A host of new restaurants came on the scene in Springfield and southern Missouri in 2018.
While the national restaurant industry is experiencing a “difficult sales environment” with slumping foot traffic, according to a Nasdaq report, the rise of delivery services powered by mobile apps has offered a new opportunity for restaurants. Their revenue from deliveries has gone up 20 percent in the last five years, USA TODAY reported.
In keeping with that trend, 2018 saw GrubHub and DoorDash delivery come to Springfield. (UberEats got here in 2017.)
In 2019, the forecast is for “spotty” growth in restaurants, according to industry observer Technomic.
But in southern Missouri, an astonishing diversity of restaurant concepts has flourished in 2018: Korean barbecue, Dutch/Indonesian, grilled cheese. Not one, but two Romanian eateries.
Here’s the recap — and here’s hoping 2019 proves just as savory.
Antojos Tacos y Mas opened in early 2018. The name means “cravings,” and the brightly colored space in west Springfield offers tacos, pupusas, tamales, burritos and much more. 1342 W. Sunshine St., 417-755-7934
Bawi Korean BBQ is a first of its kind in Springfield, offering all-you-can-eat Korean barbecue with plenty of banchan, or Korean side dishes, to go with. Diners cook their food on natural gas grills built right into the tabletops, in a traditional communal style. Father and son David and Cosmo Kwon, co-owners of Hinode Japanese Steakhouse, opened the $2 million Bawi in June. 4121 S. National Ave., 417-886-2777
Big Whiskey’s American Restaurant & Bar expanded to Las Vegas this year, but closer to home, this haven for pub classics and cold brews opened a Nixa location in November. 715 McCroskey St., 417-725-3031
Bits of Britain Cafe opened April 25 in a downtown space occupied by Heroes Coffee from 2012 to 2017. It serves Cornish pasties, jam tarts, scones, sausage rolls, sticky toffee pudding, cheese-and-tomato sandwiches, an afternoon teatime spread and coffee roasted by The Coffee Ethic. Co-owner John Twomey lived on the England-Wales border before moving to the United States at age 7. 401 Boonville Ave., 417-848-0057
Black Market Smokehouse opened in July across the road from Missouri State University. Owners Scott Pitts and Jason Delcour aimed to create a place that does barbecue differently, setting up different smokers for different meats. They’re not afraid to riff on tradition, for example, by serving up a Cuban sandwich that’s a smoky cousin to the original Cubano. The menu was developed with help from Wesley Johnson, former chef at Metropolitan Farmer. 603 S. Kimbrough Ave., 417-831-5300
Bricktown Brewery brought an Oklahoma flair when it opened this fall in south Springfield, renovating the former Old Chicago location to the tune of $850,000. The brewery was founded in 1992. When a 2018 change in Oklahoma law governing the alcohol content of beer took effect, Bricktown updated its lineup of ales and session beers to include more flavorful options. Food-wise, Bricktown offers American pub fare: Black Angus beef burgers, individual pizzas, salads and shareable comfort foods, almost all of it made from scratch. 2040 E. Independence St., 417-887-0100
City Butcher, the wildly popular barbecue joint, opened a trailer outpost in the Southern Hills Shopping Center on East Sunshine Street back in August. Last month, it announced winter hours for the trailer: Wednesday through Saturday, 11 a.m. until the ‘cue sells out, usually around 6 p.m. Check the City Butcher Facebook page for updates in case the trailer has to close for bad weather.
Craft Sushi is the creature of Michael Cho, a longtime Springfield restaurateur with a track record at Hickory Hills Country Club and ReRico Brazilian Grill, among others. Craft Sushi opened in early November and sells custom sushi rolls and poke bowls at a price point that Cho described as “competitive with Chipotle.” 1251 E. Sunshine St., 417-319-5887
Crave Cookie Doughoffers a wide range of safe-to-eat varieties of cookie dough mixed with things like chocolate chips, salted-caramel pretzels and M&M-type candy, all from a downtown space that used to be a cupcake shop. It also has cookies, cookie sandwiches and shakes. 325 E. Walnut St., 417-350-1888
Dacia opened in August, a food truck that’s one of two Romanian-inspired eateries to set up shop on this side of Missouri in 2018. Happily, folks without ties to the Eastern European nation don’t need to know how to pronounce mici (grilled ground mutton-and-pork rolls) and sarmale (stuffed cabbage) to enjoy them. The truck is located at 1666 E. St. Louis St., essentially where The Wheelhouse lived before that truck moved indoors at the new Vib hotel. 702-417-4401
DoorDash and GrubHub began operating in Springfield this year, part of that surge in delivery services using mobile apps that caters to customers too busy to leave the workplace or too comfortable to leave the house. GrubHub, with uniformed delivery workers, stood out from UberEats, with one downtown restaurant owner telling the News-Leader that GrubHub really helps on rainy and snowy days. Meanwhile, San Francisco-based DoorDash ruffled some feathers when it began posting restaurant logos and menus on its website without bothering to check with restaurant owners first, as Springfield Business Journal reported in late October. One barbecue restaurateur recently told the News-Leader he liked DoorDash because quick delivery helped his place keep up the pace of sales when long-lunchers from nearby offices took up table space.
Element is a pop-up series that got off the ground in 2018, two years after pop-up restaurants became a thing in Springfield. Lately, the Element guys — who came out of the kitchen and bar operations at Kai and The Order — have been teaming up with Social on Patton for that restaurant’s “R & D” Monday nights, in which chefs try out new dishes on willing and eager diners. With no fixed address, keep up with Element on its Facebook page.
Everyday Thai is a Thai American immigrant’s dream and a military veteran’s project. After running a truck in the Fort Leonard Wood area called Mobile Thai Kitchen, married restaurateurs Thippawan Shutts and her husband, Steven Shutts, made the move to Springfield in late January. They started serving staples like pad thai, curry, fried rice, papaya salad, tom yum soup, lemongrass soup and more. 2926 S. Campbell Ave., 417-770-0147
The Fat Cat Pizza Co. in Strafford is the first business that longtime central Springfield restaurateurs Tom and Lori Muetzel have owned that came with an on-site parking lot. But their version of sophisticated pizza and pasta is a hit in Strafford, where residents are eager to nurture an independent dining scene. ”We got hit so hard on our opening day,” Muetzel told the News-Leader in October. “They ran us out of meatballs, spaghetti, French bread, hoagies, sourdough, hamburger, ravioli, pizza sauce and dough.” 204 S. Missouri 125, 417-736-0077
Fuzion, just south of Commercial Street’s historic district, is the souped-up rebirth of a series of gay bars once located in a dilapidated downtown building. Along with adding much more space, a patio and a parking lot, Fuzion added a food menu with eats like cheeseburgers, chicken tenders and the like. 1611 N. Campbell Ave., 417-409-3941
Gooey’s Grilled Cheese is a truck in the SGF Mobile Food park that serves all-American, inexpensive eats. They may be no-frills, but they’re anything but basic. The most popular grilled sandwich, according to owner Demetrius Wilson, is “The Popper,” a $7 stack of cream cheese, hickory-smoked bacon, cheddar and fresh-pickled jalapeños between two slices of sourdough bread. 836 N. Glenstone Ave., 417-818-5899
Great Escape Beer Works just got started, one of the highlights of the new Quarry Town development in Galloway. Owners Jake and Jen Duensing were expecting to serve four beers on opening day, Dec. 16: a Kolsch, a German Hefeweizen, an Irish stout and a session India Pale Ale called Wayfinder. The space is light and modern, with long communal tables, regular-sized tables, tabletop games, and plans to grow hops on-site in trellis on the second floor’s deck. 4022 S. Lone Pine Ave.
Greek Bellyopened after several delays, bringing a strongly authentic take on Greek food to Walnut Street from owner John Tsahiridis. The place serves staples like gyros and baklava but also savory orange-spiced loukaniko sausage, salads, dips, a variety of sweets and Greek beers, all in a neatly decorated space that emphasizes the Mediterranean blue-and-white of the Greek flag. 320 E. Walnut St., 417-597-3382
Hot Cluckers opened at 11 a.m. Dec. 21, and co-owner Jennifer Obert said business was already brisk by noon. The eatery is devoted to Nashville-style spicy-hot fried chicken, served on white bread and topped with a pickle. Earlier this year, co-owner Michael Felts confirmed that yes indeed, the hottest level of hot sauce will be dubbed the Hot Mother Clucker. Besides chicken, Hot Cluckers will offer chess pie, catfish and traditional Southern sides like fried okra, fried green tomatoes and french fries. 1450 E. Sunshine St., 417-882-5825
Jamaican Patty Co. opened in June. Owner Du’Sean Howard, a Jamaica native, came to Springfield and started offering patties — flaky pastries stuffed with meat or veggies and spices. The shop also has jerk chicken wings with rice and peas, Jamaican meatloaf, smoothies and drinks including Jamaican soda pop. 3439 S. Campbell Ave., 417-886-1144
Karai Ramen + Handroll is a Japanese-style ramen shop, but Midwestern-ized and Springfield-ified. Owner Jung Dongwook explained that in the coastal United States, ramen shops tend to follow a Japanese model: Slim storefronts with counter seating for people dining alone. Her south Springfield version adds larger tables, plenty of space, “living wall” decorations and a steampunk vibe, but keeps the authenticity of Japanese ingredients, particularly bone broth. Dongwook even attended a two-week ramen noodle school program in Japan to learn how to make ramen fresh, on-site. The restaurant also serves various types of sushi. 640 W. Republic Road, 417-319-5225
Kuma opened this fall in southeast Springfield, bringing poke bowls and sushi burritos served amid a youthful vibe including hilarious parodies of Old Master paintings featuring the Kuma bear mascot. It’s a fun, fresh take on cuisines inspired by Japan and Hawaii. Ramen is also available. Everything is customizable and available to go, if you wish. 3405 E. Battlefield Road, 417-720-1127
Little Danube opened in late July in Ozark. Owner David Pruteanu serves food inspired by Romania and Eastern Europe, including sarmales, stuffed cabbage rolls; lángos, a kind of “deep-fried pizza” topped with bacon, gouda cheese, garlic and onion; or a dish of feta stuffed in flaky filo pastry served alongside prosciutto and greens. 519 N. 21st St., Ozark, 417-581-0508
Los Cabos Mexican Grill and Cantina opened this fall in a former Cantina Laredo location. The Tulsa-based chain offers a “resort feeling of Los Cabos, Mexico” by creating a “casual upscale Mexican concept that included exceptional food.” The menu includes carnitas-style pork, blackened tilapia fish, chicken, steak fajitas, salsa made from freshly roasted vegetables, and other items. 4109 S. National Ave., 417-823-9114
Lucky’s Market is definitely a grocery store, OK? But with live music Thursday nights featuring $2 pints, ramen and sandwiches made to order, it’s also kind of a restaurant. The “organic for the 99 percent” supermarket celebrates its one-year anniversary Jan. 5 with an event. 3333 S. Glenstone Ave., 417-889-0779
Maritime is what you get when you offer coffee, sandwiches and shrimp baskets in the same concept. It began early in the year as a food truck that mainly catered private events and sometimes hit up the farmers market in Ozark; it ends the year by planning to add a storefront space near Missouri State University. “Coffee and shrimp, you’ve never heard about it,” said owner Lacy Adamson Dec. 12. “We just thought, let’s try it on a food truck, who knows what would happen? But it’s worked out phenomenally.” They offer 30 styles of shrimp basket, several cafe sandwiches and 43 coffee drinks. 525 S. Kimbrough Ave., 417-522-3178
New York Style Pizzeriaopened in April and sells “upstate New York-style pizza” along with subs, garlic knots, provolone sticks and other items. Specialty pizzas on the menu include garlic Parmesan, Hawaiian and chicken wing — where chopped-up boneless chicken wings and a buttery garlic sauce are spread on pizza dough. 210 S. Market Ave., 417-350-1096
Ozark Mountain Family Restaurant got started last winter in a former Shoney’s in Ozark. It serves steaks, catfish, daily specials and breakfast. 780 N. 18th St., 417-485-2621.
Pizza Ranch, an Iowa-based chain, opened in Branson this fall. It offers a pizza buffet and a Fun Zone to appeal to the kiddos. 1464 Missouri 248, 417-337-5060
Progress began as a pop-up series two years ago but became a brick-and-mortar temple to local, farm-sourced ingredients in November. Its rooftop bar, Reverie, held a grand opening Dec. 12. The chef, Daniel Ernce, previously worked in menu development for a similar restaurant that once occupied the same space, Metropolitan Farmer. He also landed a highly coveted internship at 108, a Michelin-star restaurant in Copenhagen, Denmark. The menu at Progress offers brunch and dinner including everything from a beef dish for two braised with spicy harissa paste to a smoked brown-butter chocolate-chip cookie dessert. 2144 E. Republic Road, 417-799-9388
Roots Coffee Bar is a bright, eminently Instagram-able space created by the married couple behind Early Bird Breakfast Pub. It focuses on breakfast foods including oatmeal and mini-donuts (toasted, not fried) and a specialty called the Smash Browns sandwich: Egg, cheese and tater tots go on a bun with a choice of smoked-pecan shoulder bacon, brisket or sausage. There’s also a menu of sandwiches and salads for lunchtime. 1645 W. Republic Road, 417-877-6889
Sam’s Southern Eatery is a seafood-focused chain based in Louisiana. It opened in Springfield in April, offering fried crab cakes, po’boy sandwiches, shrimp etouffee, gizzards, fried green tomatoes, fried pickles, fried catfish and sides. Freelance food writer Juliana Goodwin writes, “if you love fried Southern food, head on over.”
Social on Patton is far more than a restyled version of CB Social House, the old restaurant that once used the same building. The restaurant’s new owners switched up the menu after taking over in February, emphasizing more shareables, new cocktails and fewer steaks. They often host “R & D” nights when chefs try new dishes out on an eager dining public and otherwise serve everything from tuna steaks to Asian dumplings and top-notch libations. 314 S. Patton Ave., 417-368-0778
Springfield Diner is a place where you can get a great burger, a hearty American breakfast, or an authentic Turkish breakfast. Chef-owner Omer Onder is a former journalist who moved to the United States two years ago, learning the restaurant business in the St. Louis region before setting up shop in Springfield. Not long after opening in June, Onder told the News-Leader he couldn’t believe the customer response. “A lady, 90 years old, she said, ‘it’s the best burger in my life,'” Onder said. “‘I was impressed.’ I said, ‘Are you serious, or just being kind?’ She said she was really serious. It happened.” 1730 E. Republic Road, 417-755-7382
Tie & Timber Beer Co. doesn’t serve food, but you can bring in takeout from nearby eateries like Imo’s Pizza and Skully’s Food Truck while sipping a variety of unusually high-concept beers brewed on-site: At press time, the beer list included “Original Cinn,” a cinnamon-chocolate stout, the “Brut Thang,” an American IPA, and the lightly coconut-scented Kokomo Porter. Owners Curtis Marshall and Jen Leonard learned the brewing business in Colorado before moving to Springfield two years ago. Bonus: An outdoor patio often hosts live music when the weather’s nice. 1541 E. Cherry St., 417-429-9131
Travellers House Coffeeopened a location in a new building near Missouri State University this fall after finding success with its original Republic Road location that opened two years ago. Along with a full list of coffee drinks, it features breakfast and lunch and caters to the heavy student population in its neighborhood. 824 S. National Ave., 417-429-4002
Whiskey Tangotook over the original Parlor 88 location earlier this fall. “We wanted something edgy, fun — something that could appeal to a wide demographic,” said owner Steven Williamson. He described Whiskey Tango as having a high-end, but approachable, vibe with Vegas-inspired cocktails and eats. 1111 E. Republic Road, 417-882-8882
Wildseed opened early in the year in Strafford. It’s a hit, featuring a menu inspired by India and the United States. You’ll find everything from vegetable-stuffed samosas to barbecue chicken pizza; cheeseburgers, but also tikka wraps stuffed with chicken. There’s a charming outdoor patio, full bar service with a limited wine list, and no hint of the notion that a small town can’t be home to a great food scene. 305 E. Chestnut St., 417-736-0004
Van Gogh’s Eeterie just might be the most unusual Springfield restaurant to open in 2018. Its menu straddles the Netherlands and Indonesia — a former colony of the Netherlands — prompted by a college year of studying abroad experienced by owner Joe Gidman. The Commercial Street hot spot has Dutch pancakes, satay chicken skewers, beetroot and golden milk lattes, kombucha on tap and a host of tastes you won’t find anywhere else. 334 E. Commercial St., 417-344-0085
Zapata Tequila Bar and Grill aims to take it up a notch with drinks like lavender margaritas and eats like chorizo cheese dip, poblano mole, street tacos and fajitas that draw on a flavorful interpretation of Mexican food. 1425 W. Battlefield Road, 417-883-7000
News-Leader journalists Alissa Zhu, Harrison Keegan, Jackie Rehwald and Andrew Jansen, along with freelance writers Juliana Goodwin and Katie Tonarely, contributed to this report.
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