Will Neal raises Wagyu beef and will soon offer it in a new way at Kobe Club Hamburgers. (Photo: submitted by Will Neal)

SEYMOUR – Travelers steer their vehicles through Seymour along Highway 60, but soon it may be beef that drives them to town. 

Owners of Kobe Club, an online outlet in Webster County for Kobe and Wagyu beef, have announced that it will soon build a restaurant featuring burgers made from their exclusive meat.

“There will be nobody else that does it,” says Will Neal, who, alongside his wife, Julia, co-owns Kobe Club and Neal Meats, a new processing plant near Seymour.

While there are differences in the definitions, Wagyu and Kobe beef are sourced from Japanese cattle with specific genetic qualities and are sought after by aficionados as some of the best-tasting beef in the world. The key difference is that Kobe is specifically raised and harvested in the Kobe region of Japan, while Wagyu can be produced elsewhere from cattle with that specific genetic strain.

Neal’s Kobe Club sells both: It imports Kobe meat from Japan, but also raises Wagyu cattle — as well as European Mangalitsa pork, known for its wooly coat and marbled meat — on its ranch near Seymour. 

Which led to the idea for the new restaurant: Kobe Club Hamburgers, which will be located near the intersection of Highway 60 and Routes C in Seymour. 

Kobe Club Hamburgers, to be built on the outskirts of Seymour, will serve burgers made with Wagyu beef. (Photo: submitted by Will Neal)

“We have the ability to get rid of the steaks easily,” says Neal. “I mean, you have to advertise and all of that, but we have people that want them. The problem is ending up, when you cut up the beef, with, say, 550 pounds of beef — and 350 pounds of it is hamburger.”

The new restaurant will offer a win-win solution to utilize that hamburger — both for Neal, and for his future customers, who will be served a simple-yet-satisfying menu at what he says will be only a slightly higher cost than traditional fast food.

“I want it to be really good,” says Neal. “It’s going be a very simple menu because I believe in just doing a few things and doing them really, really well. So that’s the way we’re going to do it there. And I think that it’s going to be the biggest thing I’ve ever done.”

He also shares that Kobe Club’s meats will also be for sale in the restaurant, which will be styled after In-N-Out Burger, a chain that touts the fact that its restaurants don’t freeze, pre-package or microwave their food.

“I’m a big fan of theirs. I really like their burgers,” says Neal. “The primary difference, of course, is we’re going to have the Wagyu in it instead of just any old hamburger. But it’s also still going to be fresh meat.”

While the initial restaurant will be on the outskirts of Seymour, Neal hopes to expand the restaurant concept to other places, including Springfield, Branson and beyond. 

“It just came down to, you know, where would we do it? And I just felt like Seymour — because we have such traffic here on 60, and the locals,” says Neal. “There’s a good barbecue place here, but the only thing else is really McDonald’s. So I felt like if we can’t defeat McDonald’s, I don’t need to be in the burger business.”

Plans for the restaurant are years and careers in the making. Originally from Texas, Neal’s story features a variety of chapters that got him to Seymour. Many of them were included in a story in the Webster County Citizen about the new business, which is available here (and, giving credit where credit is due, is how I learned about the new project).

Another recent business venture is the opening of the aforementioned Neal Meats. The couple built and opened the new 9,500-square-foot plant, for which they are pursuing USDA certification, after experiencing difficulties in having their meat processed elsewhere during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“I love the Ozarks. We’re here by choice — we could live anywhere we wanted,” says Neal. “And we think the Ozarks is the greatest place in the world to live. We just love it to death.”

Kaitlyn McConnell

Kaitlyn McConnell is the founder of Ozarks Alive, a cultural preservation project through which she has documented the region’s people, places and defining features since 2015. McConnell regularly shares her stories with readers of the Springfield Daily Citizen. Contact her at: kaitlyn@ozarksalive.com More by Kaitlyn McConnell