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The restaurant scene in Ozark has exploded in the past decade, even more so in the past few years. This charming city is home to many great culinary spots, some traditional and some unexpected. From diner fare to fancy or ethnic, here are five restaurant gems in Ozark to fit a variety of moods.
Mundo’s Latin Kitchen & Bar
When Mundo’s Latin Kitchen & Bar opened in December 2020, I was excited.
I’ve traveled a lot around Central and South America, as well as the Caribbean, and this restaurant boasts dishes from about 13 Latin countries.
Victor and Sarah Briceno own the establishment and wanted to create something different, Sarah said. He’s from Mexico; Sarah is a Missouri native. Mundo’s Kitchen offers tastes from countries that are not well represented around here. If you like plantains, you will love this place because plantains are in many dishes.
Looking at the menu is a culinary journey. For example, I discovered mofongo on a trip to Puerto Rico, so I was excited to see it again. Their version features fried plantains mashed with garlic and chicharron, topped with grilled shrimp and creamy cheese sauce.
Their best seller is the patacón from Venezuela. Their version uses a riper plantain (traditionally made with a green plantain), fried and then layered with black beans and the meat of your choice (pork is the way to go). Then it’s topped with their lovely cilantro sauce, lettuce and pico.
Want a taste of Cuba? Try Ropa Vieja which is tender brisket cooked in a tomato sauce with green peppers, onions, and green olives. It’s served with white rice, black beans, and fried plantains.
On a cold day, order the feijoada, the national dish of Brazil. This is a heavy black bean stew slowly cooked with pork and brisket, served with white rice.
Sarah said they wanted to open in the Springfield metro area but loved the smaller-town feel of Ozark, so they thought it was a great location.
The restaurant has a fun vibe and great cocktails. Also, the food is made to order, so it’s not as fast as traditional Mexican restaurants, but it’s fresh and there are plenty of drink options to sip on. Score a $5 house margarita from 3-6 p.m. during happy hour.
If you’re with a less adventurous soul, there are classic options like street tacos, nachos, fajitas and such, but the standout dishes are under the Latin section.
For a completely different Americana vibe, try Café B-29.
The 1940s-themed diner honors the military, from the plethora of military photos on the walls to the camo-green booths and tables, down to the menu items. Aside from the patriotic theme, this is a spot for good old-fashioned comfort food.
Café B-29 is known for its hamburgers and its best-selling fried catfish. I don’t like catfish, so I’ve never tried that, but I’ve been told it’s amazing. The Monte Cristo sandwich is worth a try, too.
Here’s a delicious and unique sandwich: the Ultimate Hawaiian Chicken Sandwich. It starts with fried chicken breast, smothered in creamy and spicy jalapeno popper dip, topped with grilled, smoky ham, caramelized pineapple and drizzled in their house Rosie sauce (adorable name). The fries are hand-cut and delicious.
Chaz Koeppen started the restaurant with a friend but is now the sole owner. Koeppen wanted to honor her grandfather and others who fought in World War II and this is a popular spot for veterans. They serve big portions at reasonable prices.
Salvatore’s Fresh Ristorante Italiano
Ozark is home to a wonderful Italian restaurant: Salvatore’s Fresh Ristorante Italiano. Founded by Jerry and Judy DeMaro nine years ago, the venue is now owned by Daniel Oawster, a graduate of Le Cordon Bleu in Austin. The bread is baked fresh daily and is mouth-watering — it crumbles when you tear it. The pasta is made in-house and churned out by his mother.
If you love lasagna, it’s one of the best sellers and includes sausage they source from St. Louis and local beef from a farmer in Ozark.
I love the salmon piccata and chicken marsala. The chicken is grilled so it’s lighter than traditional styles, where it’s breaded and pan-fried. The marsala sauce has more wine and less cream than many restaurants, so again it feels lighter. I order the dish with zucchini noodles so it’s lower carb but so satisfying.
The salmon piccata is another winner: Fresh Atlantic salmon is lightly floured and pan-seared with garlic lemon piccata sauce, served on a bed of angel hair pasta.
Oawster says one of the other best-selling dishes is the wicked chicken Parmesan, which came from the original owners. It’s the classic, served with a spicy blush sauce on rigatoni pasta and people love it.
Aside from the regular menu, there are monthly specials. Oawster recommends the bolognaise in September, which is made with braised beef and pork.
Cooking has long been his passion.
“I’ve always wanted to feed people,” Oawster said. “I love to see their reaction when they eat good food. That is what drives me.”
The Ozark Mill at Finley Farms
Looking for a date night spot? Or perhaps a happy hour with views of the river? Maybe you’re interested in a farm-to-table experience. Then head to The Ozark Mill at Finley Farms. I absolutely love this spot!
First, the river views are stunning — especially if you can score a table outside. We are heading into gorgeous fall weather, so there is no better time to visit.
This is a special occasion restaurant for us, not just a Tuesday night dinner kind of place. For dinner, I love the roasted salmon with spaghetti squash, broccolini, lemon and caper sauce. It tastes decadent but feels healthy.
I had a friend tell me recently she thought the venue was too pricey, so I told her to try the happy hour (the lunch menu is also more affordable). From 2-5 p.m., Sunday through Friday, there are half-price appetizers and some drink discounts.
For happy hour, I recommend the smoked salmon dip and hog and feed flatbread. The sourdough flatbread crust is made in-house, then smothered in a creamy sauce and topped with roasted sweet corn and smoked bacon. So good. The dip is house-smoked salmon mixed with whipped herb and caper cream cheese, and served with seeded cracker.
If you like spinach dip, they have one and it’s a nice change with mushrooms, a five-cheese blend and a hint of truffle. It’s served with delicious grilled bread.
After eating, be sure to walk around Finley Farms and see where parts of your meal came from. I love to walk over the historic bridge and look at the river or take photos. Johnny Morris rescued and restored this old mill, so you know the interior is gorgeous.
The Vineyard Market
Five years ago, Heather Davis opened The Vineyard Market and it was love at first sip. As one of the only wine bars at the time, she was filling a void in Ozark.
Since then, she has elevated the food and significantly expanded the menu. This place has a little bit of everything: wine bar, humidor, wine shop, restaurant.
If it’s lunchtime, enjoy a salad, flatbread or sandwich, or share an appetizer like the baked brie and bacon toast points. You can opt for a traditional flatbread crust or cauliflower.
In the mood for Saturday brunch? Try the bananas foster French toast and sip on endless mimosas or Bloody Marys. They have sparkling flights, mimosa flights and wine by the glass or bottle.
You can build a charcuterie board, dive into warm crab dip, or enjoy filet mignon with a cabernet sauce for dinner.
They host wine and whisky dinners, themed wine tastings and dinners (there was a Chiefs kickoff wine dinner), live music on the weekends and more. Fun is not hard to find here.
I love the ambiance and wine selection, but it’s a slight splurge. The Vineyard Market is a lovely spot to meet someone for a glass of wine, relax and visit.