Best of 417 2015

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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Food & Drink Readers' Choice

Ocean Zen: One of the winners for 5 Best Restaurants, Ocean Zen serves up this lovely Mongolian grilled 16-ounce ribeye with green beans, bacon-cheddar mashed potatoes and brandy-Dijon cream sauce.  

5 Best Restaurants

Jimm’s Steakhouse & Pub
Aviary Café & Creperie
Ocean Zen
Flame Steakhouse
Haruno Sushi Bar & Grill


Best Branson Restaurant    

Top of the Rock

Second Place: The Keeter Center

Third Place: Level 2 Steakhouse


Best Joplin Restaurant    

Red Onion Café

Second Place: Crabby’s Seafood Bar & Grill

Third Place: Instant Karma Gourmet Hot Dogs


Best New Restaurant    

Metropolitan Farmer

Second Place: Springfield Gourmet Taco Company

Third Place: London Calling Pasty Company


Best Italian

Nonna’s Italian Café

Second Place: Avanzare Italian Dining

Third Place: Gilardi’s    


Best Breakfast

Aviary Café & Creperie

Second Place: Gailey’s Breakfast Café

Third Place: Ziggie’s Cafe    


Best Bar Food

Big Whiskey’s American Restaurant & Bar

Second Place: Dublin’s Pass

Third Place: J.O.B. Public House


Best Beer Menu

Mother’s Brewing Company

Second Place: Springfield Brewing Company

Third Place: Patton Alley Pub    


Best Salads

The Grotto

Second Place: Jimm’s Steakhouse & Pub    

Third Place: Nearly Famous Deli & Pasta House

Best Brunch

Hemingways Blue Water Cafe

Second Place: Aviary Café & Creperie

Third Place: The Keeter Center


Best Soup

French Onion Soup at Jimm’s  Steakhouse & Pub

Second Place: Deli Tomato Soup at Nearly 

Famous Deli & Pasta House

Third Place: French Onion Soup at Aviary Café & Creperie


Best Fries

Big Whiskey’s American Restaurant & Bar

Second Place: Grad School

Third Place: Ebbets Field


Best Casual Dining

Big Whiskey’s American Restaurant & Bar

Second Place: Bambinos Café

Third Place: Grad School


Best Patio

Galloway Grill

Second Place: Big Whiskey’s American Restaurant & Bar

Third Place: Springfield Brewing Company


Best Lunch

Nearly Famous Deli & Pasta House

Second Place: Jimm’s Steakhouse & Pub

Third Place: Aviary Café & Creperie


Best Gluten-Free Dining

MaMa Jean’s Natural Market

Second Place: Jimm’s Steakhouse & Pub

Third Place: The Grotto

Best Bakery Item

Maple Bacon Bar from Hurts Donut

Second Place: Cinnamon Roll from AmyCakes

Third Place: Kringle from Supreme Bakery


Best Desserts

Andy’s Frozen Custard

Second Place: Aviary Café & Crepeire

Third Place: Elle’s Patisserie    


Best Asian Dining

Haruno Sushi Bar & Grill

Second Place: Nakato Japanese Steakhouse & Sushi Bar

Third Place: Ocean Zen


Best Sushi    

Haruno Sushi Bar & Grill

Second Place: Kai    

Third Place: Nakato Japanese Steakhouse & Sushi Bar


Best Pizza


Second Place: Pizza House

Third Place: The Big Slice


Best Steaks

Flame Steakhouse

Second Place: Jimm’s Steakhouse & Pub

Third Place: The Argentina Steakhouse


Best Barbecue

Buckingham’s BBQ

Second Place: Crosstown BBQ

Third Place: Enoch’s BBQ & Southern Classics


Best Mexican Dining

Maria’s Mexican Restaurant

Second Place: Mexican Villa

Third Place: Prima’s Mexican


Best Cashew Chicken

Leong’s Asian Diner

Second Place: Hong Kong Inn

Third Place: Lucy’s Chinese


Best Chicken Wings

Coyote’s Adobe Cafe

Second Place: Big Whiskey’s American Restaurant & Bar

Third Place: Grad School


Best Tea Room

Tea Bar & Bites

Second Place: Spring Creek Tea Room

Third Place: Lola’s Pastries & Eatery


Best Coffee Shop


Second Place: Classic Rock Coffee

Third Place: The Coffee Ethic


Best Cocktail Menu

Parlor 88

Second Place: Scotch & Soda

Third Place: MudLounge


Best Happy Hour

Big Whiskey’s American Restaurant & Bar

Second Place: Touch

Third Place: Jimm’s Steakhouse & Pub


Best Vegetarian-Friendly Menu    

MaMa Jean’s Natural Market

Second Place: The Grotto

Third Place: Grad School


Best Service

Jimm’s Steakhouse & Pub

Second Place: Flame Steakhouse & Pub

Third Place: Metropolitan Grill


Best Local Beer

Three Blind Mice from Mother’s Brewing Company

Second Place: Lil’ Helper Midwest Coast IPA from Mother’s Brewing Company

Third Place: Table Rock Red Ale from White River Brewing Company


Best Food Truck

London Calling Pasty Company

Second Place: Aviary on the Fly

Third Place: The Wheelhouse


Bair’s Sports Grill, winner of the Best Burgers category, offers dozens of varieties of the meaty creations. The Bronco Buster comes loaded with sliced grilled ham, barbecue sauce, jalapeños, onion tanglers, crisp bacon, lettuce, tomato, onion and a Monterey jack and cheddar cheese blend.

Best Burgers

Bair’s Sports Grill

Second Place: Grad School

Third Place: Galloway Station


Editors' Picks

Metropolitan Grill regulars Jerry Fenstermaker and Sam Blair snack on  Spicy Calamari and  Shrimp Cocktail

Best Place to Never Have to Eat Alone

Metropolitan Grill

While it is possible to have a quiet dinner at Metropolitan Grill (2931 E. Battlefield, Springfield, 417-889-4951,, why would you? They don’t call it the Cheers of Fine Dining for nothing, you know. The restaurant has a lively, festive atmosphere, and there’s almost always someone you know to say “hi” to or catch up with. If there’s not, stroll up to the bar and strike up a conversation with the person next to you. Before long, you’ll be a regular—and if you’re really nice to owner Pat Duran, you might even have a menu item named after you.


Best Pasta Sauce

Brandy Tomato Cream Sauce from Avanzare Italian Dining

Garlic, olive oil, scallops, basil, butter, brandy, a touch of cream and just a splash of marinara sauce are all it takes to whip up this luscious sauce from Avanzare Italian Dining (1908 S. Glenstone Ave., Springfield, 417-567-3463, avanzareitaliandining). Visually, this stuff is gorgeous spooned over homemade noodles to create the Pasta alla Tony. The cream and the hearty chunks of tomatoes blend to create a dark blush hue. But the real bragging point here is that rich, silky smooth texture and the semi-sweet flavor. Ooh la la! You can thank the brandy and basil for that dash of sweetness. And for all you Avanzare regulars, you’ll be happy to know that you can even order this velvety sauce over the filet mignon. It might not be on the menu, but it’s still a regular sight in the Avanzare kitchen.


Best Happy Hour Madhouse


When it comes to gathering the group for a happening happy hour, Houlihan’s (2110 E. Republic Rd., Springfield, 417-883-3434; 2431 N. Glenstone Ave., Springfield, 417-862-7777; steals the show. Hungry revelers can soak up all the happy hour eats and drinks Monday through Saturday from 4 to 6 p.m. and again from 9 p.m. until close. Long Islands, one staffer’s personal favorite, ring in at just $4.50 a pop, while domestic draft beers cost $3.50 for a tall pour. Select wines are just $3 a glass, and small apps are all $3.95. We know a gal who fed her whole family of four off of the happy hour menu for only $20!


Best Thing That Gives Us a Big-City Feeling

Pizza by the Slice

One of the editors on staff lived in New York City for a while, and she took full advantage of the 24-hour-a-day access to a perfectly cheesy, single slice of salty, stretchy pizza. Finally, Springfield has jumped onto the bandwagon, with pizza-by-the-slice available at numerous spots, such as PaPPo’s Pizzeria, The Big Slice, Jax & Gabe’s and The Brick Slice House.


Best Taste of France

Croquembouche from European Café

How can you not love cream puffs? Tasty silky vanilla cream encased in delicate pastry—this is what dreams are made of, people! To really indulge in this European-style treat, stop in at European Café by Sweet Couture (207 Park Central East, Springfield, 417-942-5055) and special order one of the croquembouche towers. You can order this pylon of deliciousness with caramel, dark chocolate or white chocolate drizzle and even change up the flavor of the creamy filling tucked inside. Layers of tempting cream puffs rise into the sky with sticky layers of sweet caramel or chocolate gluing everything together. These are so popular that the pastry pros in the kitchen are thinking of adding mini croquembouches to the daily menu. Prices range from 99 cents to $1.40 per cream puff in the tower. So, save up and spring for an impressively tall crocquembouche tower.


Best Over-indulgent Appetizer

Loaded French fry plate at Galloway Station

Yes, you can order a plate of piping-hot, hand-cut French fries from Galloway Station (1281 E. Republic Rd., Springfield, 417-881-9730,, and you’ll be perfectly happy. But we suggest kicking things up by adding every topping available: bacon, house-made beef and bean chili and the creamy pale ale cheese sauce for $10.76. The meaty chili drowns the fries, and the crisp flavor of the pale ale cheese sauce makes this bar comfort food at its finest.


Best Place to Arrive Early

The Bar at Nicola’s

Entering the bar at Nicola’s (3631 E. Sunshine St., Springfield, 417-886-3700, is like walking into a cave. It’s dark, really dark. The kind of dark that hides wrinkles and makes you look fabulous. And because of its location, it catches the posh 65809 crowd on the way home from work. With only a handful of high-tops and one comfy lounge area, getting there by 5 p.m. is a must in order to snag a seat. The addition of a tented patio helps some, but the action is really inside, because you wouldn’t want to miss an audience with Nicola. Molto bene.


Best Soft Pretzels


These twisted beauties are everything we dream a soft pretzel will be: the perfect blend of soft and chewy, with just the right amount of big, fat, crunchy salt sprinkled on top. Plus, they look simply lovely. The crusty outside is just the right shade of dark brown, making them mouthwatering before they even cross your lips. We like to snag them at the KatieMade booth at Farmers Market of the Ozarks. Bonus for you: Owner Katie Kring is offering a pretzel-making class this month! Find details at 


Best Comfy Cocktail Spot

Barley Wheat & Rye Social House

At Barley Wheat & Rye Social House (2144 E. Republic Rd. #B401, Springfield, 417-720-1498), comfort and swank go hand-in-hand. This throw-back second-level bar is made comfy and cozy with plenty of lounge-y leather furniture. And just after you sink into a seat, you’ll be greeted by a well-educated staff member serving up top-notch whiskey, Scotch and classy cocktails from an impressive drink menu. Added bonus: There’s a stellar patio that overlooks Farmers Park, and it’s the perfect place for happy hour.


Best chill Night Out with Friends

Creek Side Bistro

When you want to spend an evening out with friends but don’t feel like dealing with the hustle and bustle of downtown, there’s no better spot than Creek Side Bistro (3830 South Lone Pine Ave., Springfield, 417-882-1899). The inside is cozy, and if you sit out by the creek, it’s like you’re on a friend’s patio with water rippling by beside you (but also with beer served to you!). There’s often live music here, too, and the homemade tortilla chips are some of the tastiest in town.


Best Giver Backer to Hard Workers

Springfield Gourmet Taco Company

There are typical tacos, and then there are tacos from Springfield Gourmet Taco Company (3120 East Sunshine St., Springfield, 417-315-8745, These delicious creations are fully customizable, loaded with flavor and easily contend for the tastiest tacos around. That’s why we are especially impressed that the restaurant gives them to groups of lucky individuals for free! Last summer, the restaurant offered one free taco to visiting teachers with valid IDs on Tuesdays, and then it offered visiting cops one free taco per visit during the fall. Currently, the teacher promotion is back on. Enjoy!


Best Thing That Ever Happened to Couscous

Couscous Salad at Beth’s Bake Shoppe & Tea Room

Lunch at Beth’s Bake Shoppe & Tea Room (1645 West Republic St., Springfield, 417-866-5533, is a delight. There’s the cutesy tearoom setting, the fully loaded dessert case and the drool-worthy menu. Among our favorite entrees here is the couscous salad. For only $7.99, you get  a mountain-sized portion of rosemary-herb couscous loaded with cucumbers, tomatoes, red onion, carrots, peas, bacon bits, feta cheese and garlic-roasted almonds, and it’s all lightly tossed in the house Italian dressing.


Best Hangover Cure that Eats Like a Meal

Bloody Meal from Dublin’s Pass

Dublin’s Pass ( takes the bloody mary seriously, and we love it. This monstrous hair of the dog cocktail starts with a one-of-a-kind bloody mary base that includes Zing Zang, Guinness, Killian’s Irish Red and vodka. It’s taken up several notches with the addition of filling garnishes: beer-battered onion rings, a pretzel bread stick, a slider and a Scotch egg. Whoa.


Best New Local Sandwich Trend


We are seeing Cuban sandwiches pop up in more and more local eateries. These hearty grilled and pressed sandwiches are practically perfect, with tender roasted pork, ham, Swiss cheese, mustard and pickles. But every menu that features a Cuban has its own tasty take on the yummy sammy. A few places to find this trendy ‘wich: Scotch & Soda, Country Girls Espresso, Market House Cafe & Bake Shop and Dagwood’s.


Best Day Date


A meal at Ophelia’s (216 E. Walnut St., Springfield) always feels like a swank affair. We visited one afternoon right at opening time during an impromptu escape. And although the sun was still bright outside, the atmosphere in Ophelia’s was dim and cozy. See our review on p. 144.

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