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The Best New Restaurants in Springfield

New restaurants, menus and chef change-ups brought a lot of excitement to Springfield's dining scene this year. Work up an appetite and dig in to southwest Missouri's list of best new restaurants.

By Adrienne Donica, Katie Pollock Estes, Evan Greenberg, Rose Marthis, Claire Porter | Art Direction by Fried Design Co.

Dec 2018

Social on Patton Springfield MO
Photo by Brandon AlmsThere's never been a better time to order something new and exciting off of a menu. Springfield's best new restaurants, such as Social on Patton, offer top notch dishes that range from familiar to something you've maybe never seen before. Purchase Photo

The past 12 months have been a wild ride for Springfield’s dining scene. We’ve seen some heartbreaking closures, some interesting moves and, most importantly, some exciting openings. The question “Where should we go for dinner?” has a lot more answers now than it did this time last year. So we did the work for you and are telling you the best of the best that have opened (or re-opened) in 2018. These eateries have grabbed our attention by serving global flavors and elevating classic dishes and drinks. They’re taking risks and creating innovative plates, proving that Springfield is at the forefront of dining trends. There is no better time than the present to be a foodie in southwest Missouri, to stumble into a new restaurant, to order something you’ve never seen before. So dig in to decide where you’re making reservations next. 

Bawi Korean BBQ Springfield MO
Photo by Brandon AlmsThe pork belly at Bawi Korean BBQ is immensely popular. Like bacon on steroids, the fat on this salty and savory meat gets crispy on the hot grill as it cooks in front of you. Purchase Photo

Bawi Korean BBQ

4121 S. National Ave., Springfield, 417-886-2777
Springfield now has a Korean barbecue place to call its own. Bawi Korean BBQ is a unique dining experience rich with culture and hands-on all-you-can-eat meat.

As soon as you enter Bawi Korean BBQ you’re greeted in Korean. When you leave, staff bids you farewell in Korean.

That’s about as good a mission statement as any for Springfield’s first Korean barbecue restaurant. The Kwon family, owners of both Hinode locations, is behind the concept, a reimagining of a Korean barbecue restaurant they had in California a decade ago. As managing partner and director of operations Cosmo Kwon says dining is as much about the cultural experience at Bawi as it is the culinary one. “We’re proud of this restaurant because what we wanted to do was do a Korean barbecue that is not great for just Springfield,” Kwon says. “We wanted this to be great or better than the big cities, too.”

Communal dining at Bawi Korean BBQ Springfield MO

Bawi wants to promote the traditions of a communal Korean meal.

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Kwon family, owners of Bawi Korean BBQ Springfield MO

The Kwon family, owners of Bawi Korean BBQ

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Photos by Brandon Alms

Here’s how it works: First, you likely need to call ahead—due to the nature of the experience, you’re going to stay awhile, so tables tend to stay occupied. There is a grill on the table because you grill the meats yourself. A waiter comes by to walk you through the process as well as detail all of the meat offerings available. There’s the brisket, a pork chop and sausage; overall, there are a total of 13 meats to choose from. There are also side dishes called banchan, made up of a plethora of assorted vegetables. 

Everything about this experience is authentic. Kwon and everyone at Bawi truly hope that customers learn something in their dining experience at the restaurant, whether that’s traditional Korean etiquette and dining customs or the different ways in which food is prepared. Once you dine at Bawi, he says, you should be able to dine in Korea.—Evan Greenberg


While You're At Bawi

Come Hungry
Eating at Bawi costs $25, which gets you an all-you-can-eat experience with whichever meat you’d like in unlimited quantity, a dessert, rice and a soup of the day.

Settle In
The experience of eating at Bawi takes about two hours, which is a part of the cultural immersion experience the Kwon family is going for. 

Fire Away
The staff is aware of any barriers of entry for those unfamiliar with the concept and is more than willing to answer questions.

Peacemaker sandwich, slaw, potato salad and smoked sausage at Black Market Smokehouse Springfield MO
Photo by Brandon AlmsBlack Market Smokehouse puts its own spin on dishes like the Peacemaker sandwich, slaw, potato salad and smoked sausage. Purchase Photo

Black Market Smokehouse

603 S. Kimbrough Ave., Springfield, 417-831-5300, delivery available
Downtown Springfield got its first barbecue joint earlier this year. But Wes Johnson and the Black Market Smokehouse team are serving more than just your average pork and beans.

When Metro Farmer closed in January 2018, 417-landers were left with a Wes Johnson–sized hole in our hearts and stomachs. But our despair ended with the July 2018 opening of Black Market Smokehouse, owned by Scott Pitts and Jason Delcour with Johnson in the kitchen.

Black Market Smokehouse quickly carved out its place as the barbecue hot spot for downtowners. But you can’t do a meat-to-meat comparison with other barbecue players in town because Black Market Smokehouse is reinventing everything you thought you knew about Southern classics. The menu is meat-centric, yes. You will find smoked chicken, brisket, pulled pork, sausage and ribs. There are classic sides (think chips, cornbread, potato salad, slaw and pit beans) and even some sandwiches and salads. But what keeps us coming back for more are the rotating specials, dinner features and foodie experiments Johnson creates to keep pushing the envelope. Weekend diners have seen a smoked brisket French dip, a “barbecuban” fusion sandwich (which has found a permanent place on the sandwich menu) and smoked pork loin with peach butter glaze, to name a few. And the late-night menu has dishes you won’t find in the daylight, including smoked wings, barbecue spaghetti, elevated Frito pie and the booze-absorbing chicken and waffles—all available from midnight to 3 a.m.

The menu shifts with a seasonal focus and embodies the spirit of farm-to-counter. In its first year of business, Pitts says the goal is to gain people’s trust with the staples and keep them coming back for more with the creative dishes. “We want everyone to come here and be excited about what we’re doing next,” he says. And if the first six months are any indication, diners should regularly check in to see what Johnson is smoking next.—Rose Marthis

Large Villager with chicken souvlaki at Greek Belly Springfield MO
Photo by Brandon AlmsAuthenticity in dishes like the Large Villager with chicken souvlaki is the name of the game at Greek Belly. Purchase Photo

Greek Belly

320 E. Walnut St., Springfield, 417-597-3382
This July, Greek Belly brought traditional Greek fare to Springfield. With an emphasis on freshness and an eye for quality, owner John Tsahiridis is all about keeping it quick and casual.

Like a lot of people who have spent years in the restaurant biz, John Tsahiridis had long dreamed of opening his own place. He wasn’t always sure what concept he would eventually pursue, but once he decided on a casual spot offering Greek and Mediterranean food, he knew he wanted to do it right. And for Tsahiridis, doing it right at Greek Belly means creating authentic, fresh, house-made meals—just like the ones he had when he was growing up in Greece.

“We make everything from scratch and fresh,” Tsahiridis says. “If we don’t make it, it’s imported from Greece.” Peek into the kitchen at the downtown Springfield establishment and you won’t find any microwaves. The sole freezer holds just phyllo dough, which Tsahiridis and his team—led by Tsahiridis’ mother, Eleni—use to make spanakopita and saragli, a rolled baklava. Fresh pork and chicken used to make gyros is delivered daily, marinated overnight in a blend of Greek seasoning then hand-sliced and stacked onto a spit to be slow roasted and served.

Tsahiridis crafted the menu mostly by tweaking his own family’s recipes, and he demands perfection. “If I’m not happy with it, I trash it,” he says. Keeping things fresh also means keeping the menu smaller than it could be. Tsahiridis can rattle off a list of classic Greek fare he hasn’t included on his menu simply because he refuses to sacrifice its quality. But fear not—Tsahiridis plans to feature delicacies like roasted lamb and moussaka as specials. Watch the restaurant’s Facebook page or sign up for its newsletter for details about these seasonal treats.—Adrienne Donica

Karai Ramen + Handroll Springfield MO
Photo by Brandon AlmsEmbrace the slurp at Karai Ramen + Handroll. Purchase Photo

Karai Ramen + Handroll

640 W. Republic Rd., Suite 100, Springfield, 417-319-5225
Young Jun’s latest restaurant venture in Springfield is a buzzy ramen spot that hopes to change your perception of what the dish can be.

Ramen can be low-brow—think the microwaves of college dorms across America—or high-brow. Karai Ramen + Handroll falls into the latter category, serving ramen crafted with care. As Young Jun, the restaurateur behind other 417-land favorites Haruno, Kai and Koriya, explains, ramen is a soul food in Japan, and there’s no reason it can’t be the same in Springfield.

Karai Ramen + Handroll Springfield MO

Karai has plenty of non-ramen options on the menu as well to round out your dining experience.

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Sushi Chef Gaven Rehkop at Karai Ramen + Handroll Springfield MO

The “handroll” portion of Karai's name refers to the work of sushi chef Gaven Rehkop.

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Photos by Brandon Alms

“Fifty percent of people, they [confuse] this ramen… with the grocery store ramen,” Jun says. “A lot of people think it’s fast food. I want to make the right food.” She explains that authenticity and expanding customers’ idea of ramen are most important. It’s evident that this is a passion project—Jun had a say in every square foot of the restaurant, from the moss that hangs on the wall to the way the bricks were cut and placed.

The draw here, of course, is the ramen, the most popular of which is the tonkotsu ramen, a pork-based broth that's cooked for more than 24 hours. Jun gets the best ingredients—noodles come from California instead of a closer distributor, for example—to display Karai’s commitment to authenticity and introducing 417-landers to ramen done right.—Evan Greenberg


While You're At Karai

Specialty Tea
Karai has a few teas to choose from. We especially like the cold brew green tea, which features green tea and roasted rice mixed with filtered water.

Try the Starters
The tofu nuggets are divine and feature edamame tucked inside.

Order Something New
“Handroll” is right there in the name, so if ramen isn’t your thing, you’ll still be satisfied by sushi rolls and deconstructed handrolls. Our favorite? The spicy tuna handroll.

Goat cheese and roasted red pepper langos at Little Danube Springfield MO
Photo by Brandon AlmsGoat cheese and roasted red pepper langos. Purchase Photo

Little Danube

519 N. 21st St., Ozark, 417-581-0508
This new spot offers diners a new experience, serving European food that ranges from creative flavor combinations to pure comfort.

When Little Danube opened in late July, Eastern European eats were not exactly trending in the Ozarks. But this little spot deliciously filled a niche we didn’t even know we had. Owner David Pruteanu serves family recipes like Hungarian chicken paprikash, pork-stuffed cabbage rolls and chicken schnitzel along with a variety of savory and sweet langos dishes. What is langos? It’s Hungarian deep-fried bread that can be topped with just about anything your heart desires. At Little Danube, langos creativity is where the menu most cleverly breaks from the comfort food mold to add in some surprising tastes. There are eight varieties, including one topped with ricotta cheese, prosciutto, figs, dates and honey. Another is the vehicle for smoked salmon, dill, cream cheese and salmon caviar. Little Danube has broadened the region’s global eats to include some delicious hugs on a plate—or on some fried dough.—Katie Pollock Estes

Smash Browns sandwich at Roots Coffee Bar Springfield MO
Photo by Brandon AlmsFast service doesn't mean skimping on quality at Roots, as evidenced by the Smash Browns sandwich. Purchase Photo

Roots Coffee Bar

1645 W. Republic Road, Springfield, 417-877-6889
Brews, booze and big plates collide at Roots Coffee Bar in west Springfield.

So often, restaurants make us choose: Do you want a killer cocktail or a delectable meal? A place to hang with friends or to bring your kids? Britny and Stephen Washburn know the feeling. “We were always going to Starbucks and coffee shops, but we couldn’t ever get exactly what we wanted,” Stephen says. What they wanted was a place that serves a great cup of joe, a substantial hot breakfast and a cocktail or two, a place they could take their three kids, a place like Roots Coffee Bar.

Roots has a small but hearty menu with breakfast and lunch items. “We wanted real ingredients, real food, something we could make hot and fresh and quick,” Stephen says. “We’re at a coffee shop pace, so we gotta be quicker than sit-down service.” The signature dish—an ideal hangover food—is the Smash Brown, a fried egg, cheese and hash brown sandwich topped with sausage, house-made brisket or pecan smoked shoulder bacon and served on a potato bun. Biscuits and gravy, a yogurt parfait and homemade baked goods are offered alongside flavored tots, burgers and other sandwiches. It’s a menu that can keep the whole family full and happy. And as the name implies, you can get your caffeine fix or something decidedly stiffer thanks to the restaurant’s full bar.

Still, Roots boasts a family atmosphere, which the Washburns have encouraged by offering toys and games that their own kids picked out. “I think what people really do appreciate is the family feel,” Britny says. “We’ll see families sit there and play cards with their kids. That’s so important to us.”—Adrienne Donica

Social on Patton Springfield MO
Photo by Brandon AlmsWith Social on Patton's frequent menu changes, you're sure to enjoy a unique and exciting dining experience. Purchase Photo

Social on Patton

314 S. Patton Ave., Springfield, 417-368-0778
With a seasonally shifting menu of elevated American cuisine and inventive cocktails, Social on Patton is raising the bar for Springfield’s fine-dining scene.

When CB Social House changed gears earlier this year and became Social on Patton, Springfield shed a collective tear for the loss of CB’s stick-to-your-ribs Southern favorites, extensive bourbon selection and meat-forward menu. Fortunately for our local dining scene, sadness was unwarranted. Social on Patton has made a name for itself with simple yet elevated interpretations of homestyle cooking, reenergized American cuisine and carefully considered cocktails.

Chef Josiah Craig and front of house manager Vincent Nolden are focused on creating a dining experience that people enjoy and don’t feel alienated by. Sometimes that involves taking familiar family-favorite dishes, like chicken and dumplings, and heightening them with impeccable preparation and a focus on farm-fresh ingredients. Other times it’s by introducing diners to new cocktails or styles of drinking that pique the interest but don’t intimidate.

Julie Blackmon artwork at Social on Patton Springfield MO

View work from local artists, such as this piece by Julie Blackmon.

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Social on Patton Interior Springfield MO

Cozy on up to the bar at Social for a cocktail. They aim to make cocktails accessible with intriguing yet familiar drinks, like the barrel-aged Manhattan.

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Photos by Brandon Alms

Regardless of the dish or the drink, creativity is the name of the game at Social. The team keeps new ideas churning at Monday research and development night, when diners sample a brand-new limited beverage and dinner menu each week. Guests leave feedback with a star rating system and comments, and the staff reviews, tweaks—and sometimes abandons—their concoctions, which might eventually find their way to the dinner menu permanently.

Whether the kitchen crew is indulging its creative whims at an R&D night, interpreting the restaurant's art collection into one-of-a-kind meals and cocktails or perfecting plate after plate of its signature dishes, the team at Social on Patton has hit its stride in dreaming up fare that we simply can’t stop talking about.—Claire Porter


While You're At Social on Patton

Everyone is a Food Critic
Visit the downstairs bar on a Monday night to sample the R&D menu. Diners choose from a limited menu of brand-new items—most of which are a work in progress. Rate what you’ve tasted and leave a comment.

Eat Family Style
Gather your brood and give Social’s family meal a try. Chef Josiah Craig is turning to his own family’s cookbook of recipes, including homestyle favorites like pot roast and chicken and dumplings, and building a three-course shareable meal around them. 

Dine Among Local Artwork
Social features an art gallery with pieces by local artists. The restaurant has established a partnership with Harmony House through a give-back frequent diner’s card program, and the gallery continues that, with profits from the gallery going directly to Harmony House. 

Van Gogh's Eeterie Springfield MO
Photo by Brandon AlmsFeast on a sweet or savory traditional Dutch pancake at Van Gogh's Eeterie. Purchase Photo

Van Gogh's Eeterie

334 E. Commercial St., Springfield, 417-344-0085
Rich and bustling Commercial Street continues developing into a cultural hub with Joe and Claire Gidman’s ode to Dutch cuisine that’s been warmly welcomed into the community.

On opening day of Van Gogh's Eeterie, Joe Gidman found a note taped to his restaurant’s door. It was written in Dutch, and it read, “Thank you for your presence.” That note now hangs in the Commercial Street restaurant, a reminder of what it’s about: bringing new cuisine to Springfield and establishing a dining destination.

Van Gogh’s is the second restaurant for Joe Gidman and his mother, Claire Gidman. Their first, Cafe Cusco, developed a devoted following in its six years of operation. When Joe announced this new concept, inspired by his time as an exchange student in the Netherlands, there was a different energy around the opening, with 417-landers anticipating its opening with baited breath. On opening day, every table was occupied within 20 minutes.

Van Gogh's Eeterie Commercial Street Springfield MO

Feel transported to another world when dining among European-style seating, artwork and decor.

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Pomegranate kombucha on tap at van gogh's eeterie springfield mo

Van Gogh’s serves kombucha on tap and also makes its own kombucha with custom syrups—like the Beetito, beet-flavored kombucha made with in-house mint syrup.

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Photos by Brandon Alms

Introducing a new concept to Springfield is exciting in itself. But it also has to be done well. The restaurant focuses on modern Dutch cuisine, like open-faced pancakes with savory toppings, stamppots—a meat and potato dish—and other native delicacies. Gidman traveled to the Netherlands last year to gather intel to bring back, and that’s reflected in the menu.

What is particularly exciting about Van Gogh’s is that you’d be hard-pressed to find a restaurant elsewhere that does exactly what Van Gogh’s does. It’s not uncommon, Gidman says, to have people discover Cafe Cusco, Van Gogh’s and Commercial Street as a whole. If you show people something they haven’t seen before, they’re going to be intrigued. Word spreads, and that’s how you grow an area. Gidman is modest in acknowledging his part in this growth, but with Van Gogh’s and its European-style seating, artwork and decor, he has created what he calls his “own little world” along with Cafe Cusco.

And if the response is any indication, customers, regardless of where they’re from, are more than willing to open themselves up to new experiences and visit that world, where they just might walk away having learned something new.—Evan Greenberg


While You're At Van Gogh's Eeterie

Learn Dutch Phrases
One wall adjacent to the bar is filled with Dutch aphorisms. One translates to “what the farmer does not know, he does not like.” 

Dine on the Patio 
The patio sits on a neat and tidy space that celebrates its European roots. Gidman says people take photos here all the time. 

Take in the Atmosphere
Gidman wants the experience to be a communal one in which you can feel immersed in the food, ambience and conversation.

Kimchi falafel tacos at the Wheelhouse Springfield MO
Photo by Brandon AlmsThe Wheelhouse specializes in Mexican-Thai fusion cuisine, a combo embodied by the ever-popular kimchi falafel tacos. Purchase Photo

The Wheelhouse

1845 E. Sunshine St., Springfield, 417-430-0400
Street-friendly fusion food truck The Wheelhouse is cooking up fresh new tastes in its fresh new brick-and-mortar inside Vib hotel, so you can settle in for a meal or tuck in for the night.

Wheelhouse's indoor location doesn’t just mean increased seating—although there is quite a lot of it. The permanent space allows for all-season seven-day service and an expanded menu, and it’s fitted with a full bar, meaning The Wheelhouse is able to offer custom cocktails to complement tacos, wok dishes and sandwiches.

Vib’s setup also offers space to showcase Wheelhouse’s local collaborations. Seymour-based Circle B Ranch supplies pork; Mount Vernon’s Keen Bean Coffee Roasters stocks the coffee bar; and local kombucha, beers and liquors like Copper Run line the bar. But perhaps the sweetest collaboration is with B + B Boulangerie & Bakery. Owner Katie Kring brings her European-inspired desserts to a set menu of cakes, pavlovas and mousses. The desserts make for a decadent finish to a vinegary kimchi falafel taco or a nutty plate of pad thai. True to The Wheelhouse’s commitment to serving food for all diets, Kring’s menu has vegan, gluten-free and dairy-free treats.

Ultimately, if the idea of polishing off a plate of the Wheelhouse’s signature garlic lo mein or scooping up a flight of seasonal mousses has you feeling too stuffed to move, know you’re only an elevator ride away from a comfy bed welcoming you and your food coma.—Claire Porter


Fresh, New Drinks

Food isn't all that's new in Springfield's dining scene. Stop by one of these new establishments for the freshest new sips.

SocieTea

SocieTea specializes in bubble tea and does so creatively. There are also sweet pastry options, like matcha roll cake.
Must try: Matcha Milk Tea

Free Solo Coffee Co

Free Solo Coffee Co has a distinction among 417-land coffee shops to brag about: The menu is completely gluten-free.
Must try: Lavender Latte

Bricktown Brewery

Bricktown Brewery has an expansive food menu that accompanies the brewery’s own beer.
Must try: Deep Duce Bluesberry 

Coming Soon

These up-and-coming restaurants (plus one newly opened) have us licking our chops.

Team Taco

A new spot from the team behind Social, Team Taco will occupy what used to be Elle’s Patisserie, serving pork belly tacos and a “Stranger Taco” that changes daily. Details around open date are still being sorted out as of press time.

Frank 'N' Steins

Serving a variety of hot dogs and craft beer on the ground floor of the Brewery Flats building, Frank ‘n’ Steins will open by the end of 2018. 

Hot Cluckers

From restaurateur Michael Felts, Hot Cluckers brings Nashville hot chicken and southern favorites to Springfield. Expect it to arrive by the beginning of this month.

Elkhart & the Robberson

C-Street gets richer as chef Drake Tillman opens Elkhart & the Robberson, his new restaurant in summer 2019 with a focus on modern, vegetable-forward cuisine.

Progress and Reverie

Progress, opened in October at Farmers Park, serves food from a variety of cultures and started as a pop-up concept. Reverie, on the top floor of the same building,  is set to open by the end of the year as of press time and will serve seasonal cocktails and small plates.  

Craft Sushi

Springfield’s first quick service sushi restaurant, Craft Sushi, opened in November, offering sushi rolls alongside other Asian eats like poke bowls, infused teas and more. 

Basil & Bourbon

Bolivar diners will have a new locally-sourced food option in Basil & Bourbon, set to open in December. 

The Hepcat

With a late-December or early January open date, The Hepcat will bring a Kansas City-inspired jazz club to downtown Springfield with Midwest comfort food and cocktails inspired by the prohibition era.

Zombie Dogs and Fries

Hot dogs fever hits Springfield as the folks behind Hurts Donuts open a zombified restaurant, Zombie Dogs and Fries, with their own hot dog and french fry concoctions. As of press time, no open date has been announced. 


Experienced Chefs

The chefs and owners at our best new Springfield restaurants are not starting from scratch—the group’s resumes are impressive. Find out where your favorites honed their craft.

Bawi Korean BBQ 

The Kwon family are the masterminds behind Hinode Japanese Steakhouse and Sushi, which has two locations in Springfield and Nixa. Cosmo and David spent two years developing the Korean barbecue concept for their newest venture.

Black Market Smokehouse 

We all know Wes Johnson curated a loyal following in the kitchen of Metro Farmer. But co-owner Scott Pitts has industry experience, too: He owned Gameday Smokehouse, which became what we know today as DUGOUT Bar & Grill & Sports & Music.

Greek Belly  

Owner John Tsahiridis spent most of his career at Galloway Station Bar & Grill, serving as a cook, bartender and general manager. Before that he worked as a server in short stints at Springfield Brewing Co., Bijans, Clarys Catering/Banquet and Ardy's Fine Dining; was a server at The Tower Club, Big Cedar Lodge's The Worman House and Osage Restaurant.

Karai Ramen + Handroll 

Karai Ramen + Handroll is the fourth restaurant in purveyor Young Jun’s growing empire, which includes Haruno Sushi Bar & Grill, Kai and Koriya. She continues to bring Asian flavors and experiences to Springfield menus.

Roots Coffee Bar

Owners Britny and Stephen Washburn have worked in the local dining scene for over a decade. Britny was a server at Maria’s Mexican Restaurant before moving to Roots. Stephen is familiar with the morning scene, working at Gailey’s Breakfast Cafe, Grad School and, currently, Early Bird Breakfast Pub.

Social on Patton 

Chef Josiah Craig and Front of House Manager Vincent Nolden are bringing their diverse backgrounds together for the menu and bar program at Social. Craig worked at MaMa Jean's Natural Market and at Hickory Hills Country Club and helped open and run the kitchen at Golden Girl Rum Club before coming to then-named CB Social House. Nolden started in food service at age 18 and spent some time as a server and bartender at Umi Sushi Bar & Grill.

Van Gogh's Eeterie

Joe Gidman has a long history in Springfield. He was the general manager for Young Jun's Koriya and a manager at Kai. After that, he was a manager at The Rebecca Grill, a restaurant that became Black Sheep Burgers and Shakes. After that, Gidman opened Cafe Cusco and Van Gogh's followed.

The Wheelhouse 

This is Zach and Melissa Smallwood’s first venture into the foodie scene, but don’t sell them short—the dishes that are devoured in Vib’s lobby were first developed in The Wheelhouse’s food truck, formerly located on Saint Louis Street by Brick & Mortar Coffee.