By Ettie Berneking | Styled and Photographed by Brandon Alms
Everyone has a favorite dish—those meals you dream about, the ones you crave, the food that makes your stomach grumble for more and your heart ache once you’ve devoured every last bite. And after eating our way through 417-land’s dining scene over the last 15-plus years, we have our own list of culinary crushes. They range from Korean staples to late-night indulgences, and now we’re sharing these heartthrobs with you. Hope you’re hungry!
Gilardi’s Ristorante, 820 E. Walnut St., Springfield, 417-862-6400, gilardisristorante.com
There’s something sensual and mysterious about the deep purple eggplant. Maybe it’s the royal color—almost gaudy. Or maybe it’s the mild flavor that still manages to stand out in a dish. Floured, crusted in panko and fried until golden brown, this simple garden beauty takes its rightful throne, which is just how Gilardi’s Ristorante serves its eggplant. Sheaths of eggplant, sliced lengthwise, are encased in a panko-rich batter, fried and layered with sautéed carrots, artichoke hearts and creamy mozzarella to create a stunning tower of deliciousness. Topped with garlic cream and green parsley oil, this dish is a work of art but one that’s disassembled without any guilt.
Flame Steamed Mussels
Flame Steakhouse, 314 W. Walnut St., Springfield, 417-862-4444, flamesteakhouse.com
For a date night that won’t break the bank but will leave your crush thoroughly impressed, order the steamed mussels at Flame. While this steakhouse is known for its dry-aged ribeyes and filets, the steamed mussels are just as scrumptious. Surprised? Well don’t be! Served in a giant bread bowl made fresh each day at The Artisan’s Oven, steaming mussels float in a tarragon beurre blanc, which is a simple sauce of wine, butter, lemon, salt, fresh tarragon and plenty of garlic. Plan on bringing along plenty of breath mints. Your date will thank you for the meal and then thank you for the mint.
French Onion Filet
Mythos Euro-Kuzina, 1306 S. Range Line Rd., Joplin, 417-624-6984, mythosjoplin.com
Everything you love about stringy cheese melted over French onion soup comes on a filet at this Joplin eatery. To start, a 9-ounce Angus filet is sliced in house, then aged for six weeks. Once the meat is ready to go, it’s grilled to order and nestled on a pillow of garlic mashed potatoes. But what you should really get excited about is what happens next. That filet—in all its juicy glory—is capped with a thickened French onion soup crouton. The whole thing is topped with Swiss-port fondue, and at that point it’s time to dig in. - See more at: http://www.417mag.com/417-Magazine/August-2015/Best-Dishes/#sthash.wCdSUvck.dpuf
Mango Jalapeno Ahi Tuna
Kai, 306 S. Campbell Ave., Springfield, 417-832-0077, kaiafterdark.com
There are some dishes that are almost too pretty to eat, and this is one of them. Seared ahi tuna steak is crowned with mango jalapeño salsa and balsamic teriyaki glaze and served with garlic noodles and spicy baby spinach salad. If you’re worried about the heat from the fiery salsa, don’t fret. The jalapeños are stripped of their seeds and soaked in water and salt to kill some of the kick. What’s left is plenty of fresh flavor.
Ristorante Nicola’s, 3631 E. Sunshine St., Springfield, 417886-3700, nicolasristorante.com
Whoever thought sharing was a good idea had never tried the seafood pasta at Nicola’s. Thick linguine noodles, meaty scallops, butterflied shrimp, tiny purple octopi and salty mussels swim in a pool of garlic and tomato. What really gives this sauce its amazing flavor is the red wine reduction. This giant steaming seafood dream is too good to share. Order an appetizer. Now that you can share. As for the pasta, guard it with your fork if you have to!
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Metropolitan Grill, 2931 E. Battlefield, Springfield, 417-889-4951,metropolitangrill.com
This dry-aged, 16-ounce KC strip landed on the Metro menu last May thanks to owner Pat Duran’s love of the Kansas City Royals. Besides being an ode to the KC home team, this bone-in steak celebrates another famed part of KC history: the J. Rieger & Co. distillery. The Rieger name was common until prohibition sent the Missouri distillery underground for 95 years. So when J. Rieger & Co. whirled back to life, Duran decided to celebrate this KC original by pairing the whiskey with a KC strip. Dry-aged for 33 days and cooked to order, the steak is delivered to your table, topped with a dollop of butter, a crack of black pepper and a splash of J. Rieger whiskey. Then it’s lit on fire. The flambé effect locks in that rich caramel flavor of the whiskey and makes the edges of the strip perfectly crisp. Between mouthfuls of steak, you can raise a fork to our KC neighbors with a bite of melty mac and cheese that comes on the side.
Farmers Gastropub, 2620 S. Glenstone Ave., Springfield, 417-864-6994, farmersgastropub.com
While the ingredients in this burger’s seasoning are kept top-secret, its deliciousness is definitely not classified. Our favorite part is the Royal Blue Stilton Cheese. This is the king of bleu cheese and is one of owner Bill Griffith’s favorites. Turns out, he’s not the only one who loves it. Made in England, the cheese is by appointment to the majesty of the queen, which means her fridge is packed with this stuff. Besides the stinky-but-rich cheese, the burger’s wonder is increased thanks to the savory bacon jam and grilled ciabatta bun. Layer on onions, sliced tomatoes, lettuce and cucumber dill spears, and you’ve got yourself one hell of a burger.
Filet Al Porcini
Avanzare Italian Dining, 1908 S. Glenstone Ave., Springfield, 417-567-3463, avanzareitaliandining.com
For great Italian fare that warms your soul and fills your belly, few do it better than Avanzare. And for a truly indulgent, gut busting meal, go with the Filetto Al Porcini. This pan-seared, center-cut filet mignon is enormous. We’re talking 3 inches of meaty deliciousness that’s drowned in a creamy white wine butter sauce. Cradling this dream boat is an equally enormous bed of herbacious and buttery risotto that’s held together with a web of melted Parmesan cheese. As mouth-watering as all that is, we haven’t gotten to the best part yet: the mushrooms. Oh the mushrooms! Tender, flavorful, meaty and piled in abundance, thinly portobello mushrooms are the finishing touch to the crown of broiled-melted Gorgonzola crumbles.
Drunken Goat Seco
Cafe Cusco, 234 E. Commercial St., Springfield, 417-868-8088, cafecusco.com
It’s rare to find goat on a menu here in 417-land. This delicacy is much more common in places like New Zealand, which is where owner and chef Joseph Gidman got his recipe for this labor-intensive dish. To reach its optimal flavor and tenderness, the goat is cooked overnight for a minimum of 14 hours in a pool of Mother’s Three Blind Mice beer, anise liqueur, spinach, cilantro, peas, brown sugar, garlic, applewood-smoked sea salt, achiote oil and choclo (Peruvian giant white corn). The goat is then sautéed to order along with peas, carrots and potatoes and served alongside soft focaccia and seasoned rice. Imagine your grandmother’s homemade stews, but instead of a thick bowl of meat and potatoes, this dish is heartier with less broth, and the alcohol used gives it a nice bite.
Filet & South African Broiled Lobster Tail
Chateau Grille, 415 N. State Highway 265, 417-334-1161, chateauonthelake.com
Talk about indulgent. Talk about sinfully rich. Talk about beyond filling. And talk about buttery. This dish is all about the melty, velvety, calorie-packed butter, and it couldn’t be better. To start, a 6-ounce Angus filet is grilled to order and hit with a splash of red wine demi-glace. The steak alone would be enough, but nothing is ever enough for chef Doug Knopp. So to really top it off, Knopp pairs the steak with a beautifully prepared South African lobster tail, which has a special place in his heart due to the tender and rich meat found inside. If you make it through both the steak and the lobster, it is then time to turn your attention to the roasted garlic and black pepper whipped potatoes, grilled asparagus and mango salsa that is served on the side. As chef Knopp puts it, this is one sexy dish! And at $70 a pop, be prepared to make it rain.
Tomato and Basil Pasta
Devil’s Pool Restaurant, 612 Devil’s Pool Rd., Ridgedale, 417-335-2777, bigcedar.com
When summer hits, there’s something refreshingly simple about garden tomatoes and creamy mozzarella cheese. It’s light and fresh, yet deep and indulgent. We are willing to bet that’s why this vegetarian pasta dish has done incredibly well on the otherwise-meat heavy menu at Devil’s Pool Restaurant. To really pump up that fresh tomato flavor of the simple-yet-indulgent creation, this dish starts with a roasted tomato ragu that is cooked down with all of the garlic and herbs you could possibly handle. Chunks of fresh heirloom tomatoes and herbs add a huge pop of freshness that is only improved by the treasured bites of cool and creamy mozzarella. Paired with a patio-view of the sunset, there are few better ways to enjoy summer in the Ozarks.
Salvatore’s Fresh Ristorante Italiano, 1932 W. Retail Ln., Ozark, 417-485-3838, salvatoresfresh.com
A visit to this Ozark eatery wouldn’t be complete without trying the homemade pasta. In fact, we recommend taking an extra-long lunch break to just watch the pasta being made. There’s something cathartic about watching long delicate noodles come out of the pasta maker. And then getting to eat those noodles… that might be what really attracts us to this Italian joint, and particularly to the Wicked Chicken dish. As owner Judy DeMoro thoughtfully describes it, this plated pasta combo is chicken-fried chicken made with plenty of Italian love. What makes this dish truly evil is the blush Wicked sauce—a mixture of the delicious house-made red sauce and cream with some heat added. Swoosh that combo over a tall bed of just-made rigatoni noodles, tender fried chicken breast and gooey, melted mozzarella cheese, and you’ll be singing amore in no time.
City Butcher and Barbecue, 3650 S. Campbell Ave., Springfield, 417-720-1113, citybutchersgf,com
If you’re a vegetarian, look away! This behemoth is loaded with a smorgasbord of meats. Brisket, pulled pork, pork belly and your choice of a Texas hot link, Austin andouille, or a jalapeño cheddar sausage is all piled high on top of a freshly baked bun. Weighing in at three-quarters of a pound, this sandwich is not for the faint of heart. Come hungry or go home. And don’t even think about asking the guys behind the counter to add sauces or sides on top of that majestic meat monster. They won’t do it. But they won’t stop you from drenching your smokestack in any of the sauces that are available at your table. In fact, co-owner Jeremy Smith even recommends a combo of half mustard and half spicy barbecue sauce.
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