I've always been a collector; not a collector of stuff, but of places and experiences - especially unique little family-run restaurants and cafes that make it year after year, not because of a good marketing plan, but because they do one or two things very well, and people seek them out.
An excellent example of that is Casper’s Chili Parlor, in a quonset hut straight out of WWII, just a few blocks west of the Walnut Street Inn. Casper Lederer opened on Walnut Street in 1909 and after moving twice has been back on Walnut Street for decades. Their "one thing right" is, as you would expect, chili; no beans to be seen, and surprisingly, no tomato product of any kind either. This chili is smooth, mild, and rib-ticklingly delicious! I almost always order a cup of chili with cheese and onions and a cheeseburger. The cup of chili comes on a platter with chili running over the entire lip of the cup, and if you wish (highly recommended) covered with cheddar cheese and finely chopped sweet onions and served with a basket of saltines. The cheeseburger is fully cooked (no rare burgers here!) on a hot grill and served on a grilled bun with just the correct amount of grease to make the bun shine in the neon lights, the burger slides down easily, and sends you looking for napkins. Fry cook Etta Mae Buckner has been cooking exactly the same way for the past 43 years.
All that gives me a reason to recommend it highly and go back often, but the atmosphere, employees, and second owner (Belinda Harriman) will be why I'm betting you’ll become a "Casper Regular.”
Casper’s is open, Monday through Friday, beginning the first Tuesday after Labor Day and closes for the summer the last Friday in May. Cash only, but I’ll bet Belinda would barter if you had something fun! In the 15 years I've been an innkeeper on Walnut Street, I have never gone into Casper’s and found Belinda absent. She is always there greeting, smiling, taking time to share a personal story, or listening to a regular's opinion on anything. She offers the pineapple-upside-down cake like it was gold, and is never discouraged if you pass it up.
That is just one of my collection, and what good is a collection if you don’t share it? I plan on introducing you to each of them over the next few months.
I’ve created a google map of several of my favorite Springfield “Hole-in-the-walls.” If I missed your favorite, please email me, and I will gladly check them out. The link below will take you to my map.
I’m working on a fine dining map for downtown Springfield as well, and will post it here when it is ready to go.
Thanks for listening!
Gary at Walnut Street Inn
900 E Walnut StreetSpringfield, MO 65806