Let’s start this off by saying it’s fully intended to be a “part one,” a jumping off point, so to speak. That said, we embarked on an almost impossible task and tried to find our favorites based on uniqueness, reputation, and of course great food. With all the great food in Missouri, this list could easily have been 100 restaurants, but we managed to narrow it down to 21 places you just absolutely have to try.
1. Blues City Deli, St. Louis
If you ask someone in St. Louis where to get a great sandwich, more times than not they will suggest the Blues City Deli. Specializing in Po-Boy’s and Muffulettas, you can also grab some red beans and rice, an old-fashioned soda or an ice cold beer. With a great blues music vibe every day, you can also catch live music most Thursdays and Saturdays. Great service, a full menu to please even the pickiest eaters, and great food and drinks make the Blues City Deli a can’t-miss destination.
2. Fritz’s Railroad Restaurant, Crown Center, Kansas City
Children of all ages will love Fritz’s Railroad Restaurant! It has been a local Kansas City family favorite for decades. You order your food by telephone and it's brought to your table by an overhead train. Kids love it! Besides the novelty of the railroad, Fritz’s is also famous for their old-fashioned hamburgers, made with 100% choice ground beef, grilled onions seared in the meat and toasted buns, all cooked to order.
Location: The Crown Center complex, 2450 Grand Boulevard, KC
Watch the train in action!
3. Kehde’s BBQ, Sedalia
Speaking of trains, this barbecue spot is located in a classic 1920s train car! Kehde’s has been family-owned for three generations, and a local icon. Besides barbecue, they also serve croissants, sandwiches, burritos, and their famous Posh potatoes.
Location: 1915 S. Limit Avenue
4. Broussard’s Cajun Cuisine, Cape Girardeau
Located in the heart of Cape Girardeau, Broussard's Cajun Cuisine is a family-owned Cajun-style restaurant. Their authentic recipes bring the taste of Louisiana Cajun into Missouri. Spicy Cajun goodness is brought to you by a friendly wait staff (there are less-spicy, American style options as well). Try the Catfish Po’Boy, 6 inches or a foot long and served with Cajun Fries. The building housing Broussard’s is true to the history of the downtown/riverfront area, with vintage architecture. A must for anyone visiting Cape Girardeau, this restaurant has actually been featured on several best of lists, including a couple of our own.
Location: 120 N. Main Street
5. Goody Goody Diner, St. Louis
Goody Goody opened as a walk-up root beer stand in 1931 and is a true St. Louis dining icon. In the 1940s it was converted into a hot-food drive-in, and by the 1950s it was the place to be for hot-rod cruising after dark. People come from miles around to eat at Goody Goody, named one of the nation's Top 50 Diners by MSN. The diverse menu offers breakfast all day, sandwiches, burgers, salads and dinner entrees, along with delicious sides. The catfish is served as the Fried Fish Dinner, one or two deep fried filets served with two sides and a home baked roll. (The Fried Fish dinner is also available with cod.)
Location: 5900 Natural Bridge Ave, St. Louis
6. Danna’s BBQ & Burger Shop, Branson West
Danna’s is well known for being the place to go in the Branson area for old-fashioned, made from scratch BBQ. All three of their locations are family run and owned, and the atmosphere is casual and friendly. They smoke their beef and pork for 12-14 hours every night with locally sourced hickory wood. Their ribs, chicken and sausage are smoked for four hours twice a day. Using their own barbecue rub and barbecue sauces for chicken and ribs, these are available for you to purchase for use when you barbecue at home. Burgers are made to order from fresh beef or turkey. Try the Smoked Pork Plate piled high with tender pork and served with homemade coleslaw and signature Memphis rolls. Other options include their BBQ Nachos, Boss Man Salad, along a variety of sandwiches and burgers.
Location: 15 Hope Way, Branson West (also locations in Branson and Kirbyville)
7. The Sub Zero Vodka Bar, St. Louis
Another St. Louis “must” is the Sub Zero Vodka Bar. Besides having the largest selection of vodka in the country, they are also well-known for their fresh sushi featuring a variety of fish delivered daily. They serve it all day through last call, seven days a week. In 2007, they added a modern American Burger menu. Their large selection of burgers are made from high quality hand-ground American Kobe beef, Black Angus beef, lamb, and bison.
Burger lovers can choose from an extensive variety of signature burgers or create their own, starting with choosing from eleven different types of protein, including vegetarian options.
Due to their award winning, nationally recognized status, this is also a place you might spot a celebrity. Stars like Dan Akroyd, George Clooney and Sammy Hagar along with many others have patronized the reputable Ice Bar.
Location: 308 N. Euclid Avenue
8. Pappy’s Smokehouse, St. Louis
The line outside the door most days is a giant indicator of the quality of Pappy’s Smokehouse. They are well-known and loved throughout St. Louis and the rest of the country. Serving the best Memphis Style BBQ from their mid-town St. Louis location, they slow smoke their meats for up to 14 hours over sweet apple or cherry wood. Choose from your choice of meat and a selection of their own unique, delicious BBQ sauces including Pappy’s Original, Jane’s Sweet Sauce, Holly’s Hot Sauce and Hoodoo Sauce. Daily lunch specials from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. might include your choice of a pulled pork or chicken sandwich with a side and drink at a great price.
Location: 3106 Olive Street, St. Louis
9. Lambert’s Café, Sikeston
You’ve probably heard about Lambert’s, “home of the throwed rolls,” and originally opened in 1942. A restaurant bucket list would not be complete without their inclusion. They have three locations, the most well-known being the original one in the town of Sikeston. People come from all over to dine on generous servings of food, all while having some fun and allowing people to throw rolls at them. They don’t accept credit cards or take reservations, so come prepared to wait and bring cash.
Location: 2305 E. Malone, Sikeston (also locations in Ozark, MO and Foley, AL)
10. Blueberry Hill, St. Louis
This St. Louis landmark is most famous for Chuck Berry performances on the third Wednesday of each month in the Duck Room. He once played every single month from 1996 through his 88th birthday week in October 2014. Besides Chuck Berry and the Duck Room, the restaurant is also famous for its decor, its cheeseburgers and its darts room. Since opening in 1972, the restaurant has expanded into the adjacent spaces to the east and the west, and it now occupies an entire block of Delmar Boulevard. Outside the restaurant, you’ll find the St. Louis Walk of Fame by Joe Edwards, lining the sidewalks on both sides of Delmar, and made up of bronze stars and informative biographical plaques honoring St. Louis-area natives who have made major national contributions to American cultural heritage.
Location: 6504 Delmar in The Loop
11. Charley’s Buffet, Cole Camp
Arguably the best country-style buffet in Missouri, Charley’s offers American comfort food in a casual setting. Since they are only open Fridays and Saturdays from 4:30-8:30 p.m., there is usually a line of people waiting before they even open! Dinner items like pulled pork, ham, fresh veggies, mashed potatoes and chicken and homemade noodles are some of the offerings. Don’t forget dessert! The dessert table is something to see with a huge variety including homemade pies and cobblers. Charley’s is the best place for home-style food, reminiscent of a church potluck. They even make their own butter!
Location: 23785 Highway B, Cole Camp
12. Booches, Columbia
Booches is a well-known Columbia establishment that has been around since 1884! This restaurant and pool hall is famous for their cheeseburgers served on wax paper. In fact, USA Today named them one of the top ten burgers in America on more than one occasion. Known for witticisms posted on their walls, they are most known for the saying “Closed on Sunday, see you in church.” Booches' name comes from the nickname of original owner, Paul Blucher Venable. Male-only until the 1970s, the restaurant has seen many owners over the years, but still thrives. Today it gets plenty of University of Missouri and St. Louis Cardinals fans as customers, and has become considerably more family-friendly than they once were.
Location: 110 S 9th Street, Columbia
13. Bristol Seafood Grill, Kansas City
Bristol Seafood Grill is an upscale seafood restaurant with a chic but casual atmosphere offering simply-prepared fresh fish, premium steaks, an impressive wine cellar and handcrafted cocktails. Imaginative seafood dishes made with quality fresh ingredients set Bristol’s above the rest and their Kansas City location has been a city icon since 1980. Valet parking is also available.
Location: 51 East 14th Street, Kansas City
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14. Bella Napoli, Kansas City
Bella Napoli is known for their delicious, fresh, and extremely satisfying Italian food. Pasta that melts in your mouth. Tomato sauce that is light and flavorful. Some of their signature dishes include the Melanzane Alla Parmigiana, Tagliatella Alla Bolognese, and the Puttanesca, made with Olives, capers, anchovies, pepper flakes, and tomato. Bella Napoli is also a deli, coffee shop and grocery.
Location: 6229 Brookside Blvd, Kansas City
15. Garozzo’s Ristorante, Kansas City
Zagat-rated as one of the top Italian restaurants in the country, Gazarro’s opened in April 1989. The Garozzo family runs this popular and award-winning restaurant offering moderately priced fine dining in a family atmosphere. Their signature dish, Chicken Spiedini, was originally created here, and is now often imitated around town (but never duplicated!) Chicken Spiedini is a marinated chicken breast rolled in Italian bread crumbs, skewered & grilled.
Location: 526 Harrison Street (also in Lee’s Summit, Overland Park and Olathe)
16. Kemoll’s Italian Restaurant on Top of the Met in St. Louis
The view is amazing from Kemoll’s, located on top of the Metropolitan Building in St. Louis. However, the food and extensive wine list make Kemoll’s a great place for a one-of-a-kind fine dining experience. You’ll truly be amazed by the remarkable 360° views from the 42nd-floor, overlooking such iconic St. Louis sights as the Gateway Arch and the Mississippi River. Start your experience with cocktails in the impressive lobby, then move to the dining room and enjoy delicious classic Italian fare, all while enjoying incredible views. You can make reservations and check out the menu on their web site. They also have several rooms available for larger groups up to 400 people.
Location: 211 N. Broadway, St. Louis
17. Stewart’s Restaurant, Lake Ozark
Huge portions of mouthwatering American breakfast classics make Stewart’s a great place for breakfast. A don’t miss: their delicious homemade cinnamon rolls. It’s best to arrive earlier in the morning, as it always draws a large crowd, but it’s definitely worth the wait. The family friendly environment with comfortable seating options includes outdoor seating when weather permits. They also offer carry-out and catering.
Location: 1151 Bagnell Dam Blvd, Lake Ozark
18. Oscar’s Classic Diner, Jefferson City
Oscar’s award-winning menu features generous portions of made-from-scratch home-style favorites such as biscuits and gravy, country fried steak and huge jumbo omelets. The 50’s ambiance and background music harken to a time when the diner was king. A family owned restaurant, their friendly servers will make you feel right at home. They also offer carry-out via a drive-thru pick up window.
Location: 2118 Schotthill Woods Drive
19. The Shaved Duck, St. Louis
Another “must-visit” restaurant in St. Louis, this amazing barbecue and soul food restaurant smokes their ribs all day each day, delivering them fresh off the pit. The locally sourced menu is smoked in Ole Hickory Pits, built in Cape Girardeau, with a combination of wild cherry and hickory wood from Terry, "the woodman", from Perryville. The cherry gives the meat a subtle sweetness and gorgeous color, balanced with a touch of hickory for a well-rounded, uniquely smoky finish. The award-wining culinary team cooks up fresh dishes, mouth-watering sides, gumbos, flatbreads, and decadent desserts. The Burnt Ends are legendary, and they make their own bacon to create their famous Walnut Bacon appetizer. Or try the fresh cut Smothered French fries. These are just some of the reasons to try the Shaved Duck, and a visit will leave you full and truly satisfied.
Location: 2900 Virginia Avenue, St. Louis
20. Catalpa, Arrow Rock
Located in a cute little red brick house in the cute little historic town of Arrow Rock, Catalpa is fine dining restaurant with an eclectic, seasonal menu. Arrow Rock is a village of 56 people located on the Missouri River at the beginning of the Santa Fe Trail. Catalpa has only 8 tables in the dining room, one Chef’s Table in the kitchen and a screened porch and brick patio, utilized when weather permits. Produce and meats are all sourced locally whenever possible, and the menu varies with the seasons. A fun, relaxed atmosphere and great food make it a popular place, so given the size, reservations are required.
Location: 510 High Street, Arrow Rock
21. Sybill’s Saint James, St. James
Sybill’s provides elegant fine dining in a beautiful country-style manor, complete with a gift shop. Big city dining without big city prices, they have served New American cuisine and fine wine in St. James since 2007. Excellent service, great food, and a quality beer and wine selection complete the unique and sophisticated dining experience.
Location: 1100 N Jefferson Street, St. James
Have you visited any of these restaurants? What was your experience? What other Missouri restaurants would you include on a bucket list? (You might see them in a part 2!) Share in the comments below.