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Start your engines: These 9 Missouri restaurants are so worth the drive

For most, life has been lived closer to home for the past year, and it’s time for an escape. As road trips promise to rule the summer, we’ve compiled a list of some of the best restaurants throughout Missouri that are certainly worth the drive.

These off-the-beaten-path places offer farm-fresh ingredients, memorable dining experiences and a chance to explore beyond your own backyard.

Avalon Cafe in Weston, Missouri

Perched on a hill overlooking downtown Weston, Missouri, an antebellum home built in 1848 houses a local icon. Avalon Cafe, which debuted 27 years ago, works closely with local farmers to source the freshest ingredients for its from-scratch menu, and chef David Scott cooks all of the meats over an open flame. Try the wild boar loin drizzled with whole-grain mustard and roasted garlic sauce or the quail stuffed with pancetta, wild rice and sun-dried tomatoes. For something on the lighter side, you might consider the New Zealand green-lipped mussels steamed in a Chardonnay-garlic cream sauce or a wood-fired flatbread such as the spinach and eggplant or the Cajun shrimp and sausage. Enjoy a dish or two on the spacious deck as the weather continues to warm.

Avalon Cafe, 608 Main St., Weston, Missouri, 815.640.2835,

Celebrations Restaurant & Bar in Cape Girardeau, Missouri

Just blocks from the riverfront in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, Celebrations Restaurant & Bar has offered a first-rate dining experience for almost 25 years. The once-German restaurant now features an ever-changing contemporary menu with chef-owner DeWayne Schaaf at the helm. Some of his most exclusive items include foie gras bratwurst and a savory crème brûlée with sharp Parmesan, salty Benton’s ham and shrimp salad. You’ll also find a steady rotation of wild game such as duck, quail, antelope and elk on the menu, alongside approximately 500 wines from around the world. The prix fixe menu (four courses for $65 without wine) is another spectacular option. Past highlights have included pan-seared scallops in a Creole barbecue broth; corn fritters with chorizo cream, curly endive, pickled red onion and smoked almonds; and a raspberry-pistachio-white chocolate trifle. Celebrations’ ongoing emphasis on high-quality food and warm service has inspired others in the local food scene to establish similarly high standards, creating quite the culinary destination in this corner of the state.

Celebrations Restaurant & Bar, 615 Bellevue St., Cape Girardeau, Missouri, 573.334.8330,

The Chef’s Table at Dawt Mill in Tecumseh, Missouri 

Located in the heart of the Ozarks on the North Fork of the White River, Dawt Mill dates back to the 1860s. The mill has undergone many transformations over the years, but its most recent iteration is perhaps the most exciting. The family-friendly rustic resort dazzles guests with a reservation-only dining experience at The Chef’s Table. Open year-round, the restaurant serves chef Brandy Barstow’s choice of seasonal takes on its selection of dishes. Worried you won’t like what she prepares? Barstow takes requests and accommodates dietary restrictions – she’ll never let you leave unless you’re completely satisfied. Owner Ryan Van Winkle suggests leaning into their top-quality shoulder tender, which might be served with blueberry barbecue sauce or peach salsa depending on the season.

The Chef’s Table at Dawt Mill, 8 Dawt Mill Drive, Tecumseh, Missouri , 417.284.3540,

Cole’s Hearth Room in Palmyra, Missouri

Nestled near a verdant cemetery in Palmyra, Missouri, Cole’s Hearth Room serves an upscale yet approachable menu from the redesigned caretaker’s house. The space is warm and provincial, and since it opened last summer, owners Coltin and Deidra Cole have quickly established the restaurant as the place to celebrate any and all occasions in town. Start the meal with a seasonal cocktail followed by grilled salmon topped with housemade garlic-bourbon glaze and finished with fried mustard greens and a citrus fog or the 16-ounce rib eye topped with a sweet and tangy blackberry bordelaise sauce and finished with flash-fried portabella mushrooms and leek hay – just two of our top choices.

Cole’s Hearth Room, 3749 Highway BB, Palmyra, Missouri, 573.773.2056,

The Gobblers Roost Restaurant in Nevada, Missouri

Journey down a particular gravel road near Nevada, Missouri, and you’ll eventually make it to the roost – the Gobblers Roost Restaurant, that is. As it’s reservation-only, your table in the quaint yet elegant dining room will be waiting. Owners Kent and Kathy Abele have raised cattle on the land for 30 years, and although the five-course menu changes monthly, they always have expertly prepared steaks on hand. Kent specializes in superb cuts of Sterling Silver beef, in particular. Kathy handles the rest of the menu, creating salads, soups, vegetable dishes and desserts that won’t be overshadowed by the meats.

The Gobblers Roost Restaurant, 24327 E. Old Town Road, Nevada, Missouri, 417.448.4853,

LaBinnah Bistro in Hannibal, Missouri

A stone’s throw from Mark Twain’s childhood home, LaBinnah Bistro brings international flavor to Hannibal, Missouri (“LaBinnah” is Hannibal spelled backwards). Owner Arif Dagin, who was born in Turkey, and chef Christopher Bobek, who has extensive experience with French cuisine, work together to craft dishes such as ajvar pork with eggplant purée and housemade baklava. Dagin’s secret family recipe for Shrimp Istanbul – a sensational mixture of shrimp, tomatoes, garlic, golden raisins, fresh herbs and a dusting of cinnamon – is a local favorite. The restaurant also has seasonal specials based on what local farmers have available, and no meal here is complete without a Turkish coffee. Enjoy live music on the patio in the summer, and check out one of the fun food events throughout the year.

LaBinnah Bistro, 207 N. Fifth St., Hannibal, Missouri, 573.221.8207,

Mythos in Joplin, Missouri

Dining is an event at Mythos in Joplin, Missouri. Guests are welcomed like family – and the staff is treated just as well by management. Patrons regularly spend hours enjoying multi-course meals, with each carefully prepared plate kissed with Greek flavor. The space was recently renovated, but the menu still boasts specials such as the grilled Osage Valley Farm pork chop served with chiles, caramelized onions, herb-roasted potatoes, Italian sausage and red chile oil. More classic Greek entrées include pastitsio, moussaka and a gyro platter. Every meal at Mythos should start with the spicy feta dip, though, which chef George Michalopoulos says is downright addicting.

Mythos, 1306 S. Range Line, Joplin, Missouri, 417.624.6984,

Sybill’s Saint James in St. James, Missouri

Set on a 2.5-acre farm, Sybill’s Saint James has a porch that wraps around the restaurant. Dotted with tables, it’s almost as welcoming as the tenured staff. Upon arriving, you’ll see a gift shop with antiques and more stationed in a 100-year-old farmhouse, and just behind that sits the unexpected fine-dining establishment. Sybill’s is known for its cut-to-order steak program and extensive wine list, but the menu of locally sourced ingredients and from-scratch dishes has something to please everyone. The surf-n-turf pasta, for instance, features ravioli stuffed with lobster, shrimp and scallops, tossed with beef tenderloin tips in a white wine cream sauce and topped with crisp bacon, blue cheese and green onion. Although you’ll likely want to lick the plate, be sure to leave room for dessert. The housemade blackberry cobbler and the coconut cream pie with a toasted coconut crust are favorites all around.

Sybill’s Saint James, 1100 N. Jefferson St., St. James, Missouri, 573.265.4224,

The Vineyards in Weston, Missouri

An intimate and decidedly unhurried dining experience in downtown Weston, Missouri, The Vineyards centers on simplicity. Kat Mayer and her sister-in-law Whitney Mayer run the kitchen with heart and classic technique, allowing the signature flavors and textures of the ingredients to shine. Think pan-seared scallops on top of creamy polenta served with smoked bacon crumbles, local sheep’s milk cheese sauce and a touch of chile-spiced honey for a little heat. Other fan favorites include the grass-fed beef tenderloin cut in-house, glazed with an espresso-port reduction and served with creamy risotto and grilled asparagus, as well as the plump P.E.I. mussels steamed with Masala wine, tomatoes, garlic and shallots. The food goes best with a bottle of local wine and good conversation – and some live jazz in the summer months doesn’t hurt either. The Vineyards also serves brunch, with dishes ranging from the frittata du jour and French toast made with Vietnamese cinnamon to creamy potato and fresh rosemary soup and lump crab cakes served over a Dijon-red pepper aïoli and topped with a corn-bell pepper relish.

The Vineyards, 505 Spring St., Weston, Missouri, 816.640.5588,

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Kala lives in Kansas City, runs on coffee and not only loves food but has a passion for telling the story of the people behind it.

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