Thursday, April 30, 2015

Top 5 Rolla Restaurants

If you're looking for the finest French cuisine, Rolla is not the place for you. But, it does have its share of hometown favorites.

These are the places local folks like to eat. So, if you're on I-44 looking for a place to grab some grub, venture a little further into my hometown and give one of these places a try.

Honorable Mention: Before we dig into my top 5 Rolla Restaurants, I have to give an honorable mention to Alex's Pizza Palace. I love Alex's, just not as much as the other pizza joint that made my top 5 list. It's not a ding on Alex's, just an indication of how much I love the other place.

Alex's has great ambiance. Growing up, they had a cool table-top arcade game in the front of the restaurant. They're very group- and kid-friendly. Also, they have an extensive menu that includes Greek fare you can't get anywhere else in Rolla.

What to order: I prefer the house special pizza, which features beef instead of sausage. Their cheese balls are also excellent. And, get a Greek salad.

5. Matt's Steakhouse: Before Matt's, there was the 10th Street Dinner House. It was popular. So popular, they built a larger building located along I-44. The popularity is well-deserved. The steaks are amazing, as are the burgers. The unlimited salad and breadsticks is the Olive Garden concept done better. Also, they used to have an excellent broccoli salad. I don't see it on the menu, but that thing was amazing.

What to order: I'm partial to the good-old fashioned cheeseburger at Matt's. Though, my mom loves the steak tips, which are sauteed with bell peppers, mushrooms and onions, then topped with provolone cheese.

4. A Slice of Pie: If you live in Rolla and you don't know about A Slice of Pie, extend your arms, push that rock with all of your might and kindly slide out from under it. In browsing their website, I see they officially became a business in 1986. I didn't realize I pre-dated the Slice by four years. Crazy.

Here's the thing. If you're ever tasked with bringing a dessert to a family function, you can't go wrong with one of these pies. In fact, people will probably thank you for bringing A Slice of Pie, rather than saddling them with another dump cake.

What to order: Most pie lovers will tell you to get the apple or coconut cream. Those are solid choices. But, my favorite is the Tollhouse. It's like the biggest, most delicious chocolate chip cookie you've ever eaten. Lastly, if you really want to test your sweetness limit, go for the French silk.

3. Maid-Rite: One thing I love about Maid-Rite (and correct me if this has changed) -- everything is a la carte. It's very old fashioned. There are no value meals. They write your order on a ticket and tear off the voucher at the bottom.

Also, the burgers are unlike anything I've come across since. The ground beef is loose, sort of like a sloppy joe without the sauce. They're amazing. I'm not even sure why. Maybe it's their secret seasoning. Or, perhaps it's some sort of Rolla mysticism. I don't know. Veterans know that once you unwrap a Maid-Rite, you give it a solid squish to flatten it out and keep the meat together for easier consumption. (Disclaimer: I realize that Maid-Rite is a chain. But, it's a very small chain.)

What to order: Cheese-Rite with mayo, pickle and onion, a side of fries and a Heath bar concrete. Or, you can change up the ice cream and go with a hot fudge sundae in a to-go cup (so you can mix the fudge in more easily).

2. Lucky House: For years, the building at 1119 Kingshighway was a revolving door. Restaurants would come and go, never staying for more than a year. That changed in the mid-1990s when Lucky House moved in.

Lucky House serves Chinese food of the style that you find in Springfield, Mo. Here's what I mean. For most Chinese restaurants, with cashew chicken (or chicken with cashew nuts) the chicken is lightly fried, but not battered, and served with a vegetables. Lucky House batters and deep fries their chicken, and the only vegetable you'll find is a sprinkle of diced green onion over the top. It's awesome.

What to order: Cashew chicken with double fried rice, skip the spring roll. You can go all-white meat if you want. I don't. Their chicken fried rice is good too. It's heavy on garlic though. You've been warned.

1. Pryor's Fresh Pizza: For me, this is the pinnacle of pizza the entire world. From the outside, it's not much. The proverbial hole in the wall. Dine in and you'll be served on stainless steel plates that look like they have knife marks from the 1800s. (I just noticed via their Facebook page, they actually sold a handful of these plates, which technically date back to the 1960s.)

Pryor's does not deliver. They don't do fancy salads. They don't do calzones. They just do really freaking good pizza.

The pizza is thin crust. And, it's greasy. They cut it in squares. I think they have two big secrets. First is the dough. I'm not sure what they do, but it's amazing. The second is the oven. It has to be as old as the plates. Somehow, the combination of the two produces a perfect crust along with an excellent amount of grease. It's a culinary delight.

What to order: Specifically, their beef pizza is the best. My second choice is their pepperoni. My grandparents love their onion pizza.

Those are my top picks. There are several restaurants that have since closed their doors, like Johnny's and Laposada, that would have made this list. I'm working on a separate posting that's an ode to these fallen eateries. Speaking of which, I've got room for a couple more. My memory isn't what it used to be. If you have an idea for awesome Rolla restaurant that's since been shuttered, let me know in the comment section. 


  1. Yep, I'll have Zeno's on there. I loved Godfather's too, but it's a chain. Can't decide if I should include it.

  2. Kyoto needs to be an honorable mention....I'm sure el maguey (has picked up where lotsa sloppa left off..

  3. I remember when prima's was here. Best freaking chicken quesadilla I've ever had. I would cover it in the lettuce and sour cream that came on the side. I never ordered anything else.

  4. No Tater Patch!!??
    I agree with zenos. And primas. Those were great places but sadly gone. Gordo's was good back in the day but haven't been in 15 years. kyoto is very good. Always consistent and a gem for rural missouri. I loved the lucky house!