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Guide to Appetizers

By Ettie Berneking and Katie Pollock Estes with photos by Kevin O’riley

Jan 2014

Dining out. It’s one of the most enjoyable pastimes, and when you throw in a seemingly endless list of delicious and intriguing appetizers to share with your dining buddies, the whole experience reaches a new level of awesomeness. Whether you’re sharing with friends or trying new flavors with your family, there’s just something great about appetizers. Chowing down on an bite-sized versions of full-size food or the manifestation of a chef’s creativity can be a relief for those who have commitment issues. Also, apps can double as a meal for the light eaters out there. And the joys of jumping into a happy hour appetizer menu could turn anyone’s cloudy day into a sea of rainbows.

Lucky for us, 417-land is packed with an array of fabulous restaurants dishing out delectable appetizers. After much research, we are happy to provide you with this: the 417-land guide to appetizers. 

Hope youre hungry. 

 

At Twilight Grille, sharp and tangy goat cheese is paired with roasted garlic, olive tapenade and toasted baguette.

Fried, melted or set aflame, these super-cheesy, extra-gooey and perfectly delicious cheese-centric appetizers are among the most delicious starters on local menus.

Goat Cheese
Twilight Grille, 1717 E. Cherokee St., Springfield, 417-886-7116
Warm goat cheese is paired with roasted garlic, olive tapenade and crispy toasted baguette. 

Saganaki 
Papouli’s, 725 State Hwy. 248, Reeds Spring, 417-272-8243
A hard Greek cheese is battered and grilled then drowned in brandy before being set on fire at your table.

Bleu Cheese Chips
The Grotto, 301 E. Battlefield, Springfield, 417-886-9600, grotto.com
Crispy potato chips are doused with tangy bleu cheese dressing and bleu cheese crumbles before being toasted in the oven. 

Queso de Cabra
Maria’s Mexican Restaurant, 406 South Ave., Springfield, 417-831-9339, mariasdowntown.com 
Melted goat cheese fondue is topped with house-made chorizo and served with flour tortillas and pico de gallo. 

Artisan Pretzels 
Springfield Brewing Company, 305 S. Market Ave., Springfield, 417-832-8277, springfieldbrewingco.com
Piping-hot white queso and Paul’s Cheddar Ale sauce come with two freshly baked Bavarian-style pretzels to create a dippable delight.


When brie is coated in cracker crumbs and fried, something magical happens. This appetizer is served with spicy honey and an apple and celery salad at Devil’s Pool Restaurant.

Fried Brie
Devil’s Pool Restaurant, 612 Devil’s Pool Rd., Ridgedale, 417-335-5141,bigcedar.com 
A wedge of soft brie is breaded in cracker crumbs, fried to gooey perfection and served with spicy honey and an apple and celery salad. 

Baked Brie en Croute
Fire & Ice Restaurant & Bar, 2546 N. Glenstone Ave., Springfield, 417-522-7711, oasisfireandice.com 
Brie is wrapped in puff pastry and baked and served with lavash and jam.

 


Duck confit is paired with arugula, capers and cornichons in the tasty Duck Confit Rillette at Aviary Café and Creperie.

Duck Confit Rillette
Aviary Café and Creperie, 400 E. Walnut St., Springfield, 417-866-6378, aviarycafe.com 

Rich in flavor and texture, this Duck Confit Rillette is similar to pâté, but the big difference is the texture. Unlike pâté where the meat is pulverized to reach a velvety smooth texture, this confit is packed with rich chunks of leg meat to create the perfect mouthwatering bite served over homemade sourdough and topped with arugula, capers, cornichons and a light dressing of olive oil, lemon, salt and pepper. 

Escargot
French Mediterranean Café, 701 McCroskey St., Nixa, 417-724-8216

Each tiny morsel of these buttery, garlicky snails packs plenty of rich flavor. The escargot at French Mediterranean Café in Nixa are drowned in sweet, creamy butter and dusted with fresh herbs and garlic. This herbaceous sauce is so tasty, you’ll want to use that extra bread that’s served to dab up the last droplet of deliciousness. 

Lobster Ravioli
Touch, 1620 E. Republic Rd., Springfield, 417-823-8383, touch-restaurant.com 

If you’re in the mood for something filling and scrumptious without the price tag of an expensive meal, swing by Touch and order the Lobster Ravioli appetizer. This might be a smaller version of the entrée, but you definitely aren’t shortcutting any of the rich flavor. Floating in a pool of savory lobster bisque, plump homemade ravioli are stuffed with shrimp, lobster and a seafood medley. To indulge in this decadence, be sure to order your ravioli from the tapas menu during happy hour on weekdays.

Oven-Roasted Bone Marrow 
Eagle Drive-In, 4224 Hearnes Blvd., Joplin, 417-623-2228

It’s not often you find bone marrow on a drive-in’s appetizer menu, but the culinary masterminds at Eagle Drive-In are known for adding tasty twists to traditional drive-in fare. For this dish, a cow’s femur bone is split in half and roasted for 45 minutes. To give the sought-after flavor, three cups of Mother’s Three Blind Mice beer is added to the pan. When the bones are done, they’re seasoned with salt, pepper and garlic and served with toast points and house-made chimichurri. 

Crispy Seared Circle B Ranch Pork Belly
Chateau Grille, 415 N. State Highway 265, Branson, 417-243-1777, chateauonthelake.com

Just looking at this stunning appetizer is a treat, but sink your teeth into this candy apple–sweet dish, and you’ll know why the crispy pork belly appetizer at Chateau Grille is a crowd favorite. First, chefs braise Berkshire pork belly in a juniper berry braise for 3 to 4 hours to tenderize the flavorful meat before it’s dredged in flour, seared to seal in the flavor and served on top of a fresh apple and mint salad. The whole delicious dish is drizzled with a caramel brandy reduction and topped with a sweet appletini foam. Sounds good, doesn’t it?

 

 

Crispy, crunchy and crazy-good, these appetizers are all served in that golden color that’s so hard to resist.

House-seasoned sausage is wrapped around hard-boiled eggs, breaded and fried to create the Scotch eggs at Farmers Gastropub.

Scotch Eggs
Farmers Gastropub, 2620 S. Glenstone Ave., Springfield, 417-864-6994, farmersgastropub.com 

It might be small in stature, but the scotch egg is a serious heavyweight on the appetizer scene. To start, a hardboiled egg is sheathed in house-seasoned sausage, which is then covered in bread crumbs and fried. As they cut through the crunchy shell and break into the middle, fans of this treat add a dollop of mustard or Sriracha. The only downside is this dish is seasonal at Farmers Gastropub, and it’s returning to the menu in the spring. 

Crystal Shrimp
Haruno Sushi Bar & Grill, 3044 S. Fremont Ave., Springfield,417-887-0077, harunosushi.com 

Can’t get enough slightly crispy tempura? Taste test your way through the crystal shrimp appetizer. This is a smaller version of the entrée and comes loaded with tempura-breaded shrimp, sweet potatoes and squash. Whether you’re munching on crispy shrimp or warm veggies, kick up the flavor by dunking it in the sweet soy dipping sauce.

Fried Pickles
Rosie Jo’s Café 915 W. Jackson St., Ozark, 417-581-6047

There have been heated debates about who makes the best fried pickles in 417-land. The debate is far from over, but Rosie Jo’s Café makes a mean basket of pickles. Here, briny hamburger pickles are soaked in buttermilk, then lightly coated with a special breading mix that starts with flour and black pepper. When the discs are coated, they take a swim in the deep fryer until they’re über-crispy. Be sure to bring plenty of people for sharing; each order comes with 50 to 60 pickles.

Calamari
Level 2 Steakhouse 200 E. Main St., Branson, 417-243-3433, level2steakhouse.com

To give this fried calamari its signature crisp outside and tender inside, baby steak calamari are sliced thin and soaked in buttermilk overnight to become extra-tender. Each piece is lightly breaded in a blend of flour, paprika, salt and pepper and deep-fried for a brief but effective minute. 

Vegetable Pakoras
Gem of India 211 W. Battlefield, Springfield, 417-881-9558, springfieldgemofindia.com 

Deep-fried to a crispy finish, these fresh vegetable fritters are made with spinach, cauliflower, onions and potatoes and encased in a chickpea flour base. You can dunk them in mint, onion or tamarind chutneys. 

Fried Green Tomatoes
Keeter Center at College of the Ozarks 1 Opportunity Ave., Point Lookout, 417-239-1900, keetercenter.edu

It’s never too early to start daydreaming. Once each thick slice of green tomato is coated in campus corn meal, they’re deep-fried until lightly crunchy. Each serving comes topped with house-made jalapeño jelly. Unfortunately, these juicy treats are only available in the summer.

Sesame Mozzerella and Asparagus Tempura
Kai Sushi Lounge & Bar 306 S. Campbell Ave., Springfield, 417-832-0077, kaiafterdark.com 

If you haven’t already sampled these tempting bites of wonder, you’re missing out. Tall spears of asparagus are stuffed inside plump sticks of mozzarella and dipped in tempura batter then deep-fried. If you think you can handle it, try plunging one of these spears in the avocado wasabi dipping sauce. 

Cheese Fries
Ebbetts Field 1027 E. Walnut St., Springfield, 417-865-5050 

A true classic, French fries are fried until they reach that perfect golden color, then they’re topped with provel cheese and shredded cheddar. Before they reach your plate, these fries make a quick trip back to the oven and are served hot and super-melted. 

Zucchini Chips
Caldone’s 218 S. Main St., Joplin, 417-626-8111, caldones.com 

Thin zucchini rounds are dunked in tangy buttermilk, coated in an egg wash and breaded in Italian bread crumbs. Part of what makes these chips so delicious is the seasoning: basil, oregano, garlic, salt and pepper. Once each zucchini medallion is ready, it’s deep fried till golden brown and served with a lemon and dill dipping sauce. 

Crab Wontons
Ocean Zen 600 E. Battlefield, Springfield, 417-889-9596, eatoceanzen.com

Five warm and crispy wonton wrappers are filled with chunks of blue crab and gooey cream cheese. Fried till just crispy, these plump wonders come with three delectable dipping sauces, fresh pineapple salsa and a pickled cucumber salad with fresh ginger.

 

From spring rolls to some more unexpected petite packages, the following apps add their own creative twists to all things rolled.

Fresh Spring Rolls
Bambu, 1338 E. Battlefield, Springfield, 417-881-9881, springfieldbambu.com 

What’s Inside: shredded lettuce, mint leaves and rice vermicelli combined with sliced pork and shrimp
What’s Outside: softened rice paper
Why It Works: Dunked in peanut dipping sauce, these chewy delicious finger foods are too good to share.

 

Pepperoni Bread
D’Arpino’s Italian Café, 3014 S. National Ave., Springfield, 417-889-9898, darpinositlaincafe.com  

What’s Inside: mozzarella cheese and spicy pepperoni 
What’s Outside: soft and pillowy homemade pizza dough
Why It Works: Instead of a few measly bites, you get several slices of pepperoni bread that come cut in inch-and-a-half-thick slices perfect for dunking in the side of scrumptious homemade marinara. 

 

Spicy Chicken and Avocado Eggrolls
Houlihan’s Restaurant and Bar, 2431 N. Glenstone Ave., Springfield, 417-862-7777; 2110 E. Republic Rd., Springfield, 417-883-3434;  houlihans.com 

What’s Inside: roasted Anaheim chilies, chicken, pepper-jack cheese and homemade guacamole 
What’s Outside: an egg roll wrapper that’s fried to perfection
Why It Works: Crispy on the outside and creamy on the inside, this is a tasty update to the traditional egg roll. 

Reuben Rolls
Dublin’s Pass, 317 Park Central East, 417-862-7625; 2767 W. Republic Rd., Springfield, 417-877-7625; doublinspass.com 

What’s Inside: corned beef, sauerkraut, Swiss cheese
What’s Outside: crispy fried eggroll wrapper
Why It Works: Besides being a super-tasty and unexpected creation, these rolls are the perfect size for dunking into a pool of creamy Thousand Island dressing.

 

Petite Mignons
Wilder’s Steakhouse, 1216 S. Main St., Joplin, 417-623-7230, wilderssteakhouse.com 

What’s Inside: three 2-ounce all-natural beef tenderloin medallions 
What’s Outside: crispy applewood smoked bacon
Why It Works: This app is a meat-lover’s dream. Three tender medallions are wrapped in crispy bacon and served in a pool of Wilder’s signature steakhouse sauce and asiago béchamel cream sauce. 

 

Cheese Borek
Main Street Mediterranean Cuisine, 107 N. Main Ave., Bolivar, 417-777-6700

What’s Inside: French feta cheese, Italian parsley 
What’s Outside: phyllo dough
Why it Works: Fried just long enough to crisp the outsides, these little rolled up wonders are loaded with salty cheese and fresh parsley. If you’re not in the mood for cheese, try the meat borek with ground beef, Italian parsley and onions.

 

 

Can’t make up your mind when ordering apps for the table? These three appetizer combo platters are some of our favorites. They feature portions of several items—something for every taste bud—and they are genuinely super-delish. 

1. The Mezza Combo
That Lebanese Place, 338 E. Commercial St., Springfield, 417-536-6677, thatlebaneseplace.net

For this app, you get to choose four items from the following: falafel, grape leaves, hummus, baba ghanoush, labneh, kibbe, tabbouleh, fattoush or zaatar. Try our two favorites: The stuffed grape leaves feature a savory, lemony filling, and the falafel is herbaceous and irresistible.

 

2. The Smoked Trout Sampler
Rockbridge Rainbow Trout & Game Ranch1 County Road 142, Rockbridge, 417-679-3619, rockbridgemo.com

This appetizer is the holy grail for lovers of smoked trout. An enormous plate is filled to capacity with various dipping vehicles (like crackers and veggies) and features the restaurant’s delectable smoked rainbow trout presented three ways: a smoked trout salad (think chicken salad, but not), smoked trout paté and smoked trout on its own, plain and simple. The dish is seasonable, but you can find it on the menu again starting in the spring.

 

3. Greek Platter
Tea Bar & Bites, 621 S. Pickwick Ave., Springfield, 417-866-7500, teabarandbites.com

A feature on Tea Bar’s newer small bites menu, the Greek platter is packed with Mediterranean lusciousness in the form of stuffed grape leaves, falafel and flaky spanakopita. The spanakopita is hands-down our favorite part, with savory spinach and tangy feta cheese tucked into flaky phyllo dough. You won’t want to share.

 

Finish your appetizer in record time when you order the leche de tigre shot from Café Cusco (234 E. Commercial St., Springfield, 417-868-8088, cafecusco.com). At just $2 a pop, this funky little app includes a shot glass filled with a savory cocktail of ceviche juice and chili peppers with a chilled shrimp on the rim as a tasty chaser. Throw it back in one big glug. It’s spicy. It’s acidic. It’s addictive. Go ahead and order two, because we’re pretty sure you’ll want seconds.

 

We see mussels on menus all over 417-land and can hardly ever resist getting our hands on those perfect little mollusks. Each place does them a bit differently, and we share the key ingredients. preparations at each locale.


The steamed mussels at Jimm’s Steakhouse & Pub are prepared with white wine, garlic and butter and come with butter-toasted ciabatta bread. 

Steamed Mussels
Jimm’s Steakhouse & Pub
White wine, garlic, butter, butter-toasted ciabatta bread

Florentina’s Mussels 
Florentina’s Ristorante Italiano
White wine, garlic, fresh basil, lemon juice, cream

Cozze Fresche Agli Aromi
Bruno’s Italian Restaurant
Garlic, wine and tomato broth

Broiled Mussel
Aviary Cafe and Creperie
White wine, bread crumbs, garlic butter, spicy provincial tomato fumet, grilled sourdough

Fresh Novia Scotia Mussels 
Touch
Beurre blanc, fresh tarragon and locally made baguette

Mussel al Forno 
Avanzare Italian Dining 
Garlic wine sauce and a splash of marinara

Black mussels 
Nonna’s Italian Café
White wine herb sauce, garlic toast points

New Zealand Mussels  
Thai Spice in Webb City
Lemongrass, cilantro, Thai chili, lime-ginger sauce


 

We are and always will be deeply in love with the flash-fried spinach appetizer at Metropolitan Grill (2931 E. Battlefield, Springfield, 417-89-4951). It is perfection in the form of a big pile of leafy goodness. When you read the menu description, it looks so simple: baby spinach, garlic, lemon, Parmesan cheese. But it’s a magical combo of flavors that keeps you reaching back for more, and more, and more. Each bite has the tiniest little crunch; each leaf is perfectly delicate but packed with flavor. It’s true love on a plate, and we can’t get enough of it. Please, flash fried spinach, never leave us.

 

 

Dippable, dunkable and oh-so-tasty, these six dips are so packed full of flavor we can’t help but share.


For a new twist on an old favorite, try the black bean hummus at Scotch & Soda.


Buffalo Chicken Dip with tortilla chips
Shredded chicken, cream cheese and Frank’s RedHot sauce are combined for a slightly spicy dip that’s baked for two hours and served warm and gooey.
Big Whiskey’s American Bar & Grill 
311 Park Central E., Springfield, 417-862-2449; 1440 W. Republic Rd., Springfield, 417-882-2249; 1550 E. Battlefield, Springfield, 417-883-5999; bigwhiskeys.com 

Baja Dip with Tortilla chips
Refried beans are blended with hearty black beans, onion, cheddar cheese, melted mozzarella cheese, sour cream and candied jalapeños and served with fire-roasted salsa. 
Parlor 88 Lounge & Eatery
1111 E. Republic Rd., Springfield, 417-882-8882; 3653 E. Sunshine St., Springfield, 417-823-8882; 300 Park Central East, Springfield, 417-832-9514; parlor88.com

BBQ Bean Dip with homemade potato chips or tortilla chips
Buckingham’s famous smoked pit beans are cooked in a smoker overnight before they’re mixed with shredded cheese, sour cream and diced jalapeños. 
Buckinghams BBQ
2415 N. Glenstone Ave., Springfield, 417-831-7427; 3624 E. Sunshine St., Springfield, 417-887-4227; 606 W. Mt. Vernon St., Nixa, 417-724-2344, buckinghambbq.com 

Black Bean Hummus with Fresh veggies and warm pita
For a delicious twist on traditional chickpea hummus, Scotch & Soda blends in black beans for an extra punch of flavor. This scrumptious dip is made fresh every day. 
Scotch & Soda
310 South Ave., Springfield, 417-719-4224, thescotchandsoda.com 

Spinach & Artichoke Dip with warm pita and garlic toast
To make this dip extra-thick and dippable, MaMa’s Style Kitchen tosses in plenty of creamy deliciousness including sour cream, cream cheese, mozzarella cheese and provolone cheese. Next comes organic baby spinach, black pepper and chunks of artichoke. 
MaMa’s Style Kitchen
206 N. First St., Ozark, 417-485-3330,
mamasstylekitchen.com

Baba Ghanoush with Pita bread
Once an eggplant gets toasty on the grill, it’s mixed— skin and all—with lemon juice, tahini, sea salt and garlic to create a mouthwatering dip that owner Riad Matar says even beats his mother’s baba ghanoush.
Riad
400 South Ave., Springfield,
417-720-1018


Get ready to have your mind blown. Some of your favorite simple foods have been reinvented.

Peanut Butter and Jelly Fries
Get them at Instant Karma Gourmet Hot Dogs, 527 S. Main St., Joplin, 417-206-3647
Simple Food: French fries
Facelift: You never know what you’ll find on the menu at Instant Karma Gourmet Hot Dogs, which is why this funky twist to the French fry is no surprise. Whenever the chefs get a hankering for something salty and sweet, they spread a peanut butter and coconut milk blend and house-made jelly over shoestring fries. It’s not a regular menu item, so keep an eye out for when it’s on special.

Plantain Chips
Get them at City Mexican Cuisine, 3014 E. Sunshine St., Springfield, 417-719-4188, citymexicancuisine.com 
Simple Food: Chips and salsa
Facelift: Homemade plantain chips come with two delectable dips: fresh mango salsa and house mojo sauce (olive oil infused with garlic salt and spices). This tasty remake has our taste buds in a frenzy. It’s hard to resist the semi-sweet flavor of thinly sliced plantains that have been fried to a golden brown.

 

Pizza Balls 
Get them at J.O.B Public House, 319 E. Walnut St., Springfield, 417-831-1158
Simple Food: A sloppy and floppy slice of pepperoni pizza
Facelift: Besides being known for an extensive collection of whiskey, J.O.B. Public House’s claim to fame comes in the form of a golf ball–sized tasty wonder. Fondly known as pizza balls, mozzarella, marinara and chunks of pepperoni are formed into tasty spheres, dunked in flour and Italian-seasoned breadcrumbs then fried. 

Quesadillas al Cangrejo
Get it at Cantina Laredo 4109 S. National Ave., Springfield, 417-881-7200, 1001 Branson Landing, Branson, 417-334-6062; cantinalaredo.com 
Simple Food: Cheese quesadilla 
Facelift: That boring quesadilla just got a lot more exciting. Buried in a flour tortilla, lump crab, mango ginger salsa and goat cheese unite to create an irresistible taste sensation. 

 

Ahi Tuna Nachos
Get them at The Rocks Lakeside Grill and Lounge, 12051 State Hwy. 13, Kimberling City, 417-739-4440, therocksgrill.com 
Simple Food: Nachos
Facelift: Instead of diving into a heaping pile of soggy nachos, this time around you’ll find a handful of perfectly portioned lavash chips topped with mixed greens, tomato avocado salsa and a lump of Ahi tuna encrusted with wasabi-infused sesame seeds and lemon aioli.

 

Cast Iron Fried Cornbread
Get it at Metropolitan Farmer, 2144 E. Republic Rd., 417-720-1665, metropolitanfarmer.com 
Since Metropolitan Farmer opened in November, this down-home treat has been one of its best sellers. To create this salty--sweet treat, Chef Wes Johnson prepares a traditional sweet corn bread each day. Once the corn bread is ready, it’s finished off with bacon drippings, bacon butter and Funks Grove maple syrup. 

Truffle-Scented Popcorn
Get it at Flo Eatery & Wine Bar, 2925 E. Battlefield, Springfield, 417-886-0356, eatoceanzen.com 
Simple Food: Freshly popped popcorn
Facelift: Popcorn is reinvented with the help of butter, truffle salt and truffle oil. Salty and savory and warm and delicious, elegant flavors unite with the movie time favorite to create a first-class starter. 

Behind so many great appetizers is an irresistible sauce. Here are some of our favorites. 

Avocado Sauce
Served with the asparagus tempura as a dipping sauce and drizzled over the Dragon Ball Roll, Eye of the Tiger Roll, lobster roll and Sex and the City Roll at Haruno Sushi Bar & Grill (3044 S. Fremont Ave., Springfield)

Seafood Sauce
Served with any entrée alongside a ginger sauce at Nakato Japanese Steakhouse & Sushi Bar (2615 S. Glenstone Ave., Springfield) 

Dipping Sauce Trio
Available upon request at Tong’s Thai Restaurant, (3454 S. Campbell Ave., Springfield). The three hot sauces are made in-house and come in mild, hot and insanely hot... beware of the green sauce.  

Sweet Thai Chili Sauce
Only available by request, this sauce is best served with the calamari fries from Touch (1620 E. Republic Rd., Springfield). 

Peanut Sauce
Served with spring rolls at Bambu Vietnamese Cuisine (1338 E. Battlefield, Springfield)

Basil Lime Mayo
Ask for a small ramekin of this sauce for dunking your sweet potato fries at The Grotto (301 E. Battlefield, Springfield). 

Garlic Aioli
Served with the pommes frites at Aviary Café and Creperie (400 E. Walnut St., Springfield)

Hot Mustard
This spicy condiment is the perfect garnish to a crispy crab Rangoon at Leong’s Asian Diner (1540 W. Republic Rd., Springfield).

Horseradish Cream Sauce
Served with the Parmesan-crusted fried portabellos at Flame Steakhouse and Wine Bar (314 W. Walnut St., Springfield)

 

There’s nothing light about these meat-packed appetizers. Loosen your belt, and pull up a chair; it’s dinner time.

The tenderloin at Nicola’s is briefly seared before it’s sliced and served with crisp greens, capers, lemon juice and Parmesan.

Beef Carpaccio
Nicola’s Ristorante, 3631 E. Sunshine St., Springfield, 417-886-3700, nicolasristorante.com 
Want to sink your teeth into thinly sliced pieces of tenderloin? Before going under the knife, this tenderloin is seared ever-so-so-slightly to pull out the juicy flavor this dish is known for. Served with crisp greens and dusted with shavings of Parmesan, the light flavor of the carpaccio blends into the sharp tang of capers and lemon juice. 

 

Filet Baby Burgers
Flame Steakhouse and Wine Bar, 314 W. Walnut St., Springfield, 417-862-4444, flamesteakhouse.com
To make the two 3-ounce tenderloin burgers that come in each order of the Filet Baby Burgers app, the crew back in the Flame kitchen starts by grinding the meat in-house. Broiled to perfection, each burger is crowned with truffle aioli, caramelized onions and Boursin cheese and served on homemade yeast buns. In between mouthfuls of baby burger, dunk some of Flame’s praise-worthy smoked French fries into the two dipping sauces: garlic aioli and the house-smoked ketchup. 

 

Sashimi de Carne
The Argentina Steakhouse, 1410 E. Republic Rd., Springfield, 417-886-8010, theargentinasteakhouse.com 
To enjoy a quick bite of The Argentina Steakhouse’s history, order the Sashimi de Carne. The owners came to the United States from Argentina, and this dish with its signature sesame sauce has been on the menu since the restaurant opened. To create the flavorful dish, beef tenderloin is seared rare and tossed in sesame sauce, ground sesame seeds, brown sugar and sesame oil. The result is a mouthful of salty and tangy deliciousness. 

 

Polpette al Vino Bianco e Crema
Gilardi’s, 820 E. Walnut Ave., Springfield, 417-862-6400, gilardis.com
Boasting five 2-ounce meatballs, this is one appetizer that could easily sub as a meal. To make the killer meatballs, chefs mix up Angus beef, ground pork and hand-fired roasted bell peppers and use Quaker oats soaked in cream for a binding agent. Juicy and flavorful by themselves, these meaty morsels are topped with a rosemary and white wine cream sauce and served with rosemary and goat cheese polenta. Now that’s what we call comfort food.  

 

Hot & Honey Wings
Hackett Hot Wings, 520 S. Main St., Joplin, 417-625-1333, hacketthotwings.com 
With two generations of wing-lovers working in the kitchen, you know these chicken wings are going to be good. Before being slathered in the tangy Hot & Honey sauce, each wing is rubbed down in a top-secret spice rub that is specially made for Hackett. Once the wings are ready for their close-up, they get dunked in soy oil and fried for 13 minutes until crispy. This is one delicious family tradition, and we’ll take seconds, please.

 

Fry Bread
Worman House at Big Cedar Lodge, 612 Devil’s Pool Rd., Ridgedale, 417-335-2777, bigcedar.com
Just writing about this app makes our stomachs growl. Homemade dough is fried to order and topped with slow-braised short ribs, chipotle mayo, roasted peppers and cilantro. Yum! To seal in as much flavor as possible, the ribs are rubbed with herbs and chili flakes before being seared then braised for three hours in beef stock, port and shredded veggies. The ribs come juicy and tender. 

 

Sunomono
Mijuri Sushi & Rhythm, 2710 S. Campbell Ave., Springfield, 417-889-9593
It’s the freshness of this fish-heavy appetizer that hooked us line and sinker. A nest of crispy rice noodles is topped with ribbons of thinly sliced cucumber and crowned with flavorful bites of raw tuna, salmon, yellowtail or masago. As you fish for a hearty forkful, be sure to scoop up some of the salty-sweet ponzu sauce. 

 

Esan chicken 
Tongs Thai Cuisine, 3454 S. Campbell Ave., Springfield, 417-889-5280 
Who doesn’t love finger foods? We adore messy delicious nibbles you can enjoy without cumbersome utensils as you go knuckle-deep. And when it comes to finger foods, these lettuce wraps might reign supreme. Crisp lettuce boats arrive tableside ready to be packed with stir-fried chicken, cilantro, green onion, ginger, soy sauce and oyster sauce. 

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