Having a successful restaurant is a meaningful endeavor and a great accomplishment. For a restaurant to stay in business for years while others fail around them is even more impressive. Here are a few Missouri dining spots that have endured and are open today.
1. J. Huston Tavern, Arrow Rock
According to The State Historical Society of Missouri, the oldest restaurant in Missouri is in the historic mall town of Arrow Rock. In fact, it is the oldest continuously serving restaurant west of the Mississippi River. J. Huston Tavern was originally the two-story home of the Huston family, built in 1834. Arrow Rock became a popular stopping spot for settlers heading west, so Huston began offering lodging and meals to travelers and local citizens.
By the 1850’s, they had added a mercantile store (now known as the Tap Room) and a ballroom. A large dining room and modern kitchen were added in 1955. It currently has three main dining rooms. The J. Huston Tavern has become the centerpiece of Arrow Rock State Historic Site and it is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
Address: 304 Main Street
2. Old Brick House, St. Genevieve
The Old Brick House is the oldest brick house west of the Mississippi. It was built in 1780 by local merchant and ferry boat operator, John Price. Apparently, the bricks were brought from France in boats used as ballast. At one point, Price accrued a debt of $1,200 and had to sell the building. That sale, conducted by Sheriff Henry Dodge, was the first "Sheriff's Sale" held west of the Mississippi. In addition, the building once served as the site of the first Territorial Court in the District, and for a time as a school house.
Today you can visit the Old Brick House for fine dining, steak and seafood, including the famous 40-ounce steak. They also feature specials and a daily luncheon buffet.
Location: 90 South 3rd Street
3. Al’s Restaurant AKA Al’s Steakhouse, St. Louis
Al’s has been a beloved St. Louis landmark for decades. It was opened in 1925 in what had been an old sugar house exchange building. Its original owners were Italian immigrants, Louise and Albert Barroni, Sr. and they hoped to reap the benefits of a riverfront location.
They were a tavern with a simple menu, serving dock, factory and railroad workers. Soon, word spread, and there were often long lines daily, all waiting for Louise’s delicious cooking. Through its many years of growth and menu changes, the award-winning restaurant remains in the Barroni family. It is St. Louis’ oldest single-family, locally owned and operated restaurant, still in its original location.
Address: 1200 N 1st Street
4. Crown Candy Kitchen, St. Louis
Crown Candy Kitchen is a St. Louis staple that has been around since 1913. They are famous for being one of the oldest soda fountains in the U.S., and the oldest in St. Louis. They offer retro soda-fountain atmosphere and food, as well as homemade confectionaries and desserts. In addition, they are well known for having the best BLT for miles around. Don’t be surprised to see a line snaking around the building during the lunch rush.
Location: 1401 St Louis Avenue.
5. Arthur Bryant’s BBQ, Kansas City
Arthur Bryant’s is a well-known Kansas City BBQ staple. They serve their smoked meats with Wonder bread and fries in a simple, self-service atmosphere. It is considered by some to be the most famous BBQ restaurant in the U.S. With history dating back to 1908, its current incarnation began in 1940 and for many years it was located at 18th and Euclid. It has been at its current location since 1958.
Location: 1727 Brooklyn
6. Town Topic Hamburgers, Kansas City
A man named Claude Sparks opened a little diner in downtown Kansas City in 1937. The now famous hamburgers sold at the time for 5 cents each. Now, 75 years later, Town Topic has become an iconic piece of Kansas City history. They pride themselves as having the same great food and atmosphere as they did back in the beginning, and they are open 24/7. Besides the original location at 2021 Broadway, there are also two other locations.
7. Thee Abbey Kitchen – Arcadia Academy, Ironton
Thee Abbey Kitchen in the Arcadia Academy is just one feature of this historic tourist attraction. The former Ursuline Academy is now known as the Arcadia College Historic District, and features 8 buildings, all from the mid to late 1800s. Besides the restaurant, it features a bed and breakfast, wedding location, a chapel, gymnasium, and a theater. There are also walking and horse-drawn tours.
The family-style restaurant also has a bakery and an old fashioned ice cream shop, with frozen custard made at the on-site creamery.
Location: 211 South College Street
8. Gordon’s Stoplight Drive-In, Crystal City
Gordon's Stoplight Drive-In is a small diner, “Serving the best hamburgers in the world since 1948.” A “must-try” is their famous Jumbo burger, topped with slaw, chopped onions and barbecue sauce. Their old-timey atmosphere and friendly service, made to order fresh food, and hand-dipped milkshakes will not disappoint.
For breakfast, they offer classics like the St Louis style slinger with choice of meat, hash-browns & eggs covered with homemade chili. Although they only take cash, they do have an ATM in the building. In classic diner style they only offer counter seating only on a first come first serve basis, but they do have a few tables outside and a walk up window for to go orders.
Location: 500 Bailey Road
9. 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
10. Lambert’s Café Sikeston
You’ve probably heard about Lambert’s, “home of the throwed rolls.” Originally opened in 1942, it has been featured on many "best of" lists. 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)
11. 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
12. The Royal Dumpe, St. Louis
While The Royal Dumpe may not be the oldest restaurant in the state, it does hold a title. It is the “oldest Dinner Theatre in the New World!” They have been performing for St. Louis patrons since 1973 as a Renaissance-themed restaurant and show.
Located in historic Laclede’s Landing, reservations are required and must be made by telephone at 314-621-5800. Shows regularly sell out, so plan ahead! Menu items include bread or rolls with sweet creamy butter, hearty soup poured at the table, savory baked chicken breast, an oven baked potato, and seasonal vegetables served family style. Finish things off with Luscious Dessert Bites.
Location: 809 North Second Street
13. The Majestic, Kansas City
The Majestic is a classic Kansas City Steakhouse and Jazz Club located in the historic Fitzpatrick Saloon Building. In their main dining room alongside a grand bar dating back to 1910, enjoy a delicious steak and fine wine.
Or try out the lower level, where the jazz club is the site of an actual speakeasy during prohibition, featuring some of the city’s best jazz musicians seven nights a week. The Pendergast Club is their private cigar and whiskey club and it is located on the third floor of the restaurant.
Location: 931 Broadway Blvd, KC
14. Spencer’s Grill, Kirkwood
A hometown favorite located in the heart of downtown, Spencer's Grill has been serving Kirkwood diners from that same spot since 1947. Best known for their traditional breakfast items, Spencer's cooks up pancakes and omelets and all the rest with consistent tastiness. They also offer lunch with a variety of sandwiches and burgers. Take note: they are only open until 2:00 pm.
Location: 223 S Kirkwood Road
15. The White Rose Café, Union
A Union downtown landmark for more than 75 years, the family-owned and operated White Rose Café originally started as a single pump gas station! It has changed and grown over the years into the 116 seat cafe it is today, serving home-style country food, breakfast all day, and evening specials.
Most interestingly, they celebrate their anniversary each year with a car show held on the first Sunday of every June. Unlike a lot of car shows, everyone is invited to participate! There are motorcycles, old and new cars, trucks, classics and everything in between.
Location: 208 E. Main Street
16. The Fred Restaurant & Lounge, Boonville
This restaurant is located in the historic 1905 Hotel Frederick, and the building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The historic ambiance created by wooden floors, large windows and tin ceilings, create the perfect dining experience.
Favorite appetizers include fresh oysters on the half shell or the Spaghetti Squash Fritters, sautéed golden brown and served with sriracha aioli. For an entrée, try the pork medallions, brown butter salmon, or the wild chicken with mushrooms. With great food, service and ambience, the Fred is a must-visit while in Boonville.
Location: 501 High Street
17. Big Boy Burgers, Independence
The Bob’s Big Boy Franchise has been around for 75 years and they haven’t changed much. The Independence Big Boy, located at 12401 E US Hwy 40, is particularly retro. I have childhood memories of Big Boy stops on family road trips. We would look for them along the way! Visit Big Boy Burgers for merchandise, locations, and more!
Note: There were three restaurants that were a few of the oldest for many years, but word is that they are now closed. These include The Savoy Grill, Sanderson’s Lunch, and Italian Gardens, all in Kansas City. If you have any information on these places, please let us know.
What are some other restaurants that have been in business for a long time? What is your favorite?