Serving Chili, since 1909
I've been visiting relatives in Springfield, since I was a baby, but I've never heard anyone mention Casper's.
After reading about the curious quonset hut diner in an article, I knew we'd have to check it out on our next visit.
In June, Don and I headed from Texas to Missouri, to visit my dad. We made it to Springfield by noon and Dad said he was game for a Casper's Adventure.
We 3 were vaccinated, but I still called ahead to see if Casper's was crowded. Marcie answered and encouraged us to come. The lunch crowd had passed.
We stepped inside and all 3 grinned. The atmosphere was as entertaining as I'd hoped.
The blue, orange and red colored surfaces, were covered with aged posters, framed photos and art.
There were endless treasures, displayed on shelves. I spotted a hanging moon mobile and exotic masks on the wall, near the kitchen.
Where to Sit?
A couple of dangling marionettes, hung near the only guest, dining at the counter. He must have been a regular, since he was studying his phone instead of the whimsical decor.
There were enough colorful stools and booths to seat about 30. I told Dad to decide where we should sit.
He turned down the lollipop stools and chose a table with a view of the brick building next door.
I read somewhere that when Casper's gets overly crowded, some locals will welcome others to join them at their table.
Table sharing can make for a unique dining experience for sure. But I was glad to have the diner mostly to ourselves. We're still navigating this pandemic world.
Marcie & Menus
Marcie greeted us and placed paper menus on the table. She was one of those rare people who communicates well, (with voice and expression) while wearing a mask. Her cheery disposition, did not match the bold reminder, "Eat, Pay, Tip, Get Out"
I opened the menu to lots of options. We could buy chili by the cup or gallon. We could have chili on hotdogs, hamburgers, spaghetti or Fritos. The back page shared a little history. Oh, how I appreciate a little shared history!
Some photos on the wall, shared glimpses of Casper's past. It was a man named Casper, who began the business as a fruit seller, in 1909. His biz evolved into a restaurant, which he later moved to a quonset hut on Glenstone Avenue, in 1948. He's shown in the first pic, folding his arms.
Not sure if that's Casper in the second photo, with a beard and folded arms. It could be Casper's son, who took over in 1966. Casper died in 1985, the same year Casper's moved to this location.
The place was so comfortably small, that Marcie didn't really need to come to our table to take our order. She could keep up a converstaion with us, from behind the counter or near the kitchen.
But she came over with her pad anyway. She was excited to give us all sorts of suggestions. At one point her phone rang and she politely asked if she could answer. (She needed to chat with her daughter, because they were selling her mom's house) Marcie was so comfortable talking to us, along with her daughter, I half expected her to hand over the phone so we could say hello.
Crackers, Beer and Chili
When Dad said he wanted a beer, Marcie hollered back to the kitchen, "We'll need a Miller High Life here!" She alerted the guy in the kitchen as if he were a bar tender, ready to make an exotic drink. A minute later, she brought the beer to dad in an icy can.
Dad and I ordered chili. Right away, Marcie brought us saltines, in what appeared to be a frisbee. That amused me. Then when the chili arrive, I laughed.
I had read about Casper's chili, so I knew it would come on a saucer, to catch the extra spoonful... that spills over the edge. But it was funny to see the messy dish.
The chili was made from a secret recipe, from 1909. It was tasty and a cup was more than enough. Marcie talked Don into the double burger. It was smashed and grilled, on the same grill that was used in their original location.
I love an entertaining restroom, but I've been sort of avoiding them during the pandemic. Marcie told me I should NOT miss a visit, so she opened the door so I could have a peek.
Marcie seemed pretty delighted that I showed proper enthusiasm. Shelves of coconut heads. What's not to like?
A Few More Guests
While we dined, a few more guests entered and ate at the counter. Marcie seemed to make it her job to connect us all. She told one man how good the burgers were and pointed to Don, so he could throw in his review of his burger.
She laughed with us that she'd had us figured out as Subaru drivers, when we walked in the place. Not exactly sure what that means, but she seemed pretty pleased with herself after she peeked out the window and saw a Subaru with Texas plates. She knew she was right. Then as Marcie checked us out, she paid a more obvious compliment, when she raved about Don's space-themed shirt. We liked Marcie a lot.
Fun and Tasty Visit
I had expected an intimidating visit with no nonsense service. I thought we might feel out of place.
Our visit turned out to be better than I expected. The building itself was pretty darn memorable. The food was pretty good too.
Most of all, I think I'll remember Marcie's good humor and energy. I was particularly delighted to be called Pumpkin a couple times. I'm not sure when I was last called Pumpkin. Marcie was so comfortable in her usage, that I thought I must have heard wrong. The second time I laughed. "Did you call me Pumpkin?" She said "Yep." or some quick answer.
What a fun place!
The Dining Blog
This is a blog about Dining Adventures. Sometimes, I talk about food. Below, you can read how this started.
On July 4th 2011, I set a goal to try 50 culturally diverse restaurants in one year! (I knew that was possible, living in the Houston area) I spent the year pulling in friends and family to join me, on some unusual dining adventures. I met some curious people, tried some scary foods and explored places and cultures I never would have otherwise. Even though I met my goal, I learned too much to end my adventures in dining. I have continued blogging about memorable dining adventures of all kinds, near and far... and all the discoveries and funny things I've learned along the way!
Locations and types of dining adventures, are listed further down.