Sunday, March 27, 2011

Time again for Artsfest on Historic Walnut Street!

It is time for Artsfest again! This is a "reblog" of one posted last May, right after the festival, but updated to be correct for this year's festival. I just wanted to remind you of this wonderful street festival that takes place right in front of the Walnut Street Inn. Read on!


Springfield, Missouri, spring isn’t spring until Artsfest. This urban street celebration of all kinds of art, from theater to photography, marks the beginning of a wonderful time to be in the city. Trees and flowers are in bloom, nights are cool and refreshing, and the days are just warm enough to get out the shorts and find the sunscreen. Artsfest celebrated its 30th year this past weekend. We are so lucky to have this Arts fair take place right in front of the Walnut Street Inn. With the beautiful weather this year, estimates were that over 20,000 folks each day wandered Historic Walnut Street, purchased plants, paintings, jewelry, and sculptures, listened to amazing music, and of course, tasted their way around the world with great food!

My Artsfest staples are smoky bratwurst and corn on the cob, but this year, along with those, I added Indian food from Gem of India, one of our favorite restaurants for Sunday brunch. The corn guy challenged me to try something different from my normal butter, salt and pepper, and Cajun seasoning. He recommended the hot corn on the cob be lightly covered with mayonnaise, parmesan cheese, dribbled with lemon juice, and sprinkled liberally with chili seasoning....Okay, I’m game. It was delicious, but I went back later for a traditional ear just to be sure.

I love to walk the busy streets. I always run into friends I haven’t seen since last year’s Artsfest, or maybe not since college. Four stages of music (including one on the front lawn of the Walnut Street Inn) give you plenty of musical variety until you run into that old friend. Our Walnut Street Inn guests walk the street, select their lunch, then retire to the back porch of the Inn for a picnic under the umbrellas. After lunch, they often go off to their rooms for an early afternoon nap. When they wake, it is time for the three-block stroll through Artsfest again, to purchase that hand-made item you saw this morning.

As I wandered the street, I overheard snippets of conversation - “We can buy a bunch of stuff now, we are almost back to our car!”, “I have $1.40 left, I wonder what I can spend it on”, “That snake guy is back again this year! Yuck!”, “Did you see the belly dancers? I could do that!” “...and then I went, I could tell Heather if I wanted to, but she went, If you do, I’ll tell Dad...”, “ Do you think we could tie it to the roof of the car?”

I love Artsfest. The best of spring and Springfield get together for just a moment in time to celebrate the arts, celebrate the rebirth of the green planet and a plethora of reasons to be hopeful about the future. Our economy is still recovering, and our incomes may be low, but our spirits are high as we walk from booth to booth, from friend to friend. Artsfest reminds us that we are not in this alone. We are in this together, and with the help and support of each other, life will go on.

Artsfest is sponsored by the Springfield Arts Council and is always the first Saturday and Sunday of May, and It is always right in front of the Walnut Street Inn. For an opulent spring weekend, spend it with us! For updates on this May’s Artsfest:

900 E Walnut StreetSpringfield, MO 65806

Info: 417-864-6346 Out of town

Reservations: 800-593-6346

Friday, March 25, 2011

Another Springfield "Hole-in-the-wall" - Pappy's Cafe

Note: This is a continuation of introductions of “hole-in-the-wall” restaurants in the Springfield area. My favorites, and I hope yours, are listed on Google Maps here.

Today is mid-week, mid-March, and the Inn is slow. Dan and I were headed to lunch, but a last minute change left me solo. I had already passed on the responsibilities of the Inn to Jessica, so I struck out alone. Barbecue pork from Pappy’s Place immediately came to mind, so off I went!

Pappy’s has been there pretty much unchanged since 1971. Paul Ankrom, with his wife Dorothy, owned and operated Pappy’s through 1978. I was in and out of college during those years, and would slip in to Pappy’s with friends and family for pork ribs when we could afford it; if not, just a cold, cheap beer, and a place to complain about our professors. In 1996, after being gone for 15 years chasing the corporate dream, we moved back to town to purchase the Walnut Street Inn. After a few years back in town, I wandered over to Pappy’s and found it not only still open, but it exactly the same!

Well, not exactly the same, the pay phone used to hang on the south wall, right over a table. If you were sitting at that table when someone needed to use the phone (this was well before cell phones), they would have to lean over your table across your food to reach the phone. Needless to say you were involved in the conversation whether you wanted to be or not! When I walked in, I immediately noticed the phone was gone and said to the bartender, “Hey! You moved the phone!” She looked at me like I was crazy and after a minute of thought, said “Well, yeah, we did… 20 YEARS AGO!”

Pappy’s is no bigger than your living room and often is full of the best and worst of society. Frequently, a blue haze of cigarette smoke hangs over the bar. It is small enough, and serves enough liquor to be exempt from our current smoking ban (that may change on April 5th when we vote again.) If you are like me, it is hard to sit and enjoy a meal if patrons at the tables around you are smoking, but this is one place I will put up with it to be able to reminisce, complain about the students, eat great barbecue, and drink cheap beer.

At one time in this part of the country, most bars and cafes were like Pappy’s. Now, this is one of the few remaining and should not be missed if you are a connoisseur of nostalgia. One thing to look out for if you sit at the bar is you may be taking the seat of a “regular” who comes in every day after work, so if a thirsty local is staring at you, don’t take it personally, just get up and move!

What should you have to eat? Well, I would recommend the smoked pork sandwich with gold BBQ sauce, served with half a plate of crinkle cut fries. I forgo the customary ketchup for the fries and go straight for the sweet red Pappy’s BBQ sauce as a dip. Or if you are really hungry, choose a large order of meaty pork ribs with two sides (baked beans and coleslaw for me) and bread (nothing but white.) I find the pork sandwich with the gold BBQ sauce is enhanced with a dollop of the regular red BBQ sauce squirted on each bite. Neither of the sauces is hot, but the flavor is wonderful and they sell both by the pint ($4.95) or the gallon ($21.95) for those “jonesin” for some Pappy’s flavor at home. I have a jar in the Inn refrigerator right now and will stir up some Pappy’s BBQ hashbrown potatoes as a side dish to any breakfast entree if you will just ask!

Want to know more before plunking down your hard earned $7 bucks for lunch? Well, they don’t have a website (those are not available in the early 70’s where this place stays) but you can see a bit more, and read the reviews at Urbanspoon.

On the front of their menu it says “Welcome to Pappy’s Place: It aint much, but we call it home. Where the beer is cold, the food superb, and the company divine.”

On the back of the menu is a paragraph that says “Happy Hacker Day! - Jim Hacker, the local hero here at Pappy’s. Doctors predicted him a goner in the late 70’s; Jim proved them wrong. Mr. Hacker came to Pappy’s 6 days a week for over 13 years. Jim passed on in the summer of ’93. We celebrate Jim every day and every year Hacker Day is December 23.”

I think that sums up who and what Pappy’s Place is. I hope it speaks to you as it always speaks to me.

You can find Pappy’s Cafe at 943 N Main, Springfield, Missouri. There (relocated) phone can be called at 417-866-8744.

900 E Walnut StreetSpringfield, MO 65806

Info: 417-864-6346

Reservations: 800-593-6346

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Springfield “Hole-in-the-wall” fun places to eat!

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
Info: 417-864-6346
Reservations: 800-593-6346

The Walnut Street Inn

The Walnut Street Inn
the Inn is made up of three 100+ year old buildings.