2005 Reader's Choice Awards
Le Maire’s Cajun Catfish,
is a great state known for its writers, sports teams, leaders,
rolling hills and clear-flowing streams. Less known
but equally worthy of the spotlight are the quirky eating
establishments, roadside attractions and courageous entrepreneurs
who believe, “if I build it, they will come.”
celebrate this spirit, Rural Missouri launched its Best of
Rural Missouri Reader’s Choice contest. Now in its
fourth year, the contest keeps getting bigger. It’s
taken us most of 2005 to count the ballots.
But now the readers
have spoken, the ballots are tallied and the 2005 winners
are presented here. Many of them are repeats from last year.
In fact, we have some that have taken first place four years
in a row, like Lambert’s, Johnny’s
Smoke Stak and Schoolhouse Bed and Breakfast.
This year we added some new categories,
including Best Chili and Best Steak thanks to reader’s
Congratulations to all the winners, and to Tammy
Abbott of Walnut Grove, a member of Ozark Electric Cooperative,
who was the winner of our “Made in Missouri” gift
We hope you will take the time to visit our winners
as you vacation in Missouri this summer. Keep this issue in your
glove box. Please send us suggestions that will help make the contest
better next year.
Best Trail Ride:
Country Trail Ride, Eminence
Dining Worth the Drive:
1st – Lamberts, Sikeston and Ozark
2nd – The Pear Tree, Bevier
3rd – Charlie’s, Cole Camp
Lambert’s, home of Throwed Rolls,
continues as our winner in this category but only two votes kept the elegant
and out-of-the-way Pear Tree in second where it finished last year. We
on the map when it won third last year.
Editor’s choice: Catch your trout and have them cook it for
you at the Bennett Spring dining lodge.
1st – Johnny’s Smoke Stack, Rolla
2nd – Buckingham’s, Springfield
3rd – Hickory Log, Dexter
The only changes in this category are for second and third. Johnny’s
has trounced the competition with its man-sized barbeque buffet.
Bucking-ham’s, also in Columbia, has the best beans in the
state (new category?). Ozark Border Electric members, newcomers to
Rural Missouri, helped bring Hickory Log into the winners’ ranks.
Many people say you’ll find the state’s best ribs here.
Editor’s choice: Good
barbecue comes from college towns. We like Perry Foster’s in
Warrensburg for their overwhelming portions, real wood fires and
plastic wrap for the inevitable leftovers.
1st – 63 Diner, Columbia
2nd – Booches, Columbia
3rd – Wheel-Inn, Sedalia
After a year or two of swapping places 63 Diner has settled into
first over the legendary Booches, where the menu is beer and burgers.
Sedalia’s Wheel-Inn features their trademark “Gooberburger,” a
hamburger slathered with peanut butter. You can’t say you’ve
done it all ’til you’ve had at least one.
Editor’s choice: If you
can resist the tenderloin temptation, the Dinner Bell in Jefferson
City offers a full pound of hamburger that’s bigger than the
1st – Slice of Pie, Rolla
2nd – Blue Owl, Kimmswick
3rd – Ozark Café, West Plains
No change for the pie winner, but we recommend you get the whole
pie and not just a slice in Rolla. The Blue Owl will wow you with
their huge selection of huge desserts. Not for the calorie conscious.
The Ozark is one of those downtown legends every town used to have.
Editor’s choice: Cookie’s
in Golden City is pie to die for.
Meramec Caverns, Stanton
1st – Le Maire’s, Sedalia
2nd – Moreland’s, Vienna
3rd – Dowd’s Catfish House, Lebanon
Just two votes separated first from second as these two fish fryers
trade places. Le Maire’s Cajun Catfish cooks a ton of fish
every week and offers gator on the menu. Moreland’s features
a bigger filet and music on Friday night. Rt. 66 cruisers love Dowd’s.
Editor’s choice: If Sedalia
is off your beaten path try Cajun Catfish in St. Martin, once owned
by Le Maire’s.
1st – Casper’s, Springfield
2nd – Dixon’s Chili, Kansas City
3rd – Floosie’s Apple Barrel, Winona
In the first year for chili we found a real winner in Casper’s,
a downtown Springfield establishment with limited seating and great
chili. We can’t wait to test Dixon’s and Floosie’s.
Editor’s choice: Fred
and Red’s in Joplin offers chili
(and tamales) made from a spicy secret recipe.
Best Fried Chicken:
1st – Strouds, Kansas City
2nd – Cookin’ From Scratch, Newburg
3rd – Big Boys, Wright City
Stroud’s continues to impress us with the number of votes they
got for first. Come early and be prepared to wait in line for this
great chicken. We hear nothing but good comments about Cookin’ From
Scratch. Big Boy’s isn’t the well-known chain but a 1920s
family style restaurant that’s older than I-70.
Editor’s choice: Before
they moved from Loose Creek to Lohman, Steve’s Family Style
Restaurant was a winner. We think it still is.
Arrow Rock Lyceum
Theatre, Arrow Rock
1st – The Pear Tree, Bevier
2nd – G & D Steakhouse, Columbia
3rd – Gordoz, Rolla
There’s not much the Pear Tree doesn’t do well and steak
is a specialty here. G&D’s $6 ribeye lets college kids
get a decent meal. The Greek style Gordoz is first and foremost a
Editor’s choice: Great
steak, reasonable price, small town, feed mill ambiance — Harry J’s
in Moscow Mills gets our vote.
1st – Stone Hill, Hermann
2nd – St. James Winery
3rd – Les Bourgeois, Rocheport
Stone Hill is Missouri’s most decorated winery for good reason.
But St. James and Les Bourgeois are gaining ground, the latter due
to its million-dollar view of the Missouri River.
Editor’s choice: Often
overlooked in winery-rich Hermann, the Adam Puchta Winery is the
state’s oldest family farm winery.
Best U-Pick Farms:
1st – Meyer Tree & Berry Farm, Dixon
2nd – Peter’s Orchard, Waverly
3rd – Pumpkin Patch, West Plains
A new category this year thanks to the popularity of agritourism.
You can’t go wrong when you pick your own on the farm.
Best State Park/Historic Site:
1st – Ha Ha Tonka, Camdenton
2nd – Meramec State Park, Sullivan
3rd – Bennett Spring, Lebanon
Always a favorite with our readers, we wonder if anyone has seen
all the wonders at this huge park. Meramec in Sullivan offers floats
and cave tours. Bennett is best known for its trout fishing.
Editor’s choice: Big Oak Tree State Park near East Prairie
is an island of huge trees in a sea of agriculture.
1st – Oktoberfest, Hermann
2nd – Jour de Fete, Ste. Genevieve
3rd – Silver Dollar City Fall Festival, Branson
Hermann’s featured month of wine, sausage and song moves into
first ahead of Ste. Gen’s French festival. You can step back
in time at Silver Dollar City’s featured attraction.
Editor’s choice: Houston, Mo., literally sends in the clowns
for its Emmett Kelly Clown Festival in May.
Best Old Store:
1st – Dick’s 5 & 10, Branson
2nd – Crane’s, Williamsburg
3rd – Weaver’s, Versailles
Weaver’s in Amish Country joins perennial winner’s Dick’s
and Crane’s in our stores-the-way-they-used-to-be category.
Editor’s choice: Captain
Jac bought the Farmer’s Mercantile
in High Hill and gained a community.
Best Town to Live in:
1st – Columbia
2nd – West Plains
3rd – Rolla
College memories kept Columbia as the top pick while West Plains
entered the picture to move Rolla down to third. The south-central
Missouri town has rebuilt its downtown and is staying in touch with
Editor’s choice: Those
who followed Lewis & Clark last
year discovered Washington, a great place to visit and stay.
Best Bed & Breakfast:
1st – School House, Rocheport
2nd – Painted Lady, St. James
3rd – Southern Hotel, Ste. Genevieve
Guests of the Schoolhouse get to relax after a hard ride on the Katy
Trail. The Painted Lady needs to be seen at Christmas time to be
really appreciated — ask for the cabin out back. The Southern
in Ste. Gen is our favorite place to stay while in Missouri’s
Editor’s choice: Where else can you sleep in a tree house on
the North Fork River? River of Life Farm near Dora is one of a kind.
Best Main Street:
1st – St. Charles
2nd – Branson
3rd – (tie) Ste. Genevieve & Hannibal
Main Street in St. Charles has old-world charm and Missouri’s
first Capitol. Too many people pass up old town Branson in favor
of the glitter and lights; it’s good to see it get some recognition.
Hannibal and Ste. Gen deserve recognition as historic villages.
Editor’s choice: America’s
biggest and best main street is Route 66.
1st – Branson
2nd – Big Cedar Lodge, Ridgedale
3rd – Lake of the Ozarks
Two of Missouri’s biggest tourist destinations are Branson
and the Lake of the Ozarks, and that seems to be where our readers
Editor’s choice: The
Elms Resort and Spa in Excelsior Springs was built so Missourians
could “take the waters.”
Bed & Breakfast:
Bed & Breakfast, Rocheport
Best Trail Ride:
1st – Cross Country Trail Ride, Eminence
2nd – Katy Trail
3rd – Lake of the Ozarks State Park
We were thinking horses when we dreamed up this category and first
place goes to Missouri’s largest (3,000 riders) and oldest
(celebrating its 50th year in 2005). But cyclists and hikers had
their say too with second and third place. Lake of the Ozarks State
Park has trails for hikers, bikers and riders.
Editor’s choice: The Berryman Trail between Potosi and Steelville
is a wild ride for bikes and horses.
1st – Bennett Spring State Park, Lebanon
2nd – Roaring River State Park, Cassville
3rd – Mark Twain State Park, Stoutsville
Two of Missouri’s premier trout parks were the reader’s
choice for camping. But anglers love Mark Twain for its greatly improved
fishing and facilities.
Editor’s choice: Rough it at a Missouri wilderness area like
Hercules Glades near Ava.
1st – Lake of the Ozarks
2nd – Table Rock
3rd – Truman
Last year Lake of the Ozarks didn’t make the cut, but this
year the big lake with more shoreline than California took the top
spot. Clear-water Table Rock and fishy Truman offer completely different
experiences for the lake lover.
Editor’s choice: We like our lakes a little smaller, like the
one at Crowder State Park in Trenton.
Town To Live In:
1st – Arrow Rock Lyceum Theatre
2nd – Fox Theatre, St. Louis
3rd – 19 Drive-In, Cuba
Our winners run the gamut from live theater in Arrow Rock to the
convertible crowd in Cuba.
Editor’s choice: The Friends of the Farris in Richmond deserve
kudos for its work to restore the fabulous Farris Theatre, host to
silent films, regular movies, live theater and more.
Best Float Stream:
1st – Current River
2nd – Jacks Fork
3rd – Niangua
The ever-popular Current reigns supreme, while its tributary, the
Jacks Fork, gains ground.
Editor’s choice: If you float and fish, try the Gasconade.
Best Outdoor Adventure:
1st – Katy Trail
2nd – Ha Ha Tonka State Park, Camdenton
3rd – Johnson’s Shut Ins
Once a railroad, the Katy is today the nation’s longest rails-to-trails
project with 225 miles to bike and hike. Most people never get past
the castle at Ha Ha Tonka. They miss the caves, springs and other
geologic wonders of the park. But for relaxing adventure, the shut-ins
can’t be beat.
Editor’s choice: Noodling, or hand fishing
for catfish, is now legal on the Mississippi, Fabius and St. Francis
rivers in Missouri. Sticking your hand into the mouth of a 100-pound
cat and wrestling it into a boat sounds like adventure with a capital
1st – Meramec Caverns, Stanton
2nd – Marvel Cave, Branson
3rd – Onondaga Cave, Leasburg
Our readers prefer the creature comforts of the commercial caves.
Of the three, third place is the most natural.
Editor’s choice: Bridal Cave in Camdenton boasts the world
record for underground weddings with 1,575 and contains more onyx
formations per square foot than any other show cave.