Cashew Chicken in Springfield, MO
Memories of Leong's
My first memories of Chinese restaurants, go back to Springfield, Missouri in the 1960's.
Growing up, my family spent a lot of time in Springfield, visiting relatives. I have vague but fun memories, of Leong's Tea House.
Leong's Asian Diner
In 2016, Don and I visited my Dad in Springfield and tracked down the new version, still owned by the same family.
The Leong's of my childhood looked nothing like this. This is how it looked in 2016, when Don and I had lunch with my dad. It looked more like a Barbecue Barn than an Asian Tea House.
I didn't get a photo of the interior on our 2016 visit, but it actually was very nice. However it looked nothing like the old "tea house", with tidy white tablecloths.
We didn't see Mr. Leong when we visited in 2016, but he was still a part of the family ownership. I remember reading the menu and being impressed with the story of David Leong, who created the well-loved Springfield Cashew Chicken dish. Mr. Leong emigrated from China in 1940 and served his adopted country in WWII. He opened the Teahouse in 1963.
Springfield Cashew Chicken!
On our visit we ordered a few different things, but the Cashew Chicken was the most memorable.
If you Google "Cashew Chicken" you'll see the story of Springfield's special version. Mr. Leong came up with the idea of frying chicken pieces rather than stir frying, because he cleverly noted that locals loved their fried chicken. The sauce had a bit more of a gravy flavor as well.
We left that day feeling satisfied that we had at least had the famous Springfield dish, in a restaurant owned by the Leong family.
I wish we could have taken Dad to the original Teahouse, but it closed in 1997. Mr. Leong's son, Chef Wing Yee opened Leong's Asian Diner in 2010. Sadly Mr. Leong died at the age of 99 in 2020.
The Rickshaw Chinese Restaurant
For a little comparison, Don and I had an outing to another Springfield restaurant, when we made our next Springfield visit.
We had noticed the corner building with its artwork, on the edge of downtown. The sign above the window let us know we could SIT IN OR CARRY OUT.
We parked across the street and headed over with fingers crossed. The place looked a little worn. We could get food to go, if we decided not to SIT IN.
The neon letters spelling OPEN, were lit. The yellow sign by the door encouraged us too, "Try our hot and Spicy Daily Lunch Special... $5.99." How could we not?
I'm a sucker for tradition. I loved the the red lanterns and Asian art on the wall.
We stepped up to the counter to place our order. A very sweet looking man asked, "You have cash?" We did.
The older couple (meaning my age) behind the counter, welcomed us warmly, but hardly had time for chitchat. They seemed to be doing all the work that day.
The man chuckled a little when I asked how long the restaurant had ben there. He said they'd been working 26 years and he had less hair now!
I was curious about the displays.
Every space was decorated, even this one above the trash can.
In the glass case below the counter, there were shelves covered with treasures.
All of the figures and decorations looked like they were from faraway places...
... but not the same places. Were those Hummel Figurines I saw? From Germany? I'm sure there were stories behind all the statues and decorative pieces.
While a little country music played in the background, Don worked on his plate of Garlic Chicken. The plate with its rope design, matched the music.
Don paid an extra 50 cents for all white meat. Interesting to have a choice.
I got the lunch special for $5.99, with Springfield Cashew Chicken! It came with an egg roll and 2 puffs. My divided plate reminded me of grade school lunch plates. There was something so sweet and old school about our meal.
A lot of customers ordered carryouts. Most of the people seemed to be regulars, ordering without pondering the menu.
I wish I could have asked them some questions about the sweet couple who worked so diligently to prepare the meals. I wanted to know who painted the Rickshaw art on the window...
As I look back and remember my 2 Cashew Chicken feasts on 2 different Springfield visits, I finally got around to Googling Rickshaw's. It looks like Savan Yim and his wife Kim, retired and turned the business over to family in 2020. They had operated the biz for 27 years, after buying the business from a friend, in the 1990's.
But even more touching, was to know that the Yims have repeatedly thanked Springfield for their support. They escaped to Missouri as refugees in the early 1980's, after being captured and abused in Cambodia. I had wondered about the stories behind their "treasures", but now I know there must be many more important and sad stories to tell.
It makes me happy to know that both the Leong and Yim families were able to pass down their businesses (and recipes) to family. I'm ready to go back for a visit and enjoy some more Springfield Cashew Chicken!
Bennett Spring Dining Lodge in MO
Early April Morning
It was early and it was chilly, when Don and I found our way to Bennett Spring State Park, last April.
The old C.C.C dining lodge from the 1930's, looked pretty cute on a cold blue morning.
We had driven only about 30 minutes from our overnight in Phillipsburg, MO. We'd found no breakfast options in that small town, but heard the park was worth a stop.
It was around 1900 that fishermen really began flocking to this area. 40,000 mountain trout were introduced to the spring-fed stream. I didn't see a trout or a fisherman, when we drove into the park.
One of the First
Around 1924, the state of Missouri bought the spring and surrounding land. It became one of the first state parks. In the 1930's the Civilian Conservation Corps began building cabins, roads, trails and this dining lodge.
I love imaging all the people who were involved in C.C.C. building projects, nearly a century ago. So many workers were a part of this stone and timber building. I wish I knew their stories.
Welcome to the Eighties
We stepped inside and found a little sitting area, just before the dining room entrance. Besides one rustic table set, the decorated space made me think it was the 1980's.
As we headed to the dining room doors, (where all who entered were blessed) I was reminded that it wasn't 1980 or 1830. Hand sanitizing stations have become such a part of our world. But the standing dispenser sure doesn't fit the lodge decor.
Yay for Coffee
There were only a few diners when we first arrived. They had something in common with the wait staff. They were dressed warmly.
For some reason it was freezing in the dining room. Everyone kept their coats on. But when our coffee arrived in a thermal carafe I knew I'd be warm and awake. My favorite way to have coffee served.
There were fireplaces at both ends of the room.
The stonework would have looked a lot more attractive, with a fire crackling inside.
As I studied my menu, more dining filled tables. It became clear why I hadn't seen any fishermen.
They seemed to be all coming in to eat, before they hit the banks. Which seems really odd, because the tiny bit of trout fishing I recall from 40 years ago... we were up fishing long before the sun.
As I looked around, I realized, maybe these folks were having "lunch" at 8:30. Maybe they had indeed been fishing at sunrise. I was enjoying the people watching. I spotted a pair of waders under one table. Don and I definitely were not dressed properly. Well, Don had a hat at least. But, he didn't have his license pinned to it.
My photo of Don's food, looks like it's sliding into his lap. I was snapping quick, before he dug into his eggs, taters and pancakes.
My Biscuit and Egg sandwich tasted heavenly. But my crumbly biscuit was impossible. I ended up eating with a fork.
We finished up and took a few minutes to look around. I wondered if this room had once been a porch.
I asked our waitress if it might have been a porch. "Oh it's always been a room." she answered. Probably always... since she has worked there for 2 years.
I've only caught about one trout in my life. It wasn't 15 pounds like this one, displayed on the wall.
The fish didn't make me hungry, but it made me curious. I wondered who caught this big old fish, who never even got eaten.
Good Bye Fish
We spent a little time in the park, before heading off on our road trip.
The sun was warming the air. A few trees were starting to show spring leaves.
And a few fisher people were hoping to get lucky.
Gailey's Breakfast Cafe
Springfield, Missouri in 2016
Today, I'm thinking back to a cozy rainy day, about 6 years ago. Don and I stopped at a corner fountain drugstore, for a little breakfast.
It was a chilly fall day and that made the place look all the more inviting.
I have fond memories of eating at drug stores, when I was a kid. It probably seems odd to kids today, to think that people would grab a sandwich or have a malt at drug store. Do kids even know the term drug store?
Gailey's doesn't have the drugs anymore, but they did when John and Beulah Gailey opened in in downtown Springfield, in 1942. John was a pharmacist and Beulah cooked up burgers and served malts.
Dining at the Counter
When we stepped inside, I saw the stools at the counter and was reminded of Cunningham Drugs in Grinnell, Iowa. I remember being a kid and heading over to Cunningham's after visiting Dr. Grimmer, for my annual check up. I would carry the prescription that Dr. Grimmer had written out on his pad.
I'd step inside the drugstore along with Mom and a sibling or two. Then instead of going to the pharmacy, we'd go straight to the lunch counter. I loved climbing up on the stool and holding out my prescription... my prescription for "One Ice Cream Cone". Much better than drugs!
Table or Counter?
Don and I were glad we actually had options for seating when we entered Gailey's.
The kid side of me wanted to sit at the counter. But Don was in the mood for a chair. We found a good table with a view of the whole place.
It was 9 am and it was a chilly, damp morning.
As much as I wanted to revisit my childhood memories with an ice cream cone, I needed coffee and breakfast.
Savory or Sweet?
Don's scrambled eggs with tomato, mushrooms and feta was perfectly savory. The waiter handled a little hash brown error, by scraping the sweet potatoes from Don's plate. Eventually his regular hash browns arrived, but they were a bit cold.
French Toast and sausage was my choice! The sweet syrup was just what the doctor ordered on a drizzly morning!
Coffee and Eavesdropping
Actually the coffee was just what the doctor ordered. I wish my doctor today gave me free prescriptions for coffee!
As I sipped away, I listened to all the upbeat jabber at the counter. As I woke up with my coffee, I realized the counter was where all the action was.
A Visit to the Counter
After stuffing myself with sweet break and syrup, I decided to head over to the counter for a little entertainment. I could watch the foods sizzling on the grill and see what others were ordering.
Sadly I realized that I'd missed out on a very curious breakfast option. Pancakes & Peanut Butter Sauce! It was fun watching this very pleasant server, scoop up big spoonfuls of peanut butter and swirl the mix over the tops of 2 huge steaming pancakes! How did I miss this specialty on the menu? Next time!
Before departing, I took a quick look around. I tried to imagine the original Gailey's a half century ago. Was this rounded wall always there?
A quick trip to the restroom, gave me a peek at the original brick. It was nice that they preserved some of the brick, when they remodeled with the earthy-modern sink.
I stopped to peek at some framed news clippings before we headed out the door. I love it when an iconic restaurant or cafe, spotlights their history. I paused and read a little about the Gaileys and their business.
Today I look at the photo and my eyes were drawn to the title, "Gaileys still like to treat the little guy like king." I wish I could read the smaller, blurry words. I've forgotten the story. But I'm happily reminded of when I felt like QUEEN, eating my ice cream at Cunningham's!
I love adventures at old drugstore cafes! I'm glad this one is still around!
Tie & Timber Beer Company
Tie & Timber in Springfield, Missouri
Breweries don't usually make it to the Dining Adventure blog.
But in June, Don and I visited Tie & Timber Beer Company, 2 times. There was something oddly magical about the place. There is some food involved in my sloppy write-up.
"Ales and Rails" on Cherry Street
We were visiting my Dad in Springfield and ran across the brewery, just blocks from our motel. It was on Cherry Street, near the railroad tracks that I remember from childhood.
The business is on property, where a lumber yard once stood in 1918. I remember, because it was still there in the 1960's, when we used to visit my grandparent's house, where Dad grew up. The tracks weren't far from their house or my my aunt and uncle's. I'm not sure how many years the railroad tracks transported timber and lumber, but at some point the lumber yard closed. A tanning salon was here when a young couple thought about opening up a brewery, about 5 years ago.
The weather was heavenly, the evening we discovered Tie & Timber. Friends and families were just beginning to arrive. I guessed that some had walked over from the houses in nearby Rountree Neighborhood. A couple arrived on bikes and one family approached T & T on foot, walking down the train tracks.
Don and I headed inside to check out the options for craft beer. There were at least 18. Don was pretty excited.
Families and Friends
We sat outside and watched. We spotted friends greeting one another and patting each others' dogs. Kids from different tables played together. I watched a dad, teaching his child to play chess.
2 moms arrived with kids. After they ordered beer, they unpacked a spread of picnic food. (There were signs encouraging people to bring their own food) I felt like we were at a church picnic, only better.
Tea Bar & Bites... Skully's Ramen
Two days later, we stopped by again. This time we wanted to enjoy our beer and wine, with food. After we enjoyed our drinks for a while, I went on a mission to find a meal.
The neighborhood near Cherry Street, had many options. I vaguely remember this area from childhood visits to Springfield. Beautiful homes and a few little shops. Today we can't buy lumber, but we can buy cakes and ramen, pizza, pasta or tacos... from cute little buildings, near cute little houses.
Old Grocery Store
I recognized the green and white building. Nearly 80 years ago, it had been The Cherry Street Grocery Store. I wasn't exactly alive then, but my dad was. He was a young teen when he worked there.
I remember my dad pointing the little store out to us, when we were kids. I was impressed when he told me he'd worked at the grocery store. I thought that sounded cool. It was a job I could understand!
Cherry Street Grocery Store
In 2014, when visiting Springfield, we drove Dad by the old grocery store. It had a sign saying, Homegrown Food.
Dad's legs were bothering him. He didn't want to go in, but I did. Inside, I looked at the old floors and admired the wooden counter. I could picture my young dad, stocking shelves.
I met Brad that day. He was so moved to learn that Dad had once worked in the store. He came out to the car to introduce himself and handed Dad a complimentary bottle of root beer.
Bryce in 2021
I stepped inside the old grocery once again, during my search for dinner. The store had changed and I met the new owner Bryce. He told me about their house made treats and ice cream, but I had my eye on some miniatures in the window.
They weren't really for sale, but we laughed and talked and I eventually left with 3 dollhouse miniatures. I still didn't have dinner, but what fun! I decorated our picnic table and had a couple sips of wine. Then I got serious about finding food.
Ott's was actually right next to Tie & Timber. The tiny Italian restaurant was housed in an old filling station. They've been serving pasta for 20+ years.
I headed in and took a quick look at the cozy interior. The kitchen appeared to be in the garage portion.
I glanced at the menu and grinned. The prices looked like they were from my childhood. I ordered the House Casserole Meal for $5.55.
The nice young man said I could wait for my order on one of the pews, or he could bring it to me outside when it was ready.
I took a look at the old photo on the wall and imagined the DX Station 50+ years ago. Then I headed outside to wait and chatted with the sweetest older woman, who just walked over from her house. She practially swooned when she told me how much she loved her neighborhood. I was ready to go house shopping.
Pasta at the Picnic Table
After a few minutes the young man brought out a bag with my hot meal. I headed back to Don at the picnic table and surprised him with our shared feast.
Baked pasta casserole, Caesar salad, toasted ravioli and bread! Plenty for 2 people and less than 6 dollars. How could this be? It was tasty, but mostly it was just so darn fun, eating at our table as the sun lowered and more folks gathered.
Eating and Watching
Don and I sipped and ate and watched. I can't remember what craft beers Don tried and I only remember that I had red wine.
We didn't exactly have a restaurant dining adventure, but we had a memorable evening.
As the sun sunk lower, we headed back towards our motel. We took a shortcut on the tracks.
The next day I talked to Dad about his memory of the tracks. He talked about flattening pennies when he was young and hopping a train, when he was older.
This is sort of an odd write up for the old Dining Blog, but I will remember this evening well. Yay for wine and pasta and little bit of nostalgia, on a summer evening.
College Street Cafe Springfield
On Route 66
This cute little cafe is named for College Street, the street that it sits on.
But College Street used to be Route 66. You'd think they'd to capitalize on that!
A Night on Route 66
Don and I found the cute little cafe in June. We were staying a half mile down the road, at Rock Wood Motor Court.
If you're going to stay in a retro motel (that used to be a Route 66 gas station) you have to complete the adventure with a breakfast at the College Street Cafe.
It was just before 8 when we arrived.
There were 3 tables and one booth open. We took the booth near the door and I had a nice view of the whole cafe.
My seat gave me a good view of the 4 sitting at the corner of the rounded counter.
The men looked like they were about ready to head to work. They had to be a little careful coming and going, since a couple hanging flower baskets were squeezed in behind them.
Boulevard of Broken Dreams
On the wall behind the counter, I recognized the old print, with James, Humphrey, Marilyn and Elvis.
I sort of wanted to ask the 3 men and 1 woman to shift themselves around a bit, so they would better match the framed print. I'm not sure how that would have gone over.
The window next to our table didn't have the best view.
But I loved studying the steel framed windows. Is that steel? Don't know, but I sure wondered how many layers of paint was coating that metal. I love red paint.
Kim and Coffee
The place was starting to get busier, but Kim didn't ignore us. She rushed over in her black hat and air purifying necklace and took our order.
When she brought our coffee, I commented that she seemed to be handling the whole place herself. She shook her head and said, "I don't usually even work Fridays!" I had a feeling she'd been called in at the last minute. I had the feeling this wasn't the first time.
Taking a Seat
There was no doubt that Kim could handle the crowd. It seemed everyone knew her, which could have slowed her down with their banter.
I took a pic of Don to sneak a pic of Kim, when she took a load off for about 45 seconds. At one point, she greeted a man sitting alone, "So will it be pancakes or eggs, today?" She sat down in the seat across from him for only a moment.
Eat and Go
The workmen at the counter didn't linger long. They left without damaging any flowers.
A man came in wearing a shirt with lots to say and sat alone in the very last open table. I guessed he would eat and go. There were a couple of interesting shirts in the place. "Dirty White Guy" was written on another shirt. Hmmm.
Sit and Linger
This is a photo I took when we were getting ready to leave. It was pretty crowded by then.
The cafe seemed to be quite the hang out for men. The conversations were not confined to tables. Lots of chatter between. I had the feeling many of these folks came daily and probably lingered quite a while.
Don ordered the Early Bird Special (from 6-9) for $4.79.
I was wise and had a breakfast sandwich. Just the right amount for me.
I was there for the atmosphere more, than the food. But the food was pretty decent, especially for the price!
Don and I didn't try to blend in with the locals. We clearly were travelers taking up valuable space. But then suddenly Don asked me a question and that got us some attention.
"Where do you think we pay, Beth?" Before I could answer Don, a number of nearby diners chimed in. Suddenly everyone wanted to show us where to pay and then the chatter began. I made some comment about how well Kim handled handled this crowd and a few of them made some teasing comments that I won't repeat. Another 2 men came in looking for a seat and I offered up our table. They were more than pleased.
The men happily slid into our booth while Don got up to pay Kim in the back. The men chit chatted while I waited for Don. I told them I just had to get a photo of the screened door just steps from their booth.
Ralph (not wearing a hat) thought that was pretty funny that I was taking a photo of the door. He offered to take a photo of Don and me. I said I'd rather have a photo of them. Click! They laughed, as the photo shows.
Posing at College Street Cafe
Don returned after paying Kim and Ralph jumped up to decide where to take our picture. I'm pretty sure every person in the cafe was taking note.
We decided to pose outside, so one guy from the kitchen rushed over to grab one of the hanging baskets from the floor. He made sure the flowers were hanging from the awning, just in time for our photo.
What a fun little ending to our sweet little breakfast!
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.