Iconic Missouri Restaurants

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The Blue Owl Restaurant and Bakery
Lambert's Cafe

Julia Child once said that people who love to eat are always the best people. And here in Missouri, we love to eat. You can find all types of cuisine in the Show-Me State, but there are some restaurants that stand out. Whether they have withstood the test of time, created innovative dishes or just make really tasty food, these tried-and-true restaurants are Missouri favorites.

Kansas City and barbecue. They go together like peas and carrots … like peanut butter and jelly … like Batman and Robin. You get the idea. While there are many places to enjoy this classic Missouri meal, Arthur Bryant’s Barbeque and Gates Bar-B-Q are some of the most famous in Kansas City. Both restaurants serve up burnt ends, a KC staple sure to impress even the most discerning diner. Download the KC BBQ Experience appto check in at the restaurants you visit and earn badges for completing barbecue-themed challenges.

Sample Springfield cashew chicken at Leong’s Asian Diner, which is owned by the family of David Leong – the man who invented the dish. In 1963 David Leong opened Leong’s Tea House in Springfield where he served authentic Cantonese-style food. In order to attract more people to the restaurant, he merged Midwestern and Chinese cooking methods by combining crispy fried chicken morsels with a rich, brown gravy and a sprinkling of cashews. The dish is beloved by the city and can be found at countless restaurants in Springfield and beyond.

Head to The Hill in St. Louis for authentic Italian cuisine. The colorful neighborhood is home to numerous restaurants, but one of the premiere destinations in the area is Charlie Gitto’s On the Hill. Opened in 1981, Charlie Gitto’s serves up delectable Italian specialties in addition to St. Louis treasures – toasted ravioli, anyone? Professionally-trained sommeliers can recommend the perfect wine to elevate your dining experience, and don’t forget to try the homemade gelato for dessert.

Have a hankering for fried chicken? Stroud’s Oak Ridge Manor in Kansas City is the place to go. Located in an 1820s log cabin and farmhouse, the restaurant serves up made-from-scratch comfort food. Try the pork, beef and fish dishes in addition to the famed pan-fried chicken – which takes longer to prepare than deep-fried chicken, but trust us, it’s worth the wait.

Enjoy a hot, cheesy slice of pizza with all the toppings you could imagine at Shakespeare’s Pizza. This Columbia mainstay opened in 1973 and was named the best college hangout in America by Good Morning America in 2010. Customize your pizza with a variety of toppings or order a tasty combination from the menu. The Masterpiece is a popular choice and is piled with red onions, pepperoni, Canadian bacon, mushrooms, black olives, green peppers, Italian sausage and ground beef. The large pie has a pound of meat and vegetables each!

You don’t need to bring a mitt to be a catcher at Lambert’s Café, the home of “throwed rolls”. As the servers make their way through the dining room, they toss hot, soft rolls to customers. But the rolls are just the beginning. The servers also bring “pass-arounds”, like fried okra, black-eyed peas, fried potatoes, and macaroni and tomatoes, to your table – before your meal arrives. The meals are a feast of epic proportions. Nobody leaves Lambert’s hungry, guaranteed. The original Lambert’s Café is located in Sikeston, but the restaurant has another Missouri location in Ozark.

Enjoy a grilled-to-perfection steak in the historic stockyards district of Kansas City. The Golden Ox opened in the late 1940s and originally served ranchers who had brought their cattle to the stockyards. Today, the upscale, mid-century dining room creates a fantastic backdrop to enjoy the American steakhouse cuisine. The menu features eight different cuts of steak, including The Drover, a 56-ounce ribeye that can feed two to three people.

Savor St. Louis-style pizza at Imo’s Pizza. The ultra-thin crust, Provel cheese and square cut slices set this pie apart from the rest. The Imo’s legacy began when Ed and Margie Imo opened a pizza parlor in St. Louis’ Italian neighborhood, The Hill, in 1964. There are now more than 100 stores and franchises in Missouri and neighboring states.  

Tuck into the biggest pie you’ve ever seen at The Blue Owl Restaurant and Bakery in Kimmswick. The Blue Owl offers a full menu, but save room for the delicious sweets and treats made from scratch daily. The Levee High Caramel Apple Pecan Pie – packed with 18 apples and weighing in at 10 pounds – has been featured in The Food Network Magazine, Midwest Living, Bon Appetit, The Wall Street Journal and was included in Oprah’s “Top 100 Favorite Things for the Holidays” in 2011.