Roadside Lunch in Missouri
Last November Don and I stopped for lunch, not far from the touristy Branson area.
Plus, the name Billy Gail's sounded perfect for Arkansas. It sounded like something from the old sitcom, Petticoat Junction.
We pulled right off the road and headed for the red door.
There were lots of signs, besides the big one on the roof. The bear held an Open sign. There were 3 signs and a dozen stickers on the door glass. There was a Come On In sign and a Happy Holidays sign and a Let It Snow announcement, painted on the window.
Once inside, there was lots to see in the front room.
There were shelves and cases, filled with well-loved toys. This was very entertaining for the Baby Boomer in me. It's scary to see how many toys I recognized.
There were also things for sale, like jams and hats and leopard skin purses. And there was another sign. Huggin" Place. Now that was a mighty sweet sign.
There was a little kitchen-corner with coffee and mugs. That must have been set up for busy times, when folks have to wait a while for a table.
During touristy summer months, you might have to wait a while on one of the red benches. The only one we saw waiting, was the Grinch.
Our Dining Room
There was a bit of a maze of rooms. The 50+ year old building has probably seen some additions and alterations over the years.
We were given a table in a cozy room, filled with lots antique what-nots and locals, who greeted the servers by name.
Our server was energetic and pleasant when she handed us menus. She introduced herself with a helpful tip, so we wouldn't forget her name. "Just remember the movie, Breakfast at Tiffany's!"
Besides the menu I saw another sign worth reading. It was a poem, by Trey. I read the poem and got another hint. I should try the pancakes... as big as hubcaps!
Checks of All Colors
Don and I decided to go all breakfast for lunch.
Tiffany brought our plates and offered to snap a photo. Wow! I had no idea how fantastic we looked, with all our checks!
Don's ham and cheese omelet was covered with crispy hash browns. He was in heaven.
My pancake was ridiculously fun!
The buttermilk circle hung about an inch off the edge of my plate. I had to stare at the other diners to figure out how to approach the beast! Folding was the only way. Hopefully I put on more syrup than this photo! My mouth feels dry just looking at it!
After we finished our feast, the rush was over. I was able to peek around a little more.
I of course found more signs. Prayers go up, Blessings come down. That sign was beneath the carousel horse. I kind of liked the rusty egg sign.
My eyes were drawn to some old games that I remember from my childhood. So many hours of croquet, in so many yards! I spotted a wooden Carrom board! Whatever happened to the one my family owned?
More Toys at Checkout
We headed to the front room to check out. I got to admire more of the toys.
The man at the register, I believe was a member of Billy and Gail's family. Billy Gail was not one person, but two. They bought the building in the 1995 and named the restaurant with both their names. As I looked around the place, I overheard a phone conversation. Someone said that Gail hadn't been well. I detected real worry in the tone.
Sit a Spell
We took our leftovers and headed outside to have another look at the curious property and the rambling building.
I wondered about Billy and Gail, who created their own cafe along the highway 25 years ago. As we drove away, I looked it up on my phone and read that Billy had passed away in 2012.
Billy Gail's a Few Months Later
As usual, I'm behind on blog posts. It's been 4 months since Don and I had our fabulous breakfast feast.
I looked up Billy Gail's just moments ago and learned that Gail passed away just weeks after our visit. That made me sad. I hope Billy and Gail's kids can hold onto the sweet place.
I could sure use one of those gigantic pancakes right now.
Missouri Lunch in the Fall
Just off the Square
We found the cafe, on a small street off the main square.
I liked the metal awning and red trim. The hay bales and pumpkins invited us right on in.
I wondered if we might be sharing the diner with some workmen, when I saw the truck pulled up in front. We love to eat where the locals eat. The truck actually belonged to some young, local women. The happy, chatty women were leaving as we entered.
We opened the door and made a small racket, when the dangling metal cup and utensils, clanged from above.
The owner, BJ greeted from the grill. We took a table near a glassed in display case.
We learned that Charley's has been a local favorite for 38 years. BJ and his wife Amanda have owned the biz for about 7.
I'm not sure how old the building is, but it was a jewelry store at one time.
It was also a dental office for a while. But how about the fine display shelves? Maybe they were put in when Charley's first opened. I spotted lots of cookie jars and old photos.
BJ left the grill to hand us menus. His wife Amanda was in back at that moment.
I was pretty excited about trying the Lunch Plate special, "Spaghetti Red"! Pasta with chili sounded perfect! Watching BJ tend my spaghetti on the grill, just made me laugh.
I was thrilled about the presentation of my meal! I was thrilled about the price! $5.95!
My pasta was buried in chili and surround by pickle chips and shredded onions. It hit the spot! I ate every bit, which is unusual for me!
Original Charley Burger
Don's burger was equally yummy.
The atmosphere surrounding us was pleasant and upbeat. I could hear BJ whistling with the radio tunes. I could see Amanda greeting a few regulars with hugs.
Thanks BJ and Amanda!
Cheery cheers to Spaghetti Red and to the young owners of Charley's Grill! It was a good lunch and a good visit!
Lafayette Square Neighborhood in St. Louis, MO
A week ago, I had lunch with my good buddy in this fabulous old building, on the corner of 18th and Park. I loved the building, I loved the location and I loved the company.
I have good memories the Lafayette Square Neighborhood, that go back to the 1970's. The history of this building goes back just a bit further. In 1883 the structure was built to house a tavern.
My First Intro to Lafayette Square
Don and I were last in St. Louis, 3 years ago. We wandered through beautiful Lafayette Park, the oldest public park in St. Louis. We visited my mom's dear friend, Werner.
I remember moving to St. Louis in the 1970's and Werner was just beginning to refurbish one of the elegant Victorian homes, that surrounded the park. The area was in shambles and not very safe, day or night. But the once elegant houses slowly came back and Werner's home was one of them.
Lunch with Werner
It was a sunny, April Sunday, when we visited in 2016. Werner took us to Square One for lunch. I remember studying the old brick and painted trim, trying to remember when it was once Park Place Restaurant. I had eaten there 40+ years ago.
We took a table outside, in the shady courtyard. The atmosphere felt relaxed and casual. I was the lucky one, facing the waterfall wall, surrounded by an ornate doorway. I wish I knew the story about that grand piece, decorating the wall.
Beer at the Bar
Werner and Don were both excited about choosing a beer. I remember that the brew master had many options that day. But I can't recall what they chose.
I was too busy admiring the elegant, walnut back bar. Or would that even be a back bar? The carved arch, framed a leaded glass window, looking out to the courtyard.
I have a photo of what I ate in 2016. It was some kind of vegetarian flat bread thing and I do remember it was mouthwatering-good.
But mostly I remember sitting there in that lovely setting, hearing Werner tell stories about my mom. He helped me imagine my mom in her college days. Werner was also able to tell me a little bit about my grandfather, who died long before I was born. I could have sat there into the night, hearing Werner talk. At 90+ years, his memory was sharp and his stories were vivid. Werner died 2 years later and I feel extra grateful for that day.
Same Place in 2019
Last week, I was excited to take Milissa to Square One. She was visiting St. Louis for the first time. It was damp and cold, so the courtyard was closed. We peeked in the back room, where there were plenty of open tables. But we took a table beside a window, near the old arched bar.
Soup and Tacos
Once again, I felt content in this cozy, historic building. I feasted on my Korean tacos and Beer Cheese Soup. That was my nod to Anheuser-Busch, since they operated a tavern in this building in the early 1900's.
Just like 3 years ago, the company and conversation became my main focus. Milissa and I skipped the hand crafted spirits and sipped on water. But, we talked like 2 giddy old friends, sharing a bottle of wine. Every now and then I paused to comment on my food, because the sweet barbecue chicken and the thick, tangy soup was so yummy, it distracted me.
After we finished lunch, the place was pretty cleared out. Milissa and I looked around at the all the equipment, that helps create the Hopskey Hop Flavored Whiskey and the Cucumber and Jalapeno Vodkas...
I studied some wall art and Milissa thought about buying some Absinthe. She decided $50. was too much and we were soon on our way.
Nice Time & Nice Reminder
I love a pleasant dining adventure that lets me enjoy the moment and the past all at once. Milissa and I had a peaceful, tasty lunch and I was pleasantly reminded of another time as well.
Breakfast on Glenstone Avenue
I've never eaten at George's, but I've had my eye on the place since it opened on Glenstone, in 1970.
Glenstone Avenue in Springfield
My memories of Glenstone Avenue go back as far as I can remember. My family lived lots of places, but relatives were anchored in Springfield. Our summer and holiday visits always began with a drive down Glenstone!
My family had no time for dining at George's. Both of my parents had roots in Springfield, so we had grandparents and cousins to visit. We played croquet like my grandmother once did and we ate Grandpa's Chicken in my grandparents' backyard.
My grandma, Daw had lots of food at her house. Her kitchen was always stocked with kid friendly foods before our arrival! Seems like bacon was always cooking!
Rail Haven in September
This past September, I gathered with my siblings once again in Springfield. We came together with some spouses and youngin's, to celebrate my dad's 90th. We stayed at the iconic Rail Haven Motel.
Breakfast Next Door
After all these years I finally got to eat at George's. The '70's era building was right next door to Rail Haven. Goober no longer smiled down from the sign, but "George's Restaurant... Breakfast Anytime" was clearly written.
TV with Breakfast
We turned down the free motel breakfast both mornings and headed over to George's. We didn't try out the counter dining, but I was tempted to grab a stool and watch TV. The Andy Griffith Show was on!
Labor Day Crowd
Our group of 8 made it over for breakfast, early on the Labor Day morning. There were lines forming after we were seated. We couldn't turn down the $2.99 "Recession Proof Breakfast." Don went all out and upgraded his hash browns, with extra onions, bacon & cheese. It was worth an extra 2 bucks! Our tables were covered with eggs and pancakes, biscuits and gravy... all yummy and crazily cheap!
Meeting George's Daughter
I was pretty excited when our waiter said that George's daughter, was in the restaurant at that moment. I grinned, "Oh I would love to meet her!" She was delightful when she came over to introduce herself, but it turns out here daddy George is not George Lindsey. Goober gave up the chain over 30 years ago and the restaurant was taken over by another man named George.
All I could do was laugh! My 12 year old self had thought I was going to meet Goober's daughter. The current George's daughter is delightful, though. All the employees were equally welcoming. What a fun little dining adventure! Decent food, with some amusing moments!
Coffee at the 87-Year-Old-Diner
Last September, Don and I spotted this red & white building in downtown Excelsior Springs. We had already eaten breakfast, but we knew we couldn't pass up this diner experience. We headed in for coffee.
Busy at 11:05
We arrived just as breakfast diners were finishing up. Brenda the owner, was already grilling up Philly cheese steak fixings on the griddle. She spun around and announced, "Not serving breakfast now!" We assured her we were just having coffee. Then we each took a seat on one of the 10 counter stools.
Coffee and the Paper
Don and I enjoyed our coffee with a little newspaper reading. We chuckled over the 1957 Smart Shoppers ads, under the glass. We checked out the Arrow brand shirts, advertised for $4.00!
Lots to See and Hear
We pointed and chuckled at the vintage newspaper, but mostly we listened to the diner sounds around us... dishes clanking, food sizzling, bells on the door, jingling and voices!
Brenda and the other two women were teasing and laughing and carrying on, with each other and most of the customers. We were clearly the only non-locals and I was envious.
Chatting with Brenda
Brenda took a breath and leaned on the counter to chat. I wanted to know what time she started her day, since Ray's opens early. "I'm up at 4:15." Brenda answered. I believe she said she got to the diner around 4:30 and opened the door at 6.
Brenda told us a little about Ray's beginnings. In 1932, Ray and his wife started up a chili and burger joint across the street. They opened the current building in 1942. Brenda still forms burgers on the original hamburger press. We were sitting on the stools that were brought over from the old building.
When Brenda became the 4th owner of the business, she received the chili recipe along with the keys. I asked what she liked to cook best and she didn't pause to think. "Everything. I've been cooking at the grill since I was 11 years old."
Betty Boop and Bigs Boys
I'm not sure which owner started the collection of retro memorabilia, but there was a lot. I wonder how many people make the mistake of asking for a Coke... in a diner that's dripping in Pepsi decor?
We dragged out our little visit as long as we could. I never got to peek inside the small window at the end of the room. I never got to check out the titles of the record albums, hanging from the ceiling. Worst of all, I didn't sample the chili or the burger or the garbage sandwich! But it was time for us to hit the road for Kansas City.
Brenda had a special name for that trip... that she happily took all by herself. She smiled as she recalled the joys of traveling, when you only have to please yourself. Mostly she raved about the beauty of the lighthouses she discovered.
So our dining adventure involved no eating. But we spent some time in a cozy setting, surrounded by people and food. We absorbed the atmosphere and some good information. Hopefully we can return someday for a meal...and just maybe, we'll get to Michigan and see some of those lighthouses we learned about!
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.