The readers have spoken, the ballots are counted and the 2004 Best of Rural Missouri contest looks a lot like last year’s. First place changed in
just four categories. In fact, we had a number of three-time winners
in the third year of our contest.
This year we added some new categories, including
Best Pizza and Best Fried Chicken.
Congratulations to all the winners, and to Robyn
Roy of Perryville, a member of Citizens Electric, who was the winner
of our “Made in Missouri” gift basket.
We hope you will take the time to visit some of
our winners as you travel the state this summer.
Worth the Drive
First: Lambert’s, Sikeston and Ozark
Second: The Pear Tree, Bevier
Third: Charlie’s, Cole Camp
For the third time Lambert’s, home of the “throwed roll,”
was an easy winner. Readers prefer the Ozark location to the Sikeston
one by a small margin. The elegant Pear Tree again took second while
a newcomer, Charlie’s, took third place. Other popular restaurants
included Benton House in Warsaw, Branson’s Top of the Rock and
all of the state park lodge restaurants.
Editor’s choice: Big Spring Dining Lodge near
Van Buren, operated by the National Park Service, offers elegant dining
above the musical rush of water from the nation’s largest spring.
First: Johnny’s Smoke Stak, Rolla
Second: Kehde’s Barbecue, Sedalia
Third: The Warehouse, Farmington
No changes here: Once again Johnny’s reigns supreme. Our readers
like the buffet, always a treat at a barbecue restaurant where it’s
tough to choose between ribs, brisket or pork. At Johnny’s you
can have all that and a lot more. Kehde’s, across Highway 65
from the Missouri State Fair, lets you dine in old railroad cars.
Furnishings include a nice assortment of outboard motors and, oh yeah,
the food’s great too. The Warehouse features friendly staff
and that monster “Terrible ’Tater,” smothered in
their smoky meat. Once again, outstate barbecue outshined the Kansas
Editor’s choice: Forget ribs, pork steaks and
brisket. Head to Baylee Jo’s Barbecue (the former Mimosa Drive-In)
at Ironton and order the grilled shrimp. You might get to hear Baylee
Jo sing while you eat.
First: 63 Diner, Columbia
Second: Wheel-In Drive-In, Sedalia
Third: Booches, Columbia
Only the order changed in this year’s quest for the best burger.
63 Diner has a lock on first place, perhaps because it’s the
biggest burger of the bunch. Our readers must have liked the Wheel-In’s
“Gooberburger,” a hamburger slathered with peanut butter,
better than the burger served by Booche’s, a downtown Columbia
tradition since 1864.
Editor’s choice: Columbia Billiard Center’s
burger with grilled onions is hard to beat.
First: Moreland’s, Vienna
Second: LeMaire’s, Sedalia
Third: (tie) Dowd’s, Lebanon and Camp Bagnell, Bagnell
Only third place changed in the catfish category. First-place Moreland’s
is hard to find unless you happen to be floating the Gasconade, but
the large crunchy filets make it worth the effort. Beating LeMaire’s,
which offers a Cajun flair, was no small feat. You will like their
dirty rice. The two newcomers are excellent vacation destinations,
with Dowd’s located near Route 66 and Camp Bagnell near Lake
of the Ozarks.
Editor’s choice: When you are torn between
catfish and barbecue you can get both at Bubba’s on the Mississippi
River in Hannibal.
First: A Slice of Pie, Rolla
Second: Blue Owl, Kimmswick
Third: Peggy Jean’s, Columbia
You can get a slice of pie in Rolla, but you will most likely want
the entire pie. The Blue Owl in historic Kimmswick would win if the
category just said dessert. Forget your diet here! Third place is
a newcomer similar to A Slice of Pie. That’s all they do and
they do it well.
Editor’s choice: Lehman’s in Versailles
comes highly rated by anyone who has been there.
First: Shakespeare’s, Columbia
Second: Alex Pizza Palace, Rolla
Third: Arris’ Pizza Palace, Jefferson City
When we decided to add this category last fall the staff thought Shakespeares
would be the easy winner. They were and for good reason. With hand-tossed
crust in wheat or white, fresh ingredients from the Hill in St. Louis
and a huge list of toppings, there is nothing else like it in Missouri.
Second and third went to Greek style pizzarias.
Editor’s choice: If you can’t get a seat
at The Pear Tree try Ugo’s Pizzaland in Bevier (not Ugo’s
Best Fried Chicken
First: Stroud’s, Kansas City
Second: Big Boys, Wright City
Third: The Westphalia Inn, Westphalia
What were we thinking! For two years we omitted this essential category
from the contest. First place Stroud’s must be good, they were
the only big city restaurant to make the contest. Big Boys is a throwback
to the roadside establishments when I-70 was Highway 40. Third place
Westphalia Inn is the restaurant where you don’t need a menu.
Editor’s choice: Nothing beats the fried chicken
at The Riverside Inn on the friendly Findley River in Ozark.
Best Old Fashioned Ice Cream Shop
First: Central Dairy, Jefferson City
Second: Ruby’s, St. James
Third: Ted Drew’s, St. Louis
Anyone who’s been to Jefferson City has also been to Central
Dairy, where you can get ice cream made from Missouri milk. But anyone
driving down I-44 makes an exit at St. James to visit Ruby’s
where the lines can get pretty long. We wondered when Ted Drew’s,
the legendary Route 66 St. Louis frozen custard shop, would crack
the top 3. Try their Concrete.
Editor’s choice: Take your street rod or ’57
Chevy to Eddie’s Drive-In, Sedalia.
First: Stone Hill, Hermann
Second: Les Bourgeois, Rocheport
Third: St. James Winery, St. James
Missouri’s wine industry has definitely come of age, and Stone
Hill’s Jim and Betty Held started the rennaissance. Stone Hill
repeats as winner in 2004. Rocheport’s Les Bourgeois built on
its commanding view of the Missouri River to edge St. James for second.
Editor’s choice: We can’t think of a
better place for a winery than Ste. Genevieve County where newcomer
Crown Valley Winery is already collecting medals for its wines.
Best State Park
First: Bennett Spring, Lebanon
Second: Ha Ha Tonka, Camdenton
Third: (tie) Meramec, Sullivan and Roaring River, Cassville
This year the most popular trout park is also your favorite state
park, moving from third to first. Bennett has a lot to like including
floating on the Niangua. Ha Ha Tonka’s old castle remains popular
Editor’s choice: The site where two mighty rivers, the Missouri
and Mississippi, meet becomes Jones Confluence Point State Park. When
it opens this year it will be a great addition to the state.
Best Historic Site
First: Wilson’s Creek Battlefield, Republic
Second: Ha Ha Tonka, Camdenton
Third: Arrow Rock
The first major battle west of the Mississippi is our reader’s
choice for this category. Check the Web site for events held at the
1,700 acre park. Ha Ha Tonka’s view is breathtaking, but you’ll
enjoy the trails here too. Arrow Rock is a sleepy little town north
of I-70 that never changed.
Editor’s choice: Missouri has had such a colorful
past it’s hard to single out one place as best. But no other
state can claim the intrepid venture that was the Pony Express, preserved
by a museum at its starting point in St. Joseph.
First: Olde Tyme Apple Festival, Versailles
Second: Oktoberfest, Hermann
Third: Heritage Days, Warsaw
Versailles must be doing a great job with its festival to beat out
Hermann’s well-known Oktoberfest. Both are held in October.
The Apple Fest, held since 1980, moves from third place to first this
year. Warsaw’s Heritage Days features demonstrators who show
life like it was before Truman Lake.
Editor’s choice: The Missouri State Fair in
August is the granddaddy of all fairs and festivals in Missouri.
Antique Hunting Spot
Ozark is back in the top spot. It’s a great place to browse
on the way to Branson. Hermann and Weston on the KC side of the state
are equally antique destinations.
Editor’s choice: Jamesport is great for antiques
and Amish crafts.
First: Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City
Second: Saint Louis Art Museum
Third: Daum Museum of Contemporary Art, Sedalia
No changes this year as Kansas City culture again tops St. Louis.
The Daum, Sedalia’s contribution to the fine arts, continues
to hold its own however.
Editor’s choice: Many small towns have embraced
the arts. The Margaret Harwell Art Museum in Poplar Bluff is one of
the finest, with a professional staff and 10,000 visitors a year.
Best Flea Market
First: Wentzville Community Club Flea Market
Second: The Big Pevely Flea Market, Pevely
Third: Johnston’s Rutledge Flea Market, Rutledge
More than 400 vendors set up at our winning flea market on Sundays.
Proceeds from the event go to local charities. On the south side of
St. Louis, second place Pevely is just as big. Founder Irvin Johnston
is gone, but third-place Rutledge in northeast Missouri is Missouri’s
oldest and largest. We like all three because there are people to
haggle with on prices and not just booths.
Editor’s choice: The St. Louis Gypsy Caravan
operates once a year on Memorial Day and benefits the St. Louis Symphony
Best Farmer’s Market
First: Soulard Market, St. Louis
Second: City Market, Kansas City
Third: Columbia Farmers’ Market
No change in this category for the past three years with the older
Soulard Market again taking first.
Editor’s choice: We think it’s great
when the city folk buy direct from the farmer and eliminate the middleman.
Missouri has 77 farmer’s markets and we like them all. Check
out the Main Street Moberly Farmer’s Market.
Best Old Store
First: Dick’s 5 & 10, Branson
Second: Crane’s, Williamsburg
Third: Arrow Rock
This category came in the same way it did in 2003, with Dick’s
line of weird and wacky merchandise on top but Crane’s was a
close second. Crane’s offers a great place to swap tall tales
and buy yourself a pair of Carhartts. And Arrow Rock is the town that
Editor’s choice: It was never a mill, but the
Old Dutch Mill store on Highway 50 at Drake is one of Missouri’s
most unusual gas stops.
Best Christmas Event
Second: Country Club Plaza, Kansas City
Third: Ste. Genevieve
Year’s ago Branson was just a summer destination, but that’s
not the case anymore. The lighting of country Club Plaza is a Missouri
tradition, too. Ste. Genevieve celebrates the French tradition with
Editor’s choice: For an old-fashioned Christmas
try one of Missouri’s State Historic Sites. We recommend New
Madrid’s Hunter-Dawson House.
Town to Live In
Once again Columbia, Springfield and Rolla share the honors. All three
cities have a lot to offer.
Editor’s choice: Memphis, Mo., may not have
the barbecue and blues of its Tennessee rival but the northeast Missouri
town shows what can be done when the people care.
Third: Ste. Genevieve
Hermann is beautiful before and after you sample the wine and Carthage
wins on its town square alone. This year Missouri’s oldest town
bumps Springfield for third place.
Editor’s choice: Westphalia has the Old World
charm of Hermann without the tourist attractions.
Best Bed and Breakfast
First: Schoolhouse, Rocheport
Second: Painted Lady, St. James
Third: Garth-Woodside Mansion, Hannibal
Many of our winners have the Katy Trail in common. Schoolhouse B&B
is a stone’s throw from the trail. No change in this category.
Editor’s choice: Huber’s Ferry east of
Jefferson City offers a commanding view of the Osage River.
Best Sporting Event
First: St. Louis Cardinals
Second: Kansas City Chiefs
Third: St. Louis Rams
Years ago St. Louis had the only baseball west and south of New York
City. The Redbirds remain at the top of our poll. While the Rams edged
MU football for third, they have a long way to go before they catch
Editor’s choice: Catch the baseball action
up close with the River City Rascals in O’Fallon.
Second: Silver Dollar City
Third: St. Louis Zoo
We thought Silver Dollar City was in Branson, but our readers give
it its own ZIP code. The zoo is great and free too.
Editor’s choice: Think big rocks shaped like
Dumbo: Elephant Rocks State Park.
Best Romantic Getaway
Second: Big Cedar Lodge, Ridgedale
Third: Lake of the Ozarks
Who says romance is dead? Branson is best, and Big Cedar narrows it
Editor’s choice: Take your sweetheart to the Hotel Bothwell
Best Day Trip
First: St. Louis Zoo
Everyone loves St. Louis’s world class zoo. But can you really
see Jamesport and Hermann in a day?
Editor’s choice: Full of shops and history,
discover old town St. Charles like Lewis and Clark did.
Best Camping Spot
First: Bennett Spring State Park, Lebanon
Second: Roaring River State Park, Cassville
Third: Truman State Park, Warsaw
Apparently our readers still like to camp where you can fish. Truman
State Park is a new winner this year.
Editor’s choice: In keeping with our rougher
is better theme, bust your boots to the top of Missouri at Taum Sauk
Mountain State Park and sleep under the stars near Minna Sauk Falls.
First: Table Rock
Third: Bull Shoals
In one of the few categories that changed, readers snubbed Lake of
the Ozarks in favor of three big lakes further south.
Editor’s choice: There are muskie in the cool
waters of Forest Lake at Thousand Hills State Park, Kirksville.
First: Truman Lake
Second: Bennett Spring
Third: Lake of the Ozarks
Once again no one shared their secret holes. But frustrated trout
fishermen appear to have moved from Bennett Spring to Truman Lake.
Editor’s choice: We want to fish in the giant
tank the Conservation Department has at the State Fair.
Best Float Stream
First: Current River
Second: Niangua River
Third: Meramec River
No contest here, the Current reigns supreme. It has it all, cold water,
towering bluffs and lots of gravel bars. But the Niangua and Meramec
have their fan clubs as well.
Editor’s choice: Lewis and Clark did it and
you can too. This year float the Missouri River.
First: Katy Trail
Second: Johnson’s Shut-Ins
Third: Ha Ha Tonka
Rural Missouri readers like to bike, and when they do it’s
on the Katy. Then they head to the Shut-Ins for a cool dip. Ha Ha
Tonka is more than a ruined castle on the cliff. It’s also a
geologic wonderland with trails, springs and caves.
Editor’s choice: Try geocaching.
First: Meramec Caverns, Stanton
Second: Marvel Cave, Branson
Third: Bridal Cave, Camdenton
Our readers prefer developed show caves to the wild wonders the Cave
State has to offer.
Editor’s choice: The cave that gives Graham
Cave State Park in Montgomery County its name helped rewrite the history
Best Golf Course
First: Eagle Knoll, Hartsburg
Second: St. James Golf Course
Third: Tan-Tar-A Resort Golf Course
Eagle Knoll north of the state capital wins awards for its careful
blending with nature. St. James residents love their municipal course
while golf is just one of the activities at Tan-Tar-A.
Editor’s choice: The RM staff can’t play
golf. We’ll have to take your word on it.