Sweets Treats in 417-Land
Sit back, prop up your feet and enjoy this sugar-spun story filled with the best desserts of southwest Missouri.
By Ettie Berneking and Savannah Waszczuk
There are oh-so-many ways to enjoy sugar in southwest Missouri.
For example, if you’re a sweets lover, you haven’t truly lived a complete life until you’ve devoured a slice of St. Michael’s double-decker banana cake. Or sank your teeth into European Cafe’s light, delicate macarons that easily rival those found in Paris.
These treats are just a handful of dozens upon dozens of delicious sugary delicacies in our corner of the state. From famed restaurant desserts that keep diners around long after dinnertime to countless little bite-sized artisanal treats from purveyors opening up shop all over southwest Missouri, there’s a definite richness to our sweets scene, and we wanted to tell you all about it.
Sit back, prop up your feet and enjoy this sugar-spun story filled with the many candy-coated, caramel-drizzled, chocolate-dipped wonders of southwest Missouri.
Choose your Craving
Cakes and Pastries
You’ll Go Bananas
St. Michael’s Sports Bar & Grille, 301 South Avenue, Springfield
You know how McDonald’s is known for its fries, and Dunkin Donuts is known for its coffee? Anyone who’s tried the banana cake at St. Michael’s would agree that this spot could go global with this homemade dessert. Two thick layers of the moist, flavor-packed cake are generously covered with a sweet homemade buttercream, making a towering wonder that’ll cause your jaw to drop with utter amazement. People who don’t even like bananas still love this cake. It’s that good!
Sour Cream Surprise
White Almond Sour Cream Cake
Spring Creek Tea Room, 107 South Third St., Ozark
At any time, Spring Creek Tea Room has at least half a dozen cakes up for grabs (plus an array of cheesecakes and pies). The white almond sour cream cake is always a favorite. Three layers of cake are separated with house-made fluff icing—a delicious concoction made of cream cheese and Cool Whip—and then topped with scratch-made raspberry sauce. It’s a fluffy, gooey, messy treat.
King of the Cheesecakes
Nonna’s Italian Café, 306 South Ave., Springfield
Mmm, cheesecake! Did you know this universally amazing dessert is even better at Nonna’s Italian Café? Both locations feature monthly homemade cheesecakes that are carefully created by their respective chefs, and they’re always divine. Past mouthwatering concoctions include chili mango, snickerdoodle and balsamic strawberry. Be sure to stop in and try the flavor of the month!
Coconut Tres Leches Cake
Café Cusco, 234 E. Commercial St., Springfield
Tres leches cakes are made by soaking sponge cake in three milks. We love the variety at Café Cusco that’s made with angel food cake soaked in sweetened condensed milk, coconut milk, evaporated milk and apricot nectar. A plop of fresh whipped cream topping makes it even more decadent, and it’s finished off with a light sprinkle of cinnamon.
A Taste of France
La Galette Berrichonne, 143 E. Main St., Fordland
Chef Roland Parny recently started creating la religieuse, a traditional French treat he prepares with his famed homemade puff pastry. The inside is pumped full of homemade chocolate mousse, and the outside is dressed with just-made buttercream and chocolate ganache. And the pastry is oh-so-cute: la religieuse translates to “the nun” in French, and the treat actually looks like a little nun! If you want one of these creations, be sure to act quickly: the chef is undergoing knee surgery at the end of May and they hope to reopen in the fall/winter of 2019.
Layers Upon Layers
Supreme Bakery, 3314 S. National Ave., Springfield
When it comes to indulgences, the Kringle pastries at Supreme Bakery are a crowd pleaser. The ring-shaped treats are shareable, and they’re made from a recipe that is more than 100 years old. All the treats feature flaky pastry dough surrounding a tasty filling (we are partial to the raspberry and pecan). A sweet glaze provides the perfect finish.
Excellence in Espresso
Mocha Opera Cake
European Café, 207 Park Central East, Springfield
The mocha cake at European Café is made with almond flour, then flavored with vanilla and soaked with the spot’s house-made espresso syrup to become extra moist and decadent. Next it’s layered with house-made chocolate ganache and espresso buttercream, creating layer after dreamy layer of a vanilla-chocolate-espresso masterpiece. You’ll be thinking of this cake long after you gobble up every last crumb.
Old-Fashioned Ice Cream Soda
Taylor’s Drive In, 139 Memorial Plaza, Springfield
Taylor’s Drive In is the place to go when you want things served up “just like they used to be.” This includes root beer floats, shakes and the harder-to-find old-fashioned ice cream sodas. To make these sweet treats, the pros at Taylor’s fill an ice cream glass with layer after layer of vanilla ice cream and carbonated water that’s been flavored with your choice of fresh strawberries, chocolate, vanilla and cherry.
Pop’s Dari Dell, 22527 Main St., Reeds Spring
Regular lake-goers know this Reeds Spring staple as the home of the twist. While that towering two-tone ice cream cone is a lovable treat, it can be made into something even better. Next time you’re nearby, stop in for the strawberry malt made with vanilla soft-serve, real strawberries, liquid malt flavoring and milk. Oh, the fruity freshness! The drink can be ordered thick or thin, making it as sippable or spoon-ready as you’d like. Bonus: Everything here is customizable and can be made with vanilla, chocolate or twist soft serve.
Casper’s, 601 W. Walnut St., Springfield
Yeah, we all know Casper’s for its chili, but did you know you can order up a pretty mean malt here, too? Made to order with vanilla ice cream, rich chocolate sauce and malted milk powder, the chocolate malts pack plenty of malty flavor with every thick sip. And they’re huge, too: The drink is poured into a tall ice cream glass, and the rest is served alongside in another cup. It’s plenty to share, so be sure and ask for two straws and two spoons.
Health Benefits of Dark Chocolate Q&A
Auvia O’Neal, a registered dietician with Mercy Hospital Springfield, dishes up some sweet health benefits to dark chocolate.
417 Magazine: First things first. Is chocolate actually good for you?
Auvia O’Neal: Chocolate does all kinds of things, but the health effects only work with dark chocolate that is 60 percent cocoa or above.
417: So we can eat dark chocolate every day guilt-free?
A.O.: We’re talking about ¼ of an ounce, so not a huge amount.
417: What are some of the main health benefits?
A.O.: One thing it does is help lower blood pressure, and it has been found to decrease bad cholesterol that gets wedged in your arteries. It can also improve blood flow to the brain, which can help people think better and improve the cognitive function in the elderly.
417: Is there any truth to chocolate making people happier?
A.O.: Actually, yes. Chocolate makes you feel good because it increases serotonin in your brain, which makes you feel happy and calm. It also releases phenylethylamine, which mimics the feeling of love to make you more alert and excited. That’s why chocolate is dubbed the love food.
417: Why is it that dark cocoa has such health benefits?
A.O.: Raw cocoa beans are one of the highest antioxidant-rich foods out there. What happens is you can get damaged cells, and antioxidants help fight inflammation and repair those damaged cells.
As Springfield's Askinosie Chocolate gains notoriety well outside southwest Missouri (it’s sold at Target now!), we decided to get back to the company’s roots and follow along as a cocoa bean makes its way from the drawing board to the finished product produced in the Ozarks. Here’s the trail of one of our favorite Askinosie Chocolate bars: the Toasted Coconut CollaBARation Bar.
Shawn and his team at Askinosie Chocolate team up with Elsie Larson and Emma Chapman from A Beautiful Mess to come up with a new, delicious bar.
2. Taste Test
Several rounds of taste tests are performed to pinpoint the perfect flavor combination. Crunchy coconut, sugar and rich chocolate? Winner!
3. Choose the Beans
The cocoa bean flavor is affected by the soil and climate of where it's grown, so choosing the right bean for the bar is crucial. To balance out the sweetness of the coconut, beans from Tanzania are chosen for the Toasted Coconut CollaBARation Bar.
4. Harvest and Ship
Once the beans are harvested, they are carefully packaged and shipped by boat to the United States.
To remove any unwanted particles from the beans, the are cleaned under a destoner, which sucks up dirt and debris.
The roasting process is a big player in a bean's end flavor. To get that dark chocolate richness, the beans in the coconut bar are dumped into a giant roaster and cooked at high temperatures for short periods of time until they are just right.
Once the beans are cool, they head to the winnower, where the hard shell is removed, leaving the cocoa-rich nib exposed. The shells are then sent to Assumption Abbey in Ava where they are used as mulch.
8. Make the Liquor
The nibs are ground into paste, which is known as liquor in the chocolate world. That delicious liquor is then refined into a liquid and ready to be made into chocolate.
9. Make the Cocoa Butter
One of the key ingredients in Askinosie Chocolate is the homemade cocoa butter. This is what gives the bars a silkier mouth feel. To do this, the liquor is pumped into a press and squeezed till all the fat (cocoa butter) drips out. A dry cake of cocoa, or cocoa powder, is left.
10. Make the Bar
To make the Toasted Coconut CollaBARation Bar, another batch of beans from Tanzania are roasted, cooled and hulled. Then they are mixed with melted liquor along with crunchy coconut sugar and cocoa butter.
After taste testing the rich chocolate to make sure it is spot-on, the liquid chocolate is poured into molds, dusted with toasted coconut and cooled before being packaged and devoured by coconut-loving chocoholics everywhere.
Tortilleria Perches, 1601 W. Sunshine St., Springfield
Calorie counters be damned! Especially when Old Man Winter settles in, there’s nothing like an order of churros to melt away our blues. Two doughy breadsticks are piped full of diced apples and fried to perfection before being nestled under a scoop of cold ice cream that oozes its way into every crook of the churro. Topping the whole delicious mess is a drizzle of chocolate syrup and a sprinkle of cinnamon and sugar. Not sweet enough? You can always order yours with whipped cream.
Maria’s Mexican Restaurant, 406 South Ave., Springfield
This treat is simple but oh so delicious. Thick flour tortillas are dunked briefly in the deep fryer, and then while they’re puffed up and still hot, they’re drizzled with sugary honey and sprinkled with warm cinnamon.
Hurts Donuts Bread Pudding
The Order, 305 E. Walnut St., Springfield
The true star of this bread pudding is its main ingredient: Hurts Donuts. Made fresh every day, unglazed yeast donuts make their way to the kitchen at The Order where they are cubed and mixed with a sweet cream mixture of vanilla, eggs and cinnamon. The resulting muddy mess looks more like a crème brûlée gone wrong, but this bread pudding is nothing short of a triumph. Baked for an hour and cut into large portions, the confection is scooped into a hot skillet and topped with warm Askinosie Chocolate ganache and melted salted caramel.
Cantina Laredo, 1001 Branson Landing Blvd., Branson
Are all brownies delicious? Yes. But what makes this cocoa-packed bad boy especially tasty is its bake time. Six hours. That’s right. Loaded down with crunchy pecans, thick walnuts, rich fudge and morsels of semi sweet chocolate chips, this decadent brownie batter is poured into a skillet and popped into the oven for six hours until it’s ready to be devoured. Arriving at your table sizzling hot, the brownie is crowned king of the desserts with a coronet of vanilla ice cream and a splash of brandy butter sauce.
Cookie Dough Wontons
Peking House, 3108 E. Sunshine St., Springfield
Cooks at Peking House take a regular old wonton wrapper, load it full of chocolate chip cookie dough till the dumpling nearly bursts at the seams and then fry it until warm and crisp on the outside and gooey on the inside. Drizzled with chocolate syrup and powdered sugar, four wontons come per order, which makes this dessert perfect for sharing.
The Big Slice, 1454 A E. Sunshine St., Springfield
Warning: This dessert is not on the menu. You have to swing by this pizza joint in order to know about the warm, buttery cinnamon knots these guys can whip up. Made with homemade dough that’s prepared fresh every day, these chewy bundles are rolled in cinnamon and sugar, and packaged six to an order. These little treats are only made better when dunked deep into a pool of the homemade icing that comes on the side. Yes, you can also spoil your appetite with one of The Big Slice’s cinnamon rolls, which are on the menu, but why do that when you can be part of this delicious cinnamon-coated club where good things definitely come in small packages?
Perfect Slices of Pie
Coconut Cream Pie
Ruby Lena’s Tearoom & Antiques, 224 W. Main St., Branson
The Crust: A thick homemade pie crust is the perfect flaky base for this pie.
The Inside: A layer of sweet coconut cream is topped with fluffy whipped cream and a sprinkle of toasted coconut.
The Taste: Light and creamy, this classic custard pie is the perfect fix for your sweet craving.
Sweet Little Apple Pie
Market House Cafe & Bake Shop, 113 N. Second St., Ozark
The Crust: Made with lots of butter and shortening and a dash of baking powder, this double pie crust is firm enough to stand up to its gooey filling.
The Inside: A mix of thick apple slices, cinnamon, lemon juice, brown sugar and butter makes up the sweet filling.
The Taste: Served as individual pies instead of slices, these mini treats have just enough apple filling to balance out the flaky double crust.
Fried Pecan Pie
Ronda’s Fried Pies, available at Farmers Market of the Ozarks, 2144 E. Republic Rd., Springfield
The Crust: Made with coconut oil and fried in coconut oil, these hand pies have some real bite to them.
The Inside: This seasonal favorite has no preservatives and is made with sweet pecan filling that features sugar in place of corn syrup.
The Taste: There’s a melt-in-your-mouth quality to these pies, and they pack a rich caramel flavor a bit friendlier to your waistline thanks to the lack of shortening.
Peppermint Swirl Pie
Big R’s BBQ, 1220 E. 15th St., Joplin
The Crust: Not too dense and not too flaky.
The Inside: The base of this pie is a sweet vanilla cream that’s hit with a dash of pink peppermint flavoring, which gives it that lovely swirl.
The Taste: The peppermint swirl pie is a holiday favorite that can be ordered in advance year round. Creamy and sweet with a pop of bright peppermint flavor, this cream pie is worth every indulgent bite.
London Calling, 836 N. Glenstone Ave., Springfield and inside Battlefield Mall
The Crust: The classic flour and shortening crust is replaced with a graham cracker base
The Inside: A layer of toffee covers the crust and is topped with thin slices of banana and homemade whipped cream with a sprinkle of cocoa powder on top.
The Taste: Both sweet and savory, these mini pies are good enough to share.
Rocco’s Italian Kitchen, 834 E. Division, Springfield; 4315 S. National Ave, Springfield
The Crust: Rocco’s regular pizza dough is used as the base of this pie.
The Inside: Vanilla pudding, cinnamon streusel and a layer of semisweet chocolate chips and powdered sugar combine to make a pizza pie like no other.
The Taste: This is a chocolate-lover’s dream. The chocolate chip filling melts down and spreads out through the pie until every inch is a mix of vanilla, chocolate and cinnamon.
Pear Ginger Pie (available seasonally)
Fork & Crust Pie Company
The Crust: Flaky and buttery, this double crust is good just by itself.
The Inside: Crystallized ginger is mixed with fresh pears and fresh cranberries.
The Taste: This mild pie has developed a cult following thanks to its slight tanginess.
Cookie Battle Royale
We called 16 local bakeries and sweet shops and asked them to prepare half a dozen of our very favorite cookies, then we pitted them all against each other for our Cookie Battle Royale. Next our team of five editors tasted them—each and every one—to come up with a winner that could be the cream of the most-delicious-cookie crop.
Biggest Cookie in the Battle Award: Chocolate Chip Cookie from KatieMade Bakery & Specialty Food
Beautiful Presentation Award: Campfire Cookie from Sugar Leaf Bakery
Great Design Award: Iced Sugar Cookie from Stacey's Sweets
Perfect Balance Award: Peanut Butter Cookie from Star Cakes
Most Original Ingredients Award: Oatmeal Coconut Pecan from Storehouse Bakery (Editor's Note: Storehouse Bakery is now closed)
Real Fruit Award: Iced Lemon Shortbread from Ms. Gilmore's Vintage Suitcase & Tea Room
The One With Banana
Tong’s Thai Restaurant, 3454 S. Campbell Ave., Springfield
A fresh banana is peeled, wrapped with a spring roll wrapper and then fried to create the base for this dessert. A trip to the fryer blankets the fruit with a nice, crispy coating, then it’s topped with honey and sesame seeds, paired with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and served to hungry customers. We love the warm banana and the way its crispy coating contrasts with the velvety ice cream.
The One With Raspberries
Raspberry Crumble Bars
MaMa Jean’s Natural Market, various locations in southwest MO
To construct these fruity little squares of wonderful, the pros in the kitchen at MaMa Jean’s blanket a pan with hand-made shortbread then mix up an almost pie-like filling with the freshest seasonal fruit available and spread it across the top. Then, the entire mixture is sprinkled with a streusel-like topping. We’re particularly fond of the sweet-tart punch of the raspberry crumble bars, but since they’re made with seasonal fruit, all of the bars are pretty incredible. These bars may not always be in stock, but each location makes them.
The One With Blueberries
Persimmon Hill Farm Restaurant, 367 Persimmon Hill Lane, Lampe
Imagine this: A freshly baked blueberry Thunder Muffin made with perfectly sweet Persimmon Hill blueberries. It’s split into two when still warm, then topped with a scoop of premium home-style vanilla ice cream and rich whipped cream. Dreamy, right? But it ain’t over, yet. Next it’s drizzled with sweet Persimmon Hill Farm blueberry syrup and sprinkled with even more blueberries. The dessert is only available when blueberries are in season (starting in June through August or so), but it’s definitely worth eating when you can.
Cranberry Walnut Muffin
Start your day off with a sweet and filling Cranberry Walnut Muffin at MudHouse Coffee (323 South Ave., Springfield). Mudhouse takes its regular whole wheat muffin batter and adds a heavy amount of walnuts and cranberries. Baked fresh every morning, these morning heavyweights sell out quickly.
Part of what makes the Pecan Rolls at Red Barn Café & Hen House Bakery (107 W. Mt. Vernon Blvd., Mount Vernon) so delicious is their simplicity. A regular dense cinnamon roll is caramelized and topped with crunchy pecans. Breakfast is served!
Caramel Cinnamon Rolls
The Caramel Cinnamon Rolls at Tea Bar & Bites Bakery and Café (621 S. Pickwick Ave., Springfield) have become so popular that you have to arrive early to snag one on Saturdays. This two-day process uses an oatmeal bread recipe owner Colleen made into caramel rolls for her kids when they were little. Denser and chewier than a normal cinnamon roll, these bad boys are drowned in homemade caramel sauce and shucked out to early risers.
Old Fashioned Sour Cream Donut
Coffee and donuts. Is there a better combination? And if you want a donut that holds up to a hot cup of joe, go with the Old Fashioned Sour Cream Donut at St. George’s Donuts (3012 S. National Ave., Springfield; 3628 E. Sunshine St., Springfield). While the donut crew at this local shop doesn’t give out any of its secret ingredients, it doesn’t take much to know that this glazed favorite is a winner.
Large and in charge, the Cinnamon Rolls at Amycakes Bakery (1108 E. Walnut St., Springfield) are soft and packed with warm cinnamon. The best part, besides the buttery layers of dough, is the icing, which slowly works its way deep into the folds of the roll. These cinnamon rolls are made on Fridays and always available to be ordered in advance.
Once you have your drink of choice in hand, it’s time to choose a late-night snack. And what better way to start your night, or maybe your morning, than with a waffle from Scotch & Soda (310 South Ave., Springfield)? Slightly sweet, this batter is thick enough to hold up to the barrage of delicious add-ins including Nutella; bacon and chocolate chips; black forest ham and white cheddar cheese; or peanut butter, banana and honey. Take your pick Tuesday and Wednesday from 11 p.m. to close and during brunch on Sundays.
Not Just Sweet
Maple Bacon Bars
Hurts Donuts (320 Park Central West, Springfield) has lots of popular donuts, but the maple bacon bars are especially sought-after. Slightly salty and slightly sweet, each bite gives you a mouthful of bacon-y goodness.
Instead of being overly sweet, this Asian dessert, made by Echigo Farm (available at Farmers Market of the Ozarks, 2144 E. Republic Rd., Springfield) borders on savory. That’s thanks to the red bean paste that fills the egg-washed yeast roll.
Affotago (summer menu)
Eurasia Coffee and Tea, Springfield
- Two freshly poured shots of Eurasia's featured espresso
- Two scoops of vanilla ice cream
- A creamy pool of vanilla-espresso deliciousness (once the espresso melts the ice cream!)
A homemade Butter Pecan Ice Cream cone
Hannah’s Ice Cream Parlor at Silver Dollar City, Branson
- A creamy ice cream base made with milk, cream and sugar that’s frozen in an old-fashioned ice cream maker with ice and rock salt
- Plenty of chunks of butter-roasted pecans
- A sweet cake cone that adds plenty of crunch but is subtle enough to let the flavors of the ice cream shine
Andy's Ozark Turtle
Andy's Frozen Custard, various locations in southwest MO
- Creamy vanilla custard that’s made fresh hourly
- A thick drizzle of melty hot fudge
- A mega spoonful of crème caramel
- A hefty handful of nutty roasted pecans
- A cherry on top
Bobcat Crunch Ice Cream
The Keeter Center, Point Lookout
- A rich chocolate ice cream base made on-site
- Bits of house-made "turndown cookies", which have a chocolate chip-oatmeal base
- Bites of pecans and almonds
Butterscotch Bomb ice cream in a dipped waffle cone
Sweet Caroline’s Cream & Coffee, Joplin
- A butterscotch ice cream base
- Ribbons of butterscotch syrup
- Prized chunks of chewy brownies
- Sizeable hunks of Heath barSoftened globs of Oreo cookies
- A sweet, crunchy waffle cone dipped in creamy chocolate
The Famous Cakes-n-Creams Supreme
- A freshly-made funnel cake
- A dusting of powdered sugar
- A scoop of vanilla ice cream
- Freshly sliced strawberries in a sweet strawberry glaze
- A mountain of whipped cream
- One single picturesque cherry
Locally Sourced Sweet
Senior Editor Savannah Waszczuk ties on an apron and heads to the 417 Test Kitchen to create a sweet treat with locally sourced ingredients.
I’m a lover of all sweets, large and small. And I don’t just buy them and eat them—I make them myself, too. A lot of them. In fact, there’s hardly a loved one’s birthday that goes by without me whipping up homemade cupcakes, scratch-made cookies or even a batch of rich and creamy ice cream. But this love of sweets combined with my love of baking occasionally causes a problem: a far-too-full belly, plus a ton of goodies left over. I’ve learned that one girl can only eat so much sugar before her pants pop.
Recently, I’ve dabbled in creating things that are just a tad bit healthier than my typical gooey chocolate cookies or peanut butter fudge ice cream. That way I could have my cake and eat it, too, right? In the midst of my quest for a healthier dessert, it was my mom who tried a recipe for power balls loaded with oats, peanut butter, coconut, raisins and other goodies, and they were surprisingly great! When I was given this assignment, I had her pass me the recipe, then did a little brainstorming and searching for local ingredients to try out my own modified creation. Next I headed to the 417 Test Kitchen, pulled out a mixing bowl and got to work on my own version of power balls with Granolove granola, East Wind peanut butter and Honey Heaven honey. The result is one I’m pretty proud of, and weighing in at roughly 150 calories a pop, they make the perfect midday snack or after-dinner sweet treat. And they’re great to make ahead and keep in the fridge for a few days. Feel free to use your favorite granola and modify the recipe to your preference—it should mix together similarly.
These perfectly portioned and portable homemade teats from local shops prove that good things really do come in small packages.
1. German Chocolate and Maple Pecan Fudge; The Fudge Shop, Branson (Editor's Note: The Fudge Shop is now closed) | 2. Traditional Baklava; That Lebanese Place, Springfield | 3. Peanut Brittle and Chipotle Toffee; Uncommon Confections, Springfield | 4. Vanilla and Chocolate Cake Pops; The Cake Pop Company, Springfield (Editor's Note: The Cake Pop is now closed) | 5. Milk and Dark Chocolate English Toffee; Rosewood Farms, Hartville | 6. Bird's Nest Baklava; Vasken's Deli, Branson | 7. Salambo and Blueberry Almondine Mini Pastries; Aviary Cafe, Springfield | 8. Pecan Bars; Nearly Famous Deli and Pasta House, Springfield | 9. Cone Chips; American Cone Chip Company, Seymour (Editor's Note: American Cone Chip Company is now closed) | 10. Salted Caramel Macarons; European Cafe, Springfield | 11. Vanilla Marshmallows; Katiemade Bakery & Specialty Foods ??, Springfield | 12. Key Lime and Gooey Butter Cake Truffles; Elle's Patisserie, Springfield (Editor's Note: Elle's Patisserie is now closed) | 13. Sicilian Cannoli; Bruno's Italian Restaurant, Springfield | 14. Salted Caramel Chews; Dear Caramel, Springfield (Editor's Note: Dear Caramel is now closed)
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