When you think of all of the things that make life great, your loved ones have to be at the top of the list. Family, enjoying a meal while sharing their lives. What better way than a special dinner to show those top-of-the-list people what they mean to you? It doesn’t have to break the bank ... just go out to eat.
To help get the idea started, we’ve put together a list of “everyday” restaurants which may be new to you. Yes, the possibilities truly are endless, so we have chosen two locations, with no particular types in mind, in each of Missouri’s five regions. Let’s eat.
Webster defines bistro as: a small, modest, European-style restaurant or café. That is just what you get at when you visit these two eateries.
At Acero Italian Restaurant in Maplewood, eight miles west of downtown St. Louis, the pastas are made in-house and the extensive wine cellar holds only Italian wines. Pronounced AH’-chair-oh, the word fittingly translates to “maple” in Italian. You must try their famous Egg Raviolo.
The French cuisine at Franco suggests original French heritage, with a contemporary take on classic bistro fare. Breads, biscuits, pickled vegetables, sauces and desserts are made on-site. When the weather cooperates, they have a full-service outdoor wine garden. Franco is located next to the world-renowned Soulard Farmers Market, about a mile south of Busch Stadium (home of the St. Louis Cardinals baseball team).
A vegan is someone who is a strict vegetarian who eats no animal or dairy products at all. That may sound strange to you, but don’t knock it until you’ve tried it at Cafe Gratitude in Kansas City. This is a 100 percent organic vegan restaurant specializing in raw and cooked foods. If you want to learn what being vegan means, the cafe holds workshops and classes.
On the other side of the spectrum, barbecue is all about meats. In downtown Excelsior Springs, Wabash BBQ specializes in smoked meats and award-winning barbecued ribs and chicken, served in a former train depot. They are located one block from the famous Elms Hotel and Spa, so if (when) you eat too much, you know where to stay the night.
Two very different approaches to food can be found in central Missouri; one with a modern slant, the other rooted in old-world traditions. Both are sure to satisfy.
In Columbia, the menu at Bleu Restaurant and Wine Bar changes with the seasons to assure only the freshest ingredients. Their signature cuisine is unique and delectable, with choices for everyone: meat and fish dishes, vegetarian and gluten-free. Unwind with peanut butter chocolate fudge and a glass of red wine. Bleu is in The District, 43 not-so-square blocks with a mix of historic architecture, unique retail shops, live performance venues, bars and restaurants.
Jefferson City is home to Das Stein Haus, where you can feast on authentic German specialties, served in a European atmosphere complete with German music. Their lounge has an extensive list of wine, spirits and beers imported from Europe. While you’re in town, visit the Missouri Capitol, where free, guided tours are given daily.
Barbecue, BBQ, Bar-B-Q, or just Que ... whichever you call it, barbecue is a major food attraction in Missouri. Great BBQ isn’t a result of just grilling ... it involves slowly smoking meat (some cuts as long as 15 hours) in wood-burning “pits” to impart the true Missouri hard-wood flavor.
Some of the best can be savored at Baylee Jo's BBQ & Seafood Grill in Ironton. Their meats are slow-smoked using cherry wood. All side dishes are made on-site, including the baked beans (a staple in all barbecue joints), which are loaded with pieces of rib-meat, and their famous barbecue cornbread. From Baylee Jo’s, you are less than 30 minutes from Taum Sauk Mountain State Park; at an elevation of 1,772 feet, it the highest point in the Show-Me State.
Dexter Bar-B-Que (see, there’s another spelling) in Dexter (and five other towns), uses a secret dry-rub on their house specialty: ribs. In addition to beef and pork choices, they offer smoked turkey that will keep you coming back. Their pits use fireplace-size logs to create a distinctive flavor, aroma, color and texture; and a special convection air system circulates the smoke and heat throughout the chamber.
They say variety is the spice of life. (Ever wonder who “they” is?) Well, variety is surely the flavor of Missouri. Our third largest city, Springfield, and the “Live Music Capital of the World,” Branson, are perfect examples of variety.
The Farmers Gastropub in Springfield is a British-style community pub that uses ingredients from local producers, so the menu changes seasonally to support what the market has to offer. Pubs are generally places to have a nosh and a pint; however, this gastropub surpasses standard pubs on the food side of things.
In Branson, the White River Fish House occupies a floating barge on Lake Taneycomo (the White River). In addition to a large fish selection, which includes walleye, the menu includes alligator, Cajun specialties, chicken, beef, pork and other choices. The Fish House is at one end of Branson Landing, a 1.5-mile-long waterfront area with more than 100 shopping, entertainment and dining options.
Hungry yet? There is, literally, a world of food choices in Missouri. Make it a point to find a new favorite, and share that discovery on our VisitMO Facebook page. Bon appétit.