Go for the food. Stay for the ambiance.

That’s what you’ll say after you experience some of Springfield’s most unique, off-the-beaten-path and even off-the-wall restaurants. These are the places where the locals go and the servers know customers by name. Be sure to take cash because in many cases, that’s the only form of payment accepted!

Casper’s

 

Casper's Restaurant in Springfield, Missouri.

The city’s oldest restaurant, Casper’s, is the place to go for secret-recipe chili, homestyle burgers, atmosphere, history and eclectic décor. Housed in a tiny Quonset hut, people literally pack the place wall-to-wall to get a bowl of chili that flows over the sides of the dish along with other unique menu items.

The cramped quarters, however, only add to the experience. Strangers offer seats to strangers, and it's not unusual for diners to meet and eat with interesting people ranging from city officials to blue collar workers. While the food fills your tummy, the décor will fill your mind with imagery and kitschy art that cover the walls. And if you want a giggle, order half a hamburger. It’ll be served on half a plate!

Taylor’s Drive In

 

Double steakburgers at Taylor's Drive In in Springfield, Missouri.

Another oldie but goodie is Taylor’s Drive In. Established in 1947, Taylor’s was the place where teens used to hang out for burgers, fries, malts, shakes and soda. Nowadays, it’s not a teen hotspot because it’s only open from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. weekdays.

The simple décor takes you back to yesteryear when diners had red and white checked vinyl cloths on the tables and nondescript linoleum on the floors. The steakburgers taste just the same as way back when. You can order a steakburger single, double, triple or super basket, patty melts, steakburgers with ham, grilled cheese, pork tenderloin, etc. You might even want to try the bacon dog — a bacon wrapped, deep-fried hot dog.

Coyote’s Adobe Cafe

 

The Pile Up at Coyote’s Adobe Cafe in Springfield, Missouri.

This family-friendly restaurant/sports bar serves more than typical bar food. Enjoy salads, pastas and steaks. Coyote’s is also well known for 23 varieties of chicken wings, several of which have been chosen as the best in the city. Try the Pile Up if you dare. Its buffalo chicken tenders over hash browns, queso, gravy, eggs and pico de gallo. They also have an amazing Bloody Mary bar on the weekend.

Mexican Villa

 

Sancho Enchilada Style at Mexican Villa in Springfield, Missouri.

You won’t find authentic Mexican fare at Mexican Villa; not even Tex-Mex. The food at this 65-year old business is uniquely Springfield-Mex. Mexican Villa was the first Mexican restaurant in Springfield. Now with seven locations around the Ozarks, the original store is on South National Avenue.

Colorful murals adorn the exterior walls and inside, it’s pure simplicity with a few sombreros and such for adornment. It’s not the décor that makes this is a Springfield favorite — it’s the food. A word of advice. Beware the hot sauce! It’s muy caliente!

Don’t miss some of Springfield’s locally owned eateries.