Best of 417 2017

See which food, activities, people and places made the cut.

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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Editor's Picks: Food & Drink

Best Way to Be Noncommittal About Your Beer Order: Halfski portions at Brew Co.

Sometimes decisions are simply too hard to make. What should you watch on Netflix? Where should you go to dinner? And most importantly, what beer should you order to wash down those wings? Springfield Brewing Company has long been wise to this struggle, so they started offering halfski portions to make your life a little bit easier. Available with all of Brew Co’s draft beers, these handy dandy halfskis are served in 7- or 8-ounce pours, which means you can try two beers instead of one (or four beers instead of two, or eight beers instead of four... ) Halfskis are available with most of the brews on draft, so you can continue mixing and matching until happy hour turns to dinner and dinner turns to dessert. Before you know it, you’ll only have one hard decision left: when can you come back for more?

 

Best Lunch Break Steals: Rama Thai

At Springfield’s Rama Thai Café (1129 E. Walnut St., Springfield; 417-865-3204), the staff has the lunch rush down to a science. There’s always a crowd, but food flies out of the kitchen quickly and at prices and portion sizes that are a real lunchtime treat. For $6.95, you can get one of about three dozen delicious Thai dishes, house soup, house salad and a crispy little crab Rangoon. Our favorite lunchtime eats at Rama Thai: curry noodle. It’s so good, it makes us giddy.

 

Lighten up the Crump Classic grilled cheese at Druff’s by ordering the zesty quinoa salad as your side. We think you may like it even more than the melty goodness.

 

Best Local Mold: Ozark Mountain Blue Cheese by Edgewood Creamery

We appreciate the pungency of a quality marbled blue just as much as the next guy, but that doesn’t mean we haven’t sampled a hunk or two that tasted a bit too much like “blue” and not quite enough like “cheese.” Then we started eating the Ozark Mountain Blue cheese by Edgewood Creamery, and we watched that occasional problem float away into a dairyland of darkness. Edgewood Creamery’s Ozark Mountain Blue is the oddball in a class full of moody blues—it’s a bit milder than the traditional and packs in plenty of non-marbled goodness to balance each bite. How should you try it? Mixed into dressing. Sprinkled on steak. Licked out of the palm of your hand. Eaten with anything you want or with nothing at all, this cheese is gonna please. Pick some up at the creamery or a local retailer, such as MaMa Jean’s Natural Market.

 

Best Salad That’s So Good You Might Choose it Over Grilled Cheese: Quinoa salad at Druff’s

There’s no doubt that Druff’s makes a mean grilled cheese. Actually, they make hundreds of them and in about a dozen varieties. But unfortunately for us all, man cannot live on grilled cheese alone. That’s no reason to cry, though. Those people at Druff’s—the same people who are making all of those amazing grilled cheese sandwiches—they also whip up a delicious quinoa salad. Made with black beans, tomato, cilantro, green onion, olive oil and lemon juice, the salad is light, zesty and full of fresh flavor. Order it as a side with your sammie to freshen up your meal, or order it alone to cut back on calories. If you’re feeling really crazy, you can even order it with a cup of the restaurant’s creamy tomato soup and mix them together—an odd-yet-tasty combo enjoyed by several regulars.

The salmon and goat cheese quiche with cafe salad is just one dish that put Tea Bar & Bites at the top.

Best Super-Anticipated Expansion of a Brand: The Opening of CB Social House

Although Cody Smith and Jeremy Smith aren’t related, they still have common bonds: the two love to craft quality food, and they share ownership of two amazing Springfield restaurants. The duo opened City Butcher and Barbecue in November 2014, and 417-landers have been head over heels for the southside restaurant’s finger-licking-good barbecue since day one. Then in August 2016 the two struck again, opening downtown Springfield’s CB Social House and bringing us first-class steaks and other upper-echelon fare, plus well-crafted cocktails from a jaw-dropping bar. Since we often found ourselves pulling out of the City Butcher and Barbecue parking lot empty handed due to sold-out ’cue, we were more than pleased when CB opened and granted us a second chance to snag more of the Smiths’ foodie fixins. Fried chicken skins? Smoked prime rib? 42-ounce Tomahawk Ribeye? Yes, yes, yes!

 

Best Homemade Condiment: Homemade ketchup from Lindberg’s Tavern

Some people put ketchup on everything, even on their ketchup; others turn their noses up at the sweet tomato-y concoction. But regardless of your feelings on French fries’ best friend, you have to try the ketchup at Lindberg’s Tavern (318 W. Commercial St., Springfield; 417-868-8900). The crew at this Commercial Street hot spot mixes up roughly five gallons of homemade ketchup each week, blending surprising yet tasty treats like candied ginger and White River Brewing Company’s Table Rock Red Ale into the signature recipe. The flavors of this ketchup are still familiar enough for purists to classify it as the classic condiment, but there’s also a little extra pizazz that makes it light years better than a blob of plain ol’ Heinz. When this ketchup is served with a crispy pile of Lindberg’s hand-cut fries, you’ll dip, dip, dip your way to a delightfully full belly. 

 

Best Delicious Intersection: Pickwick and Cherry

When we get a hankerin’ for something sweet, salty or simply delicious, we take a drool-induced drive to the intersection of Pickwick Avenue and Cherry Street. Deemed by us as the best delicious intersection in Springfield, this crave-worthy corner is home to six spots serving up all things scrumptious. Progressive meals here are a breeze, with Tea Bar & Bites Bakery and Café, B+B Boulangerie & Fair-Weather Café and Cherry Picker Package X Fare offering sharable tapas, freshly baked breads and quality cakes, pies and other desserts. You’re craving Italian? Head to Ott’s Pasta for a plate of carby-goodness, or swing into Imo’s Pizza for a crispy thin crust pie blanketed with a sea of melty Provel. Complete your caloric quest with a scoop of homemade ice cream or a salted caramel truffle at Elle’s Patisserie.

 

Best Insider Tip: Order salad on salad at Derby Deli

We’ve all been there before: you know you should order a salad for lunch, but there’s part of you that wants something more. Not something greasy or fried, but something more substantial than lightly dressed greens. Enter Derby Deli at Brown Derby International Wine Center (2023 S. Glenstone Ave., Springfield; 417-883-4066), which is where you’ll find our favorite salad-on-salad combo in Springfield. On a recent trip to the restaurant with a craving for that more-than-salad-yet-still-salad in mind, one staffer ordered the Simply Green Salad with a scoop of the spot’s to-die-for tarragon chicken salad on top. The simply green features mixed field greens, arugula, freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, Marcona almonds and house-made lemon vinaigrette. The chicken salad has chicken breast, tarragon, parsley, celery, green onion, mayo, salt, pepper and a splash of lemon juice. Together, they’re a match made in salad-on-salad heaven.

 

Best Funky Treats: La Boba Café

If you’re a fan of boba tea, you probably squealed with joy when you found out about La Boba Café (1601 W. Sunshine St., Springfield; 417-720-1328). A real boba joint! Although we usually see young adults lounging on the swanky sofas in La Boba, we like to go there with our kids. The place is full of creative and fun treats. You can get La Cream Rolls (actual rolls of freshly made ice cream topped with whatever you want). And the boba tea menu is huge. It can be served with or without milk; on ice or frozen; and topped with boba, juice-filled popping boba or jellies that come in many flavors. As Dr. Seuss would say, it’s hard for a mind maker-upper to make up his mind. Here are two good ones to start with: matcha milk tea with lychee jellies or taro milk tea with yogurt-flavored bursting boba. 

Dig into La Boba Café’s new take on s’mores—the Bonfire. Ice cream rolls are topped with Hershey’s chocolate syrup, graham crackers and toasted marshmallow. Order it with the La Boba Special, made with Black Milk Tea, Black Boba and Grass Jelly.

Best Place to Score Homemade Pasta: Salvatore’s Fresh Ristorante Italiano 

Pasta isn’t supposed to come from a bag, a box or even a plastic tub. No. It’s supposed to come fresh from the flour-dusted hands of the person who makes it. Unfortunately, enjoying such pasta is a rarity in these parts, but it is hot, fresh and up for grabs at Salvatore’s Fresh Ristorante Italiano. The culinary pros at this Ozark eatery make all of the pasta from scratch, and if you stop by at the right time, you can even watch the magic happen with your very eyes—they do it right in the front of the restaurant. Spaghetti? You got it! Fettucine? Comin’ right up! Or how about rigatoni in a spicy blush sauce, or plump little raviolis that were hand-filled with love? Stop by Salvatore’s for freshness you can taste in every dish.

 

Best Place to Have Brunch that Goes on Forever: The Order

A day when you can go out for brunch is a special kind of day. It’s a bit more relaxed, a bit more chill. Too late for breakfast? No problem. Too early for lunch? Who cares? That means it’s the perfect time for brunch. And brunch at The Order is just what the doctor ordered to fit in with that special day’s oh-so-chill vibes. Although the menu features some larger plates for the super hungry, it also has A Lil’ Somethin’ section with small plates of pork belly corn dogs, crispy chicken and waffle sliders, breakfast charcuterie, pancake-encased bacon and more. There’s also a bottomless brunch drink special—for $15, you can get bottomless bloody marys or mimosas. Start off with a round of drinks, then get a few small plates to share. Order up a few more drinks, then order round two of food. Order, eat, repeat. This is a special kind of day, and this is a meal that should last forever. 

 

Best Tipsy Adventure: The Trolley Bike

We may be a couple thousand miles from San Fran, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have our own trolley making its way down Springfield streets. In fact, ours is even better—it comes with booze! The Trolley Bike (Springfield; 417-200-4415) is a welcome addition to our city scene this year, allowing parties of eight to 14 guests to pedal their way around downtown as they sip on their favorite suds. It’s not just the ride you’re along for—you’ll even stop at downtown hot spots of your choice along the way. Whether you’re planning a big birthday bash, a bachelorette party or simply a new way to hang out with the pals, The Trolley Bike is one party (on wheels) that you don’t wanna miss. 

 

Best Reason to Get Excited When a Train Goes By: Train Shots at Cherry Picker

Whistling trains are a welcome sound at Cherry Picker Package X Fare (601 S. Pickwick Ave., Springfield; 417-986-5800). The picturesque little restaurant-bar hybrid is located just a stone’s throw from the tracks, which means you can hear the train a comin’ clear as day with each passing locomotive. But a noisy train is no reason to cover your ears and roll your eyes. Not here. Instead, listen up when that fresh hot freight comes rolling on by—when you hear that whistle blowin’, Cherry Picker serves up special $1 whiskey shots. Toot, toot, shoot! 

 

Best Indulgence Disguised as a Salad: Steak & Wedge Salad from Houlihan’s

You think, “I’ll just get something light. I’ll just get a salad.” One order and about 15 minutes later, you’re staring down a whole steak, a literal slab of gorgonzola cheese and pecans that are more treat than they are nut. The Steak & Wedge Salad from Houlihan’s (2110 E. Republic Rd., 2431 N. Glenstone Ave., Springfield) is a total indulgence. A fat wedge of iceberg is buried in pecans, plus smoky bacon and blue cheese dressing. A 5-ounce sirloin is covered in a piece of gorgonzola that’s almost as big as the meat. And on the side are roasted beets, grilled asparagus and freshly made polenta croutons. It’s a salad that eats like an entrée.

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