are full of ceviche are like heaven covered in glitter and outfitted with strobe lights. Party time! At Café Cusco (234 E. Commercial St., Springfield, 417-868-8088), typical grilled or fried fish is replaced with the restaurant’s zippy tilapia ceviche for a taco that’s two steps above other fish tacos on the bold flavor scale. They’re topped with a mild pico de gallo, fried potato straws and salsa verde.

Best Picnic With Strangers
SGF Mobile Food Park
Mix and mingle with other fresh-air diners at the SGF Mobile Food Park located in the Transport Graphics parking lot (836 N. Glenstone Ave., Springfield). There you’ll find food trucks featuring fare for just about every taste bud. Grab a huge, hot pasty (the perfect outdoor food to warm your hands on a cold day) at London Calling Gourmet Pasty Company and sit down inside the red double-decker bus to stay warm. Satisfy your Thai or Mexican (or both!) craving with a burrito from The Wheelhouse. Dig into a crepe from Aviary on the Fly. Hunker down with some meaty burnt ends from Smokin’ Bob’s BBQ. Feel good about sipping some fresh juice from The Big Red Juice Truck. Wrap your hands around a mighty big burger from Hers Cookin. And double-fist some Hawaiian chicken kabobs from Speedy’s Cowabunga. But what we love even more than the variety of food available in one open-air food haven is the fact that you might run into a friend or make a new one while you stand in line.

⬆Best New Love of Our Lives
Legacy Bagelry
Legacy Bagelry (3049 S. Fremont Ave., Springfield, 417-501-1345) is the total package: Real boiled New York–style bagels. Homemade schmear in luscious flavors like the zippy chive or the indulgent chocolate. A simply delicious kale salad that knocks our socks off every time. Beautiful braided challah bread that’s so good you might finish a loaf by yourself. (Our editor may or may not have done this over the course of one weekend.) Sweet owners who are always good for a quick chat when you pop in to grab your breakfast. We love this place. Period. 

Best Weekly Special
Tamale Thursday at Tortilleria Perches
We won’t lie; we really, really love a good deal. And our very favorite way to get a good deal is to go to Tortilleria Perches (1601 W. Sunshine St., Springfield, 417-864-8195) for Tamale Thursday, when we can get tamales for just 99 cents each all day long. Why is this our favorite deal? Well, in addition to be suckers for value, we’re suckers for killer tamales, and the ones at Tortilleria Perches never disappoint. Pair them with some chips and salsa, and you have yourself a thrifty meal. 

Best Dining With a Lake View
D’Monaco Restaurant
Overlooking a gorgeous stretch of Table Rock Lake, D’Monaco Resort (4125 State Highway 86, Ridgedale, is the place to go for a romantic meal with an unencumbered lake view. The only downside: The spot is seasonal, and you’ll have to wait until late May to pop in for a meal. (It stays open through September or early October depending on the weather.) While you’re there, make a weekend of it and stay in one of D’Monaco’s huge luxury villas. 

Best Whiskey Selection
J.O.B. Public House
If you are a whiskey connoisseur or just want to branch out and try some new varieties, then you want to pay a visit to J.O.B. Public House (319 E. Walnut St., Springfield, 417-831-1158). The whiskey lovers on our staff swear by it. It offers up more whiskeys by-the-drink than any other Springfield bar, which means you can sip and sample to your heart’s content.

Best Restaurant Remodel
Springfield Pasta Company becomes Cantina Laredo
If you’ve ever eaten at Springfield Pasta Company, the Italian eatery that used to be located at National Avenue and Highway 60, then you need to make sure you pop into the new Cantina Laredo that took its spot (4109 S. National Ave., Springfield, 417-881-7200). We watched the exterior of the building change shape during construction, and the end result looked like it couldn’t possibly have started out as the same building. The new façade is modern, and the interior has been updated for a more sunshine-lit look. It’s the same Cantina Laredo you loved in Branson, in a building that had quite the attractive makeover.

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