If you’ve ever traveled to Branson, Missouri, you know it’s the live music capital of the country. Finding a show for the evening, or even a dozen shows, is the easy part. Finding a great place to have lunch or dinner might need a bit more searching. Here are four fun places to dine.
Mel’s Hard Luck Diner
Step back in time at Mel’s, a 1950s era diner with a soda fountain and vinyl seats. The real stars of Mel’s are the singing servers. Ours included a former male contestant from America Idol and a super talented songstress. At first, their songs seem to be coming over the juke box, but they are roaming the diner, singing as they serve. The food at Mel’s is down home 50s as well. Think burgers, shakes and fried green beans. The portions are huge. If you plan on ordering their banana split, be sure you invite a group of pals to join you!
Silver Dollar City
No trip to Branson would be complete without a day spent at this renowned theme park depicting a late 1800s frontier town. Riding the world’s most daring wooden rollercoaster or playing with the kids at the park’s newly opened $8 million Fireman’s Landing is bound to work up an appetite. Drop into Aunt June’s Copper Kettle Candies for old time, handmade fudge and candy of every variety imaginable. Choices for snacks include such giant skillet dishes as calico potatoes or succotash made using classic family recipes. If you arrive early, stop by Molly’s Mill Restaurant for a hearty breakfast. The buffet features such southern goodies as biscuits smothered in sausage gravy, grits, apple butter and silver dollar pancakes.
Level 2 Steakhouse
This is Branson’s hotspot for that special night out. Imagine sparkling crystal ribbons cascading from the lobby ceiling in the Hilton Branson Convention Center Hotel. While they may look like waterfalls, the crystals actually represent stalactites seen in the area’s vast underground caverns. (Check out the stalactites in Marvel Cave, discovered by the Osage Indians, and now open to the public in Silver Dollar City.) But I digress. Level 2 Steakhouse, located on the hotel’s second floor, offers a lovely bar overlooking downtown Branson’s lakefront. Once you enter the restaurant, be prepared for a delicious feast featuring 28-day aged, corn-fed Midwest beef, fresh seafood from Hawaii and Missouri pork. If Level 2 Steakhouse becomes your personal hang-out, you’re given a steak knife engraved with your name. The knife stays at the restaurant and is yours alone to use each time you come to dine.
Dobyns Dining Room
I’ve saved the most unusual dining spot for last. It’s located in the Keeter Center, a boutique hotel, fine dining restaurant and gift shop—all part of the College of the Ozarks campus. Your servers will likely be college students, as will many of the cooks. The college, called “Hard Work U,” is all about working in exchange for tuition, not to mention for actual experience in the business world. Should you choose to try the dining room, you’ll experience farm-to-table fare at its best. The college has a dairy, vegetable garden and its own farm animals. It doesn’t get any fresher! Dobyns Dining Room’s chef, by the way, is a professor in the culinary arts program. The Keeter Center itself is a cozy log lodge reminiscent of a National Park lodge. Amazingly, students helped build the 10-year old building.