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Rural Missouri Magazine

Rural Missouri’s readers know what they like. And they aren’t afraid to drive long distances to get it. That’s just one conclusion the editors of Rural Missouri magazine reached after checking the results of the publication’s first-ever Readers’ Choice Awards.

Rural Missouri’s editors had the daunting task of tabulating the thousands of responses from readers who offered their pick in 40 categories. The results were in some cases surprising and in others pretty obvious.

Because the voting was so close, we decided to present "Editor’s Choice" awards in some categories. These are places we’ve found in our travels around the state that for one reason or another stood out. We hope to make this an annual event, so look for the next contest this fall.

Best Restaurant
First: Lambert’s, Sikeston and Ozark
Second: Pear Tree, Bevier
Third: Benton House, Warsaw
This was by far the most hotly contested area of the contest and one our editors had a keen interest in. Lambert’s, home of the "Throwed Roll," took first. With locations in Sikeston and Ozark and a national following, that was an easy guess. But a close second went to Bevier’s Pear Tree, an elegant place to eat located a bit off the beaten path. In third place was Warsaw’s Benton House, which the locals tell us is no fluke. Surprisingly, none of the city restaurants fared well in the contest.
Editor’s choice: Ozark’s Riverside Inn is purposely hard to find. That’s because the 1920s-vintage establishment was once a Prohibition speakeasy. This is one of the most elegant and romantic places to eat in rural Missouri.

Best Barbecue
First: Johnny’s Smoke Stak, Rolla
Second: Arthur Bryant’s, Kansas City
Third: Gates, Kansas City
One of the primary reasons our editors wanted to do this contest was to establish a list of the best barbecue in Missouri to take with us as we travel the state. Mission accomplished, we’ll be sampling sauce for years to come. This was a tough one to judge as 27 restaurants tied their way into the top 10.
Editor’s choice: We like barbecue so much that we decided to give two awards. For ribs there is no better place than Dexter’s Hickory Log. For all around good smoked meat, though, head to Hayti for the appropriately named Chubby’s.

Best Hamburger
First: Booches, Columbia
Second: The Wheel-In Drive In, Sedalia
Third: 63 Diner, Columbia
No contest would be complete without finding the state’s best burger and the readers’ choices got no complaints from us. Booches serves an excellent burger not far from the MU campus as presidents and other celebrities can attest. In second was the unusual "Gooberburger," a peanut butter-slathered burger that is a staple of Sedalia’s Wheel-in Drive In restaurant.
Editor’s choice: We challenge you to eat all of the monumental burger they serve at the Vichy Y restaurant located at the junction of Highway 63 and Highway 28.

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Best Coffee Spot
First: Lakota Coffee Company, Columbia
Second: Court Street Cafe, Fulton
Third: Sweet Peas, Monett
Winner Lakota offers coffee over the Internet. Some of the best votes in this category were "my kitchen." We still plan to pop in on those who voted that way.

Best Country Cooking Meal
First: Lamberts, Sikeston and Ozark
Second: Lehman’s, Versailles
Third: Steve’s, Loose Creek
This category is judged with apologies to all the moms and grandmothers who ranked high on the ballots. If only they had more kids the results would have been far different. All three top picks are worthy, with fried chicken earning them real distinction.

Best Old Fashioned Ice Cream Shop
First: Central Dairy, Jefferson City
Second: Ruby’s, St. James
Third: Sara’s, Ste. Genevieve
This one was no contest with Central Dairy blowing away the competition.
Editor’s choice: Next to barbecue, we like ice cream best. Andy’s in Springfield bears mentioning, but our nod goes to Patke’s Dairy in Washington, not as big as Central Dairy but a local product just the same.

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Best Museum
First: St. Louis Art Museum
Second: Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City
Third: Ralph Foster Museum at College of the Ozarks, Point Lookout
Our readers are no strangers to the cities. It was a close contest in this category with St. Louis on top this time. We were glad to see the Ralph Foster Museum mentioned so often. This is a real treasure of the Ozarks.
Editor’s choice: Residents of Bloomfield worked long and hard to build a museum dedicated to their footnote to history — birthplace of the Stars and Stripes newspaper.

Best State Park
First: Ha Ha Tonka, Camdenton
Second: Bennett Spring, Lebanon
Third: Elephant Rocks, Graniteville
Everyone had an opinion on this one and almost all the parks received a bunch of votes. Also high on our readers’ list were Meramec, Montauk, Mark Twain, Johnson’s Shut-ins, Rock Bridge and Roaring River.
Editor’s choice: We like them all.

Best Scenic Drive
First: Highway. 65 to Branson
Second: Highway 94 St. Charles to Jefferson City
Third: Highway 79 to Hannibal
No doubt our readers have made the drive down 65 many times heading to Branson and don’t mind the trip. But we were glad to see Highway 94 show up second. It’s a nice drive and perhaps the reason God made motorcycles.
Editor’s choice: It’s gotta be Highway 8 from St. James clear down to Potosi. Make this one in the spring when the dogwoods are in bloom.

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Best Historic Site
First: Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield, Springfield
Second: Hannibal
Third: Arrow Rock
Wilson’s Creek was pivotal in the War Between the States and its relevance is appreciated by our readers.
Editor’s choice: Ste. Genevieve, Missouri’s oldest permanent settlement, is one big historic site. Visit it after school’s out when more attractions are open.

Best Fair/Festival
First: Missouri State Fair, Sedalia
Second: Empire Fair, Springfield
Third: Festival of the Little Hills, St. Charles
There’s no topping the Missouri State Fair and all other fairs in Missouri pay homage to its distinction by sending their best to the state fair.
Editor’s choice: Folks from Mokane claim "you ain’t nuttin’ if ya don’t eat mutton." We give a nod to their version of the World’s Fair.

Best Live Theater
First: Lyceum, Arrow Rock
Second: Muny, St. Louis
Third: Shepherd of the Hills, Branson
Live theater is really making a comeback but in Arrow Rock you can see it as it was meant to be.

Best Antique Hunting Spot
First: Ozark
Second: St. Charles
Third: Hermann
On the way to Branson, there’s enough reasons to stop at Ozark to make it worthy of a destination all by itself. It will take a day to browse all the offerings here.
Editor’s Choice: Head to northeast Missouri and find Perry. The entire town caters to the antique hunter and the season is always open.

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Best Flea Market
First: Wentzville Flea Market
Second: Irvin’s Famous Flea Market, Rutledge
Third: Pevely Flea Market
The top picks have a lot in common — they’re big and they have people at the booths so you can haggle on prices.
Editor’s choice: Along the same lines as our winners, the Mason- Dixon Line Flea Market near Villa Ridge is a lot of fun.

Best Farmer’s Market
First: City Market, Kansas City
Second: Soulard Market, St. Louis
Third: Columbia Farmer’s Market
Farmer’s Markets are big in the city and the country. We were surprised that Kansas City beat out the legendary Soulard.
Editor’s choice: We think it’s great when the city folk buy direct from the farmer. But we still think the best markets are where the farms are, like the one in Chillicothe.

Best Old Store
First: Crane’s, Williamsburg
Second: Dick’s 5&10, Branson
Third: Scott’s General Store, Iconium
Anyone who’s ever shopped for Carhart’s knows Cranes, and Dick’s in downtown Branson is the way stores used to be. Scott’s caters to Boy Scouts and anyone in need of a peach float.
Editor’s choice: The Freedom Store just east of Linn is hard to find but worth the effort.

Best Fall Colors Drive
First: Highway 94
Second: Highway 79
Third: Highway 65
The river roads make the best fall color in our humble opinion.

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Best Flower/Garden Spot
First: (tie) Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis, Powell Gardens, Kingsville
Second: Shelter Gardens, Columbia
Once again our readers show they know their way around the cities. We can think of some backyard gardens that deserved ranking too.
Editor’s choice: Chance Gardens in Centralia is proof Missouri industry cares about making people smile.

Best Christmas Event
First: Branson
Second: Country Club Plaza, Kansas City
Third: Silver Dollar City
Christmas is an excellent season to visit Branson, with traffic lighter and the lights shining brighter.
Editor’s choice: The lighting display and the message at the Precious Moments Chapel in Carthage combine to make this a must-see at Christmas time.

Best Town to Live In
First: Columbia
Second: Springfield
Third: Jefferson City
No surprise here, Columbia annually ranks nationally in this category, and Springfield has yet to shuck its small town feel. Many of our readers like where they live however.
Editor’s choice: Steelville. When National Geographic came to town, we barely recognized the Steelville they wrote about.

Best Town to Visit
First: Branson
Second: Kansas City
Third: Hermann
Branson showed up in category after category in this contest.
Editor’s choice: After you visit Hermann head on down the road to Augusta where you’ll find more small-town charm and excellent wines.

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Best Bed & Breakfast
First: School House, Rocheport
Second: Zanoni Mill, Zanoni
Third: Hilty Inn, Versailles
The School House B&B is a nicely done addition to scenic Rocheport and a great place to stay if you cycle the Katy Trail.
Editor’s choice: We think you can’t go wrong at any of Missouri’s inns.

Best Sporting Event
First: St. Louis Cardinals
Second: Kansas City Chiefs
Third: University of Missouri
We cringe every time we hear the Braves call themselves "America’s Team." The Cards are the real thing.
Editor’s choice: Jackie Stiles may be gone but Lady Bears Basketball is still the best game in town.

Best Music Artist/Group
First: Baldknobbers, Branson
Second: Ozark Mountain Daredevils, Springfield
Third: Sara Evans, New Franklin
The Baldnobbers are a lot of fun but we wish the Daredevils would make a comeback.
Editor’s choice: Sheryl Crow hasn’t forgotten her rural Kennett roots and is doing a lot of good with her music money.

Best Dance Spot
First: InCahoots, St. Louis
Second: Deja Vu, Columbia
Third: Orris, Ste. Genevieve
Not a lot of votes in this category, maybe our readers can’t dance?

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Best Town Square
First: Carthage
Second: Clinton
Third: Mexico
Downtown lives on in Carthage, anchored by a beautiful courthouse.



Best Weekend Getaway
First: Branson
Second: Lake of the Ozarks
Third: St. Louis
No complaints here, Branson is America’s destination.
Editor’s choice: Head north to Jamesport and see how the simple folk live.

Best Romantic Getaway
First: Branson
Second: Big Cedar Lodge, Ridgedale
Third: Lake of the Ozarks
We were hoping for more specifics, like the carriage ride past Lake Taneycomo in old Branson.

Best Summer Getaway
First: Lake of the Ozarks
Second: Branson
Third: Table Rock Lake
The big lake beat Branson this time.
Editor’s choice: Eminence equals wild water and wild horses.


Best Winter Getaway
First: Branson
Second: Kansas City
Third: Tan-Tar-A Resort, Lake of the Ozarks
Branson has been open for winter for some time now and it’s a great time to visit.
Editor’s choice: Kirksville’s Thousand Hills State Park is great for winter sports.

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Best Lake
First: Lake of the Ozarks
Second: Table Rock
Third: Truman
With more miles of shore than the state of California, there’s a lot to love at Lake of the Ozarks.

Best Fishing Spot
First: Truman Lake
Second: Bennett Spring, Lebanon
Third: Stockton Lake
Our readers like the lakes, but no one would tell us their secret spot.
Editor’s choice: The Gasconade River has great smallmouth bass.


Best Float Stream
First: Current River
Second: Niangua River
Third: Meramec River
If you haven’t floated Current River then you haven’t floated.
Editor’s choice: With fewer outfitters and gravel bars, the Eleven Point is our favorite for real solitude.


Best Hiking Trail
First: Katy Trail
Second: Ha Ha Tonka State Park
Third: Rockbridge State Park, Columbia
We suspect most of our readers did the Katy on bikes, but that’s OK.
Editor’s choice: The Taum Sauk Trail made many a Boy Scout into a man.

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Best Cave
First: Meramec Caverns, Stanton
Second: Marvel Cave, Silver Dollar City
Third: Bridal Cave, Camdenton
Another tough category, most of our readers had a favorite.
Editor’s choice: For their dedication to science and school kids, we congratulate Fantastic Caverns at Springfield.

Best Swimming Hole
First: Johnson’s Shut-ins State Park
Second: Gasconade River
Third: Current River
No contest here, the Shut-ins rules!

Best Golf Course
First: Bent Creek, Jackson
Second: Eagle Knoll, Jefferson City
Third: (tie) Highland Springs, Springfield and Tan-Tar-A, Lake of the Ozarks
Golf Digest agrees, Bent Creek Golf Course in Jackson is for real.

Best Place to Take the Kids
First: Silver Dollar City
Second: St. Louis Zoo
Third : Worlds of Fun, Kansas City
Many readers thought Grandma’s house was the best place take the kids.

Best Amusement Ride
First: Fire in the Hole, Silver Dollar City
Second: Wildfire, Silver Dollar City
Third: Batman, Six Flags
Silver Dollar City is high on our list for adventure, too.

Best Summer Camp
First: Windermere Baptist Camp, Lake of the Ozarks
Second: Kanakuk, Branson
Third: Camp Quality, Stewartsville
Windermere brought back pleasant memories for many.

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