Every year in our annual Tastemakers issue, we say that there’s never been as much creativity or energy in the local restaurant scene as there is right now – and every year it’s true. That’s because the volume of talent and innovation we see year after year only continues to grow and flourish. The Midwest is teeming with highly skilled and creative chefs, sommeliers, mixologists and hospitality professionals, and it’s our pleasure to share the following Tastemakers whose boundary-pushing work caught our attention this year.
We’re shining a spotlight on Industry Innovators: the professionals who are actively involved in defining what it means to eat and drink in our region. Much of that forward movement is also reflected in our list of Best New Restaurants of 2017, a roundup of the can’t-miss spots that have opened in the past year.
We're lucky to live, eat and drink in the Midwest, where there is always something new and exciting to savor.
Mark Sulltrop, 44 Canteen
Mark Sulltrop, executive chef and owner of 44 Canteen in Columbia, has focused the restaurant’s menu around a variety of street tacos inspired by his world travels. Although some of the taco names might sound familiar, like the Philly cheesesteak, the ingredients are likely to surprise, with IPA-marinated sirloin steak, queso, miso-grilled onions, roasted poblanos, Valentina butter sauce, sharp Cheddar and jalapeños in a flour tortilla. Then there’s the spicy Sloppy José, with house chicken chorizo, smoked chile sauce, pickled red onion, avocado and queso fresco in a corn tortilla, as well as the fish taco with shaved cabbage, mojo vinaigrette, lime aïoli, seasoned and pan-seared tilapia, avocado, pickled red onion and cilantro in a flour tortilla. As owner of Columbia's 44 Stone Public House, Sulltrop also offers eight burgers and sandwiches developed through the same global lens: Bite into the green-chile patty melt for proof. –Jessica Vaughn
44 Canteen, 21 N. Ninth St., Downtown, Columbia, Missouri, 573.777.8730, 44canteen.com
Liz Huff, Catalpa
Chef Liz Huff has seemingly made the impossible possible at Catalpa, her 30-seat restaurant in tiny Arrow Rock, Missouri. In the past several years, she’s been serving seasonal, from-scratch dishes that have won her acclaim from Rural Missouri magazine to NPR. She serves dinner every Friday and Saturday evening from inside a scale replica of the nearby historic home once occupied by local painter George Caleb Bingham, with additional summer hours, as well as dinners in December to coincide with Arrow Rock’s Lyceum Theatre performances. Huff describes her dishes as seasonal comfort food with a global influence. Roasted wild duckling, for instance, comes with a rhubarb-ginger sauce on top of roasted-pear risotto with toasted walnuts and edible flowers. Huff also collaborates often with Columbia, Missouri, brewery Logboat Brewing Co.; she can’t actually taste the beers, as she’s been sober for 10 years, so she pairs them by aroma – making her creations all the more impressive. Last spring, she used Logboat beers to create six different sauces for a beer-pairing dinner at Catalpa, including a peanut-coriander-ginger “miracle sauce” made with Logboat’s Shiphead ginger wheat beer. Huff also cooks everything on a Himalayan salt block – that is, the entire grill is made of Himalayan salt blocks, which seasons food as it cooks. Even if you’re hundreds of miles from Arrow Rock, you won’t regret the trip. –Nancy Stiles
Catalpa, 503 High St., Arrow Rock, Missouri, 660.837.3324, catalparestaurant.com
Ben Parks, Barred Owl Butcher & Table
Barred Owl Butcher & Table feels as if it’s been rooted in Columbia for many years, although the restaurant and butcher shop just celebrated its first anniversary in October. Co-executive chef Ben Parks and his team have crafted a dining experience that follows a simple tenet: “Limited waste bearing flavorful taste.” The dinner menu, which is unsurprisingly informed by a whole-animal butchery philosophy, changes daily and features charcuterie and cheese boards, shareable small and large plates and sandwiches. Try the fried head cheese with pickled mustard seeds, pickled peppers, chile oil and a sunny-side up egg, or the occasionally offered turkey molé street tacos with onion, cilantro and a squeeze of lime juice in corn tortillas. Parks opened the butcher shop in July, offering cuts both familiar and lesser known. He features more of the unusual ones in lunch menu items and appetizers, including the much-loved fried head cheese, and he’s eager to share tips with customers for how to cook with off-cuts at home. Barred Owl’s approach is simple and time-honored, and yet thoroughly unique in town – no wonder it feels as if it’s always been there. –Jessica Vaughn
Barred Owl Butcher & Table, 47 E. Broadway, Columbia, Missouri, 573.442.9323, barredowlbutcher.com
Dan Dethrow, Flyover
Flyover is well known in Columbia for its creative riffs on Midwestern flavors: Often its artful plates steal the spotlight, but behind the bar, beverage director Dan Dethrow also keeps the cocktail menu fresh and inventive. Common kitchen tools are often used to create new and enticing tipples, like using a vacuum sealer to speed up the infusion of Earl Grey tea. The menu balances more modern drinks with classics, but always with a little (and local) twist. Order an Old Fashioned and it’ll come with J. Rieger & Co. Kansas City Whiskey and a house syrup made with Amaro, Luxardo cherry juice and brown sugar – among other top-secret ingredients. You’ll also see Dethrow’s influence in his version of a French 75, made with Cognac infused with juniper berries and local lavender. Cocktails are complemented by a well-curated selection of wine, beer and non-alcoholic mixed drinks, but perhaps the most interesting (and trendy) addition as of late is the gin and tonic series, which offers three distinct takes – one botanical, one piney, one zesty – on the standard cocktail. –Jessica Vaughn
Flyover, 212 E. Green Meadows Road #9, Columbia, Missouri, flyovercomo.com