Rural Missouri Magazine

2003 Best of Rural Missouri

It wasn’t easy, but somehow we got all of the entries to the second-annual Best of Rural Missouri Readers’ Choice Awards tabulated. This time we had twice as many entries. In fact, there were 20,000-plus votes in the 34 categories.
    Based on last year’s response and some requests, we changed a few of the categories. For example, we added catfish because, to be honest, our editors really like the stuff. Many readers wondered how we could have left best winery off of last year’s list — so we added that, too. We also focused one of the restaurant categories, calling it “Dining Worth the Drive.” The name change didn’t change the results much as you will see.
    Many thanks to everyone who took the time to fill out the ballot and mail it in.
    Congratulations to Roger and Mary Sherrell of Dixon who were the winners of the “Made in Missouri” gift basket.
    We hope you will take the time to visit some of our winners as you travel the state this summer. Look for 2004 contest ballots in Rural Missouri this fall.

Dining Worth the Drive
First: Lambert’s, Sikeston and Ozark
Second: The Pear Tree, Bevier
Third: Caveman, Richland
For the second time Lambert’s, home of the Throwed Roll, was an easy winner. The elegant Pear Tree again took second while the Caveman, located in a cave with one of the state’s best views, edged out Warsaw’s Benton House by one vote for third place. We changed the name of this category to more accurately reflect what we were looking for in a restaurant and those entering seemed to understand. Once again the city eats didn’t score well with our readers proving good food is worth the drive.
Editor’s choice: Any restaurant that’s been around since the ’30s must be doing something right. We think you’ll agree Pacific’s Red Cedar Inn is well worth a drive down Route 66.

Best Catfish
First: Moreland’s, Vienna
Second: LeMaire’s, Sedalia
Third: Catfish Kettle, Farmington
By all rights, MODOT should have killed Moreland’s when it moved Highway 63 a few miles away. Instead the restaurant perched high above the Gasconade River fills to capacity most weekends serving huge filets to an overflow crowd — and that’s without a sign to point the way. Beating LeMaire’s, which offers a Cajun flair, was no small feat. And we were glad to learn about the Catfish Kettle, one of two Farmington restaurants to make the cut.
Editor’s choice: Catfish should be served as close to where it’s caught as possible. That’s why we like Hyde’s Fish House in Broseley. Here you can eat and watch the fish play in the ponds outside.

Best Old Fashioned Ice Cream Shop
First: Central Dairy, Jefferson City
Second: Ruby’s, St. James
Third: Sara’s, Ste. Genevieve
Once again no contest with the results the same as last year. All three winners repeated in exactly the same order with Central Dairy blowing away the competition by the largest majority in any category. All three are a credit to the dairy industry.
Editor’s choice: Where else can you get a pineapple Pepsi but at Winfields on Main Street in Eminence.

Best Pie
First: A Slice of Pie, Rolla
Second: Blue Owl, Kimmswick
Third: Cooky’s, Golden City
Some people like pie after their meal. Others like to make pie the meal. That’s the reason A Slice of Pie was established. The Blue Owl, which received a number of votes in the Dining Worth a Drive category, apparently knows how to end a meal right. And Cooky’s is one of those places you just know has good pie. Remember to eat pie first so you don’t get filled up.
Editor’s choice: Cowan’s in Washington makes pie the way it’s supposed to taste.

Best Hamburger
First: 63 Diner, Columbia
Second: Booches, Columbia
Third: Wheel-In Drive-In, Sedalia
Want a great burger? Head to Columbia where the 63 Diner’s bigger-than-the-bun burger, beat out last year’s winner, Booches. But for something really different wheel into the Wheel-In, home of the Gooberburger. That’s hamburger with peanut butter.
Editor’s choice: With a name like Bubba’s Burger Bar and Egg Emporium (in Moberly) it’s gotta be good.

Best Barbecue
First: Johnny’s Smoke Stak, Rolla
Second: Kehde’s Barbecue, Sedalia
Third: The Warehouse, Farmington
Notice anything unusual about this year’s winners? First of all, Johnny’s repeats as champion and by a wider margin than ever. We think it’s because of the succulent sauce. Plus you can’t leave their barbecue buffet hungry. What is surprising is the lack of a Kansas City winner. Last year Bryant’s and Gates took second and third. This year they hardly got a vote, proving outstate is the place for things like ribs and burnt ends. Second place Kehde’s across from the state fair grounds let’s you dine in old railroad cars. If you visit our third-place winner try their baked potato buried in meat. Now that’s a meal!
Editor’s choice: Anytime a Missouri team goes to Memphis and outcooks everyone else you gotta take notice. That’s why we like Super Smokers in Eureka.

Best Winery
First: Stone Hill, Hermann
Second: St. James Winery, St. James
Third: Les Bourgeois, Rocheport
Another new category and an important one with Missouri’s wine industry really coming into its own. This contest brings yet another award to Missouri’s most awarded winery. But second place St. James gets its share of the gold too. If the contest were judged by view alone Les Bourgois would have been the winner with its location on the Missouri River bluffs. Nearly all of Missouri’s 52 wineries received votes, making us think this will be hotly contested next year.
Editor’s choice: There is something really different about the wines we tasted at Peaceful Bend located between St. James and Steelville. Their small batches sell out quickly.

Best State Park
First: Ha Ha Tonka, Camdenton
Second: Roaring River, Cassville
Third: Bennett Spring, Lebanon
Ha Ha Tonka repeats as your favorite park, making us wonder when DNR will rebuild the castle. The trout parks scored high, with Roaring River keeping Bennett in third place. Our readers really liked them all.
Editor’s choice: We like them all too since every park has something unique to offer the visitor. But when it comes right down to it, nothing compares to Johnson’s Shut-Ins.

Best Historic Site
First: Wilson’s Creek Battlefield, Republic
Second: Ha Ha Tonka, Camdenton
Third: (tie) Arrow Rock and Mark Twain Home, Florida
Now that we know where it is (Republic, not Springfield) we agree Wilson’s Creek holds a lot of history. Best bet is when one of the reenactments is being held. Mark Twain continues to hold a fascination for our readers both as a state park and an historic site.
Editor’s choice: Bollinger Mill State Historic Site at Burfordsville also features a great covered bridge.

Best Festival
First: Oktoberfest, Hermann
Second: Festival of the Little Hills, St. Charles
Third: Olde Tyme Apple Festival, Versailles
Anytime is a great time to visit Hermann, Missouri’s Rhineland. But for four weekends in “Oktober” Hermann puts on its best for the Oktoberfest. Long before St. Charles was Missouri’s first capital it was Les Petites Cotes (The Little Hills). This year’s event is Aug. 15-17. Versailles touts the benefits of eating apples which you can join them in doing Oct. 4.
Editor’s choice: In 1993 the Missouri River tried to wash Hartsburg away. Citizens responded by having a Pumpkin Festival. For two days in October the town turns orange.

Best Antique Hunting Spot
First: Ozark
Second: St. Charles
Third: Jamesport
Ozark and St. Charles repeat as the place to browse, but Jamesport finally gets much-deserved recognition .
Editor’s choice: Pierce City offers great hunting during antique season.

Best Art Gallery
First: Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City
Second: St. Louis Art Museum
Third: Daum Museum of Contemporary Art, Sedalia
The big cities win on this one but the Daum shows art is alive in rural Missouri.
Editor’s choice: Many small towns have embraced the arts. Our favorite is Bolivar’s Dunnegan Gallery.

Best Flea Market
First: Wentzville Community Club Flea Market, Wentzville
Second: The Big Pevely Flea Market, Pevely
Third: Johnston’s Rutledge Flea Market, Rutledge
In its 25th year, Wentzville’s community flea market repeats as our readers’ choice but close on its heels is the big one in Pevely. Irvin is gone, but third-place Rutledge in northeast Missouri is the same monster event we once featured in Rural Missouri. We like all three because there are people to haggle with on prices and not just booths.
Editor’s choice: When the St. Francois County Fair isn’t being held the fairgrounds near Farmington is one big flea market.

Best Farmer’s Market
First: Soulard Market, St. Louis
Second: City Market, Kansas City
Third: Columbia Farmers’ Market
It makes sense to take your produce to the city where they can’t grow it on their own. This year first and second swap places. Soulard is more than just a market, it’s an entire neighborhood of ethnic delights, the sole survivor in a city that once supported many such places. In Kansas City go on Wednesday night when it’s all organic.
Editor’s choice: We think it’s great when the city folk buy direct from the farmer. Missouri has 77 farmer’s markets and we like them all. Check out Greene County’s Market at the Mill, Wommack Mill that is.

Best Old Store
First: Dick’s 5 & 10, Branson
Second: Crane’s, Williamsburg
Third: Arrow Rock Country Store, Arrow Rock
Dick’s in downtown Branson is the way old stores used to be, full of weird, wacky stuff you didn’t know you could still buy anywhere. Crane’s offers a great place to swap tall tales and buy yourself a pair of Carhartts. And Arrow Rock is the town that time forgot.
Editor’s choice: Check out Champion’s store if you can find it.

Best Christmas Event
First: Silver Dollar City, Branson
Second: Branson
Third: Country Club Plaza, Kansas City
Many years ago Branson discovered people would come visit year round if they left the lights on. Now the Ozark Mountain town is as popular in winter as it is in summer. The lighting of country Club Plaza is a Missouri tradition too.
Editor’s choice: Everyone likes the lights but to put the true meaning of Christmas back in the event you need to experience the Las Posadas procession in St. Charles.

Best Town to Live In
First: Columbia
Second: Springfield
Third: Rolla
If there’s a trend it is college towns, maybe some good memories going on here? Columbia and Springfield repeat for the top spots while Rolla knocks Jeff City out of the top three.
Editor’s choice: “Spend a day or a lifetime in Shannon County.” With a slogan like that, Eminence welcomes all.

Most Beautiful Town
First: Hermann
Second: Carthage
Third: Springfield
An old town wins this new category and we couldn’t agree more. Visit it soon when the dogwoods and redbuds are in bloom.
Editor’s choice: Speaking of dogwoods, Charleston is Missouri’s old South. Check for blooming times and don’t miss the Azalea Festival.

Best Bed and Breakfast
First: Schoolhouse, Rocheport
Second: Painted Lady, St. James
Third: Garth-Woodside Mansion, Hannibal
Our winner offers a great place to stay and a lot of other attractions too in this quaint little town. Second place is a real site to see, and close to trout fishing or wine country. Mark Twain spent many a night under the roof of our third place winner.
Editor’s choice: Relax at Rock Eddy Bluff near Dixon where you can watch the bald eagles soar.

Best Sporting Event
First: St. Louis Cardinals
Second: Kansas City Chiefs
Third: MU football
We don’t care what the Braves say: Before baseball moved west the Cardinals were America’s team. They still are in our book. The Chiefs may not win a lot but they still have the best tailgaters in the country. Is Mizzou football back? Maybe not in the standings but they are in the hearts of our readers.
Editor’s choice: Forget football, MU basketball is tops in our opinion. Wait ’till next year!

Best Town Square
First: Carthage
Second: Clinton
Third: Fayette
Some towns never gave up on downtown and Carthage is one of them. Clinton’s the same way and you can feel the history in Fayette.
Editor’s choice: West Plains is rebuilding their downtown and we think that’s a good thing.

Best Weekend Getaway
First: Branson
Second: St. Louis
Third: Lake of the Ozarks
No doubt about it, Branson is the No. 1 destination.
Editor’s choice: We pick any one of Missouri’s state parks or scenic rivers.

Best Romantic Getaway
First: Branson
Second: Big Cedar Lodge, Ridgedale
Third: Tan-Tar-A Resort, Lake of the Ozarks
Who says romance is dead? Branson is best, and Big Cedar narrows it down some.
Editor’s choice: See Best Bed and Breakfast.

Best Summer Getaway
First: Branson
Second: Lake of the Ozarks
Third: St. Louis
Whatever the reason or the season, Branson is your choice. But where do Branson’s residents go to get away? Must be Lake of the Ozarks or St. Louis.
Editor’s choice: St. Joseph keeps adding places to see and things to do.

Best Day Trip
First: St. Louis Zoo
Second: Hermann
Third: Branson
St. Louis has a world class zoo that keeps improving — and the price is right too. Hermann might require more than a day if you didn’t bring a designated driver and Branson definitely begs an overnight stay.
Editor’s choice: The Arcadia Valley, including Arcadia, Pilot Knob and Ironton.

Best Camping Spot
First: Bennett Spring State Park, Lebanon
Second: Roaring River State Park, Cassville
Third: Mark Twain State Park, Stoutsville
Apparently our readers like to camp where they can fish.
Editor’s choice: We think the state parks are too comfortable. To really experience camping you have to rough it in the Mark Twain National Forest. Best bet is Logger’s Lake near Bunker.

Best Lake
First: Lake of the Ozarks
Second: Table Rock
Third: Truman Lake
No surprises here, this is exactly how the contest went last year. Lots of people voted for the winners in this category.
Editor’s choice: Piedmont’s Clearwater Lake is smaller but just as clear as Table Rock.

Best Fishing Spot
First: Bennett Spring
Second: Truman Lake
Third: Table Rock Lake
Everyone likes Bennett and now we know why. Wade fishing is a different sport than is practiced on the big lakes. Once again no one shared their secret holes but we have hope for next year.
Editor’s choice: Pomme de Terre for one reason: muskie.

Best Float Stream
First: Current River
Second: Niangua River
Third: Meramec River
No contest here, the Current reigns supreme. It has it all, cold water, towering bluffs and lots of gravel bars.
Editor’s choice: Smaller and a little tricky but similar to our winners is the Courtois and Huzzah creeks, two clear water gems.

Best Outdoor Adventure
First: Katy Trail
Second: Canoeing
Third: Deer hunting
Katy surprises us, bicycling is hard work.
Editor’s choice: The Ozark Trail needs you.

Best Cave
First: Meramec Caverns, Stanton
Second: Marvel Cave, Branson
Third: Onondaga Cave, Leasburg
Missouri is known as the cave state, and our readers had a lot to choose from. These three are all show caves.
Editor’s choice: Mark Twain wrote, “By and by somebody shouted, ‘Who’s ready for the cave?’ ” Mark Twain Cave in Hannibal (Injun Joe’s Cave in the books) gets our vote.

Best Golf Course
First: Highland Springs Country Club, Springfield
Second: St. James Golf Course, St. James
Third: Bent Creek Golf Course, Jackson
Highland Springs moves Bent Creek from first to third this year while the St. James municipal 9-hole gets some recognition.
Editor’s choice: Fourche’ Valley at Potosi is called the “Jewel of the Ozarks” for good reason.

Best Place to Take the Kids
First: Silver Dollar City, Branson
Second: St. Louis Zoo
Third: World’s of Fun, Kansas City
Vote how you will, we still think Grandma’s is the place.
Editor’s choice: Grant’s Farm in Afton is fun and free.

Best Summer Camp
First: Kanakuk, Branson
Second: Camp Wonderland, Lake of the Ozarks
Third: Clover Point 4-H Camp, Lake of the Ozarks
Summer camp brought back pleasant memories for everyone.
Editor’s choice: For cold showers, primitive cabins and great memories it’s Sherwood Forest at Cuivre River State Park, Troy.

Rural Missouri | June 2020 Issue

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