This article originally appeared in our October 2021 edition. This web version includes a number of awards, as well as listing runners up, that did not appear in the print edition,

The 2021 readers’ choice awards are here!

We asked our readers about their favorites in the state of Missouri. When we tallied everything up, we had a lengthy list: a guide for Missourians, by Missourians, of the places and experiences everyone should seek out in 2022—and the editors added in a few that they believe warrant inclusion. So, here are 114 of this year’s winners.

The castle at Ha Ha Tonka State Park
EDITOR’S CHOICE: The castle at Ha Ha Tonka State Park. — Photo courtesy Missouri Department of Natural Resources
BEST OF THE BEST Dutch Country General Store, Hannibal Dutch Country General Store carried the most votes of any single nominee in any category. This shop in downtown Hannibal is more than a general store. Sure, you can find candy by the barrels, imagination toys for kids, home goods, even freshly made sandwiches to order, coffee, or a free ice cream cone, but the owners also strive to build community and provide an experience that brings to mind simpler times. If you go, make sure and check out the new mural on the side of the building that pays homage to northeast Missouri’s agricultural heritage and the Honor Flight, both of which are near and dear to the owners’ hear BEST KEPT SECRET Raging Bull Steakhouse Located in Warrensburg, this restaurant is known for its steaks and appetizers. Runner up: Crybaby Farm and the Lavender Tea Room, Carrollton EDITOR’S PICK—The Fattened Caf Pop-Up, St. Louis What began as a monthly Filipino barbecue pop-up at Earthbound Beer in 2020 has quickly transformed into a weekly block party experience on Cherokee Street. On The Fattened Caf’s menu, you’ll find authentic Filipino staples like Chicken Inasal, Longganisa, BBQ Pork Skewers, and Veggie Pancit served with flavorful sides of rice and vegetables. While the names of the dishes might be intimidating to those new to Filipino cuisine, the vibe of Earthbound Beer and Cherokee Street is anything but. On the Friday night of a barbecue, the side street is shut down and live music plays into the evening as you enjoy fall-off-the-bone barbecue and cold beer from a picnic table on the patio or the comforts of your own lawn chair. Make sure you get there early—they often sell out. Keep an eye on their social media channels for pop-up announcements, menus, and plate pre-orders (when available). —Holly Kite BEST FISHING SPOT Pomme de Terre Lake, Hickory and Polk counties Known for muskie fishing, Pomme de Terre Lake is also great for pulling in crappie, bass, bluegill, and walleye, among other species. Runner up: Maramec Spring Park BEST FLOATING RIVERS AND STREAMS Current River, Southeast Missouri Part of the Ozark National Scenic Riverways, the first to protect a river system, the Current is one of Missouri’s most popular rivers for floating. Several outfitters can set you up for a day lazily drifting on the water. Runners up: Big Piney River, south central Missouri; Meramec River UNIQUE CAVERNS Meramec Caverns, Sullivan Originally known for its saltpeter, an ingredient used in making gunpowder, Meramec Caverns receives visitors today for its stunning geologic features. Guided tours are available. Runner up: Fantastic Caverns, Springfield BEST STATE PARK Ha Ha Tonka State Park, Camdenton This state park features caves, a spring, a natural bridge, and head-turning castle ruins. Visitors can hike, camp, and fish while enjoying the incredible natural beauty. Runners up: Arrow Rock State Park, Arrow Rock; Hughes State Park EDITOR’S PICK—Onondaga Cave State Park, Leasburg So often when we think of a state park, visions of forests, trails, bluffs, and rivers come to mind, all of which Onondaga Cave State Park has, but the best view lies underground. This cave has it all: stalactites, stalagmites, cave coral, soda straws, flowstones, and more. The state park staff gives guided tours of the cave, and features of note include the Queen’s Canopy, the Twins, and the Lily Pad Room, which is the editor’s favorite formation. Onondaga Cave is also a National Natural Landmark. ­—Rebecca French Smith BEST RV SPOT Last Resort, Warsaw. This campground features fishing docks, a boat ramp, a swimming pool, playgrounds, and shower houses, plus there’s more to enjoy here. Runners up: Echo Bluff State Park, Eminence; Thompson Campground in Rothwell Park BEST HIKING TRAIL Devil’s Icebox Trail, Columbia At Rock Bridge Memorial State Park, the Devil’s Icebox boardwalk leads visitors past some of the park’s most interesting geologic features, including Devil’s Icebox, which is a double sink hole that reveals an undergound stream. Runner up: Gans Creek Wild Area Trail, Columbia BEST TRAIL SYSTEM Columbia Trail System, Columbia The nearly sixty-five-mile trail system is a partnership, a combination of city-owned trails, MU-owned trails, and Boone County trails. In the mix is the MKT Nature and Fitness Trail, an 8.9-mile historic railroad spur-turned-fitness trail. Runner up: Forest City Mountain Bike Trails, St. James BEST DINER Raging Bull Steakhouse, Warrensburg Runners-up: Broadway Diner; Clara’s North 65 Cafe. BEST DESTINATION RESTAURANT EDITOR’S PICK—Gobblers Roost, Nevada, Missouri This Nevada, Missouri, steakhouse is located on a gravel road that has a tendency to confuse modern GPS applications. The Roost is only open for dinner service Thursdays through Saturdays, and guests need to make a reservation in advance to secure a table. Kent and Kathy Abele have owned the property Gobblers Roost is located on for decades, and all the cooking and baking that goes into their five-course, prix fixe menus happens right there in the restaurant’s kitchen, including portioning the enormous twenty-five-ounce filets, which are glazed and cooked to perfection. If you go, you can also rent an on-site cabin and make an overnight trip of it. The Abeles also offer their facilities as an event venue for weddings and bull auctions. —Evan Wood Readers’ Choice Raging Bull Steakhouse, Warrensburg. Runners up: The Lavender Tea Room and Crybaby Farm; Madison’s. BEST OUTDOOR PATIO Raging Bull Steakhouse, Warrensburg. Runners up: Madison’s, Jefferson City; The Lavender Tea Room and Crybaby Farm, Carrolllton BEST CHOCOLATIER Christopher Elbow, Christopher Elbow Chocolates, Kansas City Christopher Elbow’s artisanal chocolate will satisfy your sweet tooth! Runner up: Bissinger’s Handcrafted Chocolatier, St. Louis BEST CHEF Todd Dale, Raging Bull Steakhouse, Warrensburg Chef Dale doesn’t miss a night at the restaurant and brings a creativity and dedication that keeps his patrons coming back for his culinary creations. Runners up: Chris Paszkiewicz, The Ivory Grille, Sedalia; Rob Agee, Madison’s, Jefferson City BEST SUSHI ROLL Love Sushi, Jefferson City Indulge in all of your favorite sushi and appetizers at this restaurant. Runners up: Drunken Fish – Central West End, St. Louis; Asabi Bistro Sushi Bar & Grill BEST STEAKHOUSE Raging Bull Steakhouse, Warrensburg Steaks at this restaurant are dry-aged and cooked just the way you like them, whatever doneness that might be. Runners up: The Ivory Grille, Sedalia; Madison’s BEST FOOD TRUCK Jamacian Jerk, Columbia Try the jerk chicken, Jamaican beef patties, and the thirst-quenching Rasta Lemonade. Runners up: Ozark Mountain Biscuit Truck, Columbia; Zydeco’s Cajun Kitchen Food Truck MOST ROMANTIC RESTAURANT The Ivory Grille, Sedalia Located inside of Hotel Bothwell, this white-tablecloth restaurant features tasty salads, pastas, sandwiches, steaks, small plates, and charcuterie boards. Runners up: Madison’s, Jefferson City; Murry’s BEST BAKERY The Farmhouse Cookie Co., Lincoln Find the best tasting cookies for any occasion at Farmhouse Cookie Co. The cookie designs are nothing short of art. Runner ups: Crown Candy Kitchen, St. Louis; Rolling Pin BEST MISSOURI BBQ Raging Bull Steakhouse, Warrensburg While this little spot in Warrensburg is known for its steak, readers say the brisket tacos and BBQ stuffed chicken breast also make your mouth water. Runners up: Arthur Bryant’s, Kansas City; Buerky’s BBQ BEST HAMBURGER Raging Bull Steakhouse, Warrensburg From mac ’n cheese to grilled pineapple to piled high with bacon, there is nothing plain about the burgers at Raging Bull Steakhouse. Runners up: Paddy Malone’s Pub, Jefferson City; Stacked STL EDITOR’S PICK—Gordon’s Stoplight Drive In, Crystal City We’re not the only ones who love these smash burgers. The Travel Channel also named them the best in the state. Gordon’s Stoplight Drive In is a small diner in Jefferson County with twenty swivel stools for customers at the counter. Not much has changed in the restaurant since opening in 1948, but the crispy burgers, fries, and homemade shakes have always kept people coming back for more. —Corin Cesaric BEST CHINESE DISH Hunan Restaurant, Jefferson City Readers love the dish variety and prices at this Asian restaurant, along with the cuisine authenticity. Runners up: Cate Zone Chinese Cafe, University City; North Dragon BEST TACO Raging Bull Steakhouse, Warrensburg. Runners up: Taco Villa; Tower Taco Restaurant BEST FRIED CHICKEN Don’s Family Style Buffet, Huntsville Fried chicken isn’t just fried chicken here. It has a perfect crunch and seasoning that gives it its spot on this list. Runners up: Old Glory Market, Warrensburg; Nee Nee’s Italian Steakhouse BEST LOCAL COFFEE SHOP Ozark Coffee Company and Roastery, Sedalia Now you know where to go for the best cup of joe. Runner ups: Coffee Zone, Columbia; Coffee Sknobs BEST ROASTERY Ozark Coffee Company and Roastery Runner up: Coffee Zone BEST DONUTS Strange Donuts, St. Louis These made-from-scratch donuts boast classic and unique flavors such as gooey butter and glaze. You can find them at several St. Louis locations. Runners up: Donut Palace, Moberly; Harold’s Doughnuts BEST MISSOURI ITALIAN Madison’s, Jefferson City Madison’s serves up scrumptious pasta, steak, seafood, and more. The chef creates signature dishes, and the house salad, topped with artichoke hearts, parmigiana, and a red wine vinaigrette, starts the meal off right. Runners up: Nee Nee’s Italian Steakhouse, Warsaw; Nonna’s BEST JEWELER Kas-A-designs, Jefferson City Kas Jacquot and her daughter Toni work together to create stunning jewelry. Runner up: Kent Jewelry, Rolla; Be Gutsy Jewelry BEST UNIQUE BOUTIQUE Creative Palette, Warsaw Creative Palette is one-stop shop for art, crafts, and personalized items. They also host creative classes perfect for a friends’ outing or date night, and can personalize gear from hats to shirt and home decor. Runner ups: Arcadia Valley Soap Co., Ironton; Blush Boutique BEST COUNTRY STORE Dutch Country General Store, Hannibal Dutch County General Store is a little piece of nostalgic heaven. You can find 288 bins of candy, toys, and home goods, plus free ice cream cones. Runners up: Blackwater Country Store, Blackwater; Old Village Mercantile BEST BOAT DEALER Eberlin Boats & Motors, Hermann Readers say this is the best spot for boating needs and supplies. Runner up: Eberlin Boats & Motors, Jefferson City MOST UNUSUAL BUSINESS IN A SMALL TOWN Crybaby Farm Gifts and the Lavender Tea Room, Carrollton Here you’ll find a large assortment of teas, including specialty tea from Paris. Plus, there is a beautiful selection of antiques and vintage items. Runners up: ASL Pewter, Ste. Genevieve; Hemp Hill NOTABLE HISTORIC HOTEL Iron Horse Hotel, Blackwater Originally built as a boarding house in 1889, this nine-room railroad hotel is a historic building that has been carefully renovated. It sits in the historic commercial district of Blackwater, which is on the National Register of Historic Places. Runner up: Hotel Bothwell, Sedalia BEST HOTEL Iron Horse Hotel, Blackwater Runners-up: Drury Inn St. Louis at Union Station; Comfort Inn, Warrensburg Station; Le Meridien St. Louis Clayton. BEST HISTORIC SMALL TOWN Blackwater Founded in 1887, this railroad town was established after the Missouri Pacific Railroad decided its new train route would go through the area. The Blackwater Preservation Society and other active groups help maintain the town today, which has a downtown commercial district and a residential historic district that are on the National Register of Historic Places. Runners up: Lexington; Ste. Genevieve FRIENDLIEST SMALL TOWN Blackwater Blackwater is located along the Blackwater River and has a population of less than two hundred friendly people. Citizens offer a great example of small-town hospitality and exude community pride and the desire to make everyone feel at home. Runners up: Boonville; Ste. Genevieve MOST NOTORIOUS MISSOURI OUTLAW Jesse James Born in Clay County, Jesse James led a life of crime, robbing banks, trains, and stagecoaches with his gang, and in the process created a Robin Hood-esque legend, though it’s not clear he gave his bounty to the poor. Runner up: Cole Younger BEST HAUNTED HOUSE Edge of Hell, Kansas City For more than forty-five years, Edge of Hell has been providing frightful fun in a five-story warehouse in the historic West Bottoms. Runners up: Pythian Castle, Springfield; The Old House Steakhouse BEST SMALL TOWN DINING Raging Bull Steakhouse, Warrensburg Raging Bull Steakhouse is a favorite among the Warrensburg locals, a little over twenty thousand of them. It’s locally owned and offers in-house and patio dining where you can enjoy the dry-aged, hand-cut steaks, stuffed chicken, or seafood. Runners up: Madison’s, Jefferson City; Abigail’s, Rocheport NOTABLE MILITARY FIGURE Colonel Daniel Boone Daniel Boone served in the French and Indian War, the Revolutionary War, and tried to serve in the War of 1812, but was turned down because he was too old. Runner up: Omar Bradley MOST FAMOUS MISSOURI ACTOR Brad Pitt This Springfieldian has made a name for himself in show biz. He has won Golden Globes and an Oscar for his acting. Off screen he has championed several humanitarian efforts around the globe. Runners up: John Goodman; Charlie Chaplin BEST OUTDOOR MUSIC FESTIVAL EDITOR’S PICK—Soulard Mardi Gras, St. Louis St. Louis is home to the second largest Mardi Gras celebration in the nation. Nearly 750,000 people flock from all over to attend, and there is a good reason why. Whether you are looking for family activities, something to satisfy your tastebuds, or to run a 5K, there is something for everyone. The Soulard Mardi Gras celebrations begin in January with a Family Winter Carnival and continue until Fat Tuesday in March. You can’t miss the Grand Parade, which boasts nearly one hundred floats, big bands, bright costumes, and no shortage of beads. Following the parade, party at the Bud Light Block Party. Complete with an all-you-can-eat Cajun/Creole buffet, open bar, DJs and Dancing, and more. If you’re looking for something more family-friendly, look into the Purina Pet Parade and Weiner Dog Derby in the heart of Soulard. Pro-tip: reserve your hotels and Airbnb’s in advance so you can be close to the action, wear comfortable shoes, and don’t forget the beads! —Holly Kite BEST LITTLE THEATER 4th Street Theatre, Moberly Originally opened in 1914 with vaudeville acts on stage, 4th Street Theatre is still an energetic place. The theater has been historically restored and is a venue for concerts, plays, movies, and events. Runner up: Melba Theatre, De Soto BEST CONCERT HALL AND VENUE Missouri Theatre Located in downtown Columbia, this theater has a capacity of 1,200 people and features an 1,800-pound Italian chandelier. Runner up: Rose Music Hall, Columbia, and The LEX BEST MUSICAL ARTIST Dawn Weber Dawn is a professional trumpet player who is proficient in jazz, blues, rhythm and blues, soul, funk, fusion, and classical music Runners up: The Texas Tenors; Cara Louis BEST MUSIC FESTIVAL Mo Jazz Music Festival, Columbia This free festival offers hours of family-friendly fun with an impressive lineup of jazz artists and several distinctly different styles of jazz. Runners up: Roots N Blues Festival, Columbia; Rockfest BEST OUTDOOR FESTIVAL Mo Jazz Music Festival, Columbia The Mo Jazz Music Festival also won best music festival, and you don’t want to miss it. Runners up: Twain on Main, Hannibal; Blackwater May Festival BEST VISUAL ARTIST Julie Agee. Runners up: Joseph Orr; Leann Porello; Lennis Leornard Broadfoot. BEST HISTORICAL MUSEUM Mark Twain Boyhood Home & Museum, Hannibal Whether you know him as Samuel Clemens or Mark Twain, you can view the two-story home where rooms are just as they would have been when he resided there. Runner up: Wentworth Military Academy & College; Historic Daniel Boone Home, Defiance BEST OUTDOOR THEATRE Rose Music Hall, Columbia This venue in the heart of Columbia features a large grassy area, an outdoor stage, and an intimate indoor concert venue that’s open year-round. From local acts like the Burney Sisters to national talent like Wynonna Judd, the shows are top-notch. Runner up: Drive-In STL, Hazelwood BEST SCENIC SPOT Pomme de Terre Readers love Pomme de Terre State Park for the views, especially from the dam. Sunsets and sunrises over the water are stunning. Runner up: Cooper’s Landing Campgrounds & Marina, Columbia EDITOR’S PICK—Glade Top Trail, Ava Nestled in the Ozark Mountains along ridge tops in the Mark Twain Forest, the Glade Top Trail is a twenty-three-mile National Forest Scenic Byway that offers seven overlooks at which you can see as far as the Boston Mountains in Arkansas forty miles to the south. According to the USDA Forest Service, the glades south of Ava are some of the largest in the country under conservation management. The trail was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in the 1930s and is much the same today as it was then. The scenic views are particularly beautiful in the fall when the trees put on their colorful cloaks of orange, red, and yellow. —Rebecca French Smith BEST BOUTIQUE HOTEL Hotel Bothwell, Sedalia On the National Register of Historic Places, this hotel opened in 1927 and was restored in 1998 to include modern conveniences. Runner up: Iron Horse Hotel, Blackwater; Hotel Vandivort BEST BED AND BREAKFAST Iron Horse Hotel, Blackwater Family-owned and -operated, this historic railroad hotel has been carefully renovated. The train theme fits since it is located in a small railroad town and right next to the train depot. Each stay is completed with a homemade breakfast. Runner up: the Eagle’s Nest Inn, Louisiana; Branson House Bed & Breakfast BEST GARDENS Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis Missouri Botanical Garden was founded by philanthropist Henry Shaw in 1859 and is a center for research, education, and conservation. Runners up: Powell Gardens, Kingsville; Friendship Brewing Company BEST HISTORIC HOMES The Mark Twain Boyhood Home, Hannibal The rooms are staged just as they would have looked while Mark Twain lived there from age four to fourteen. Runners up: Lafayette Square, St. Louis; Historic Daniel Boone Home, Defiance BEST FARMER’S MARKET Soulard Farmer’s Market, St. Louis Open rain or shine, Soulard Farmer’s Market offers fresh produce and goods from area producers. Opened in 1779, it has a reputation for being one of the oldest markets still operating in the United States. Runners up: Columbia Farmers Market, Columbia; Richard’s Produce BEST INTERPRETIVE CENTER Mark Twain Museum Interpretive Center, Hannibal The Mark Twain Museum Interpretive Center is an educational museum showcasing the life of Mark Twain. The interpretive center includes a real printing press and interactive exhibits. Runner ups: Battle of Lexington State Historic Site, Lexington; Daniel Boone Home National Historic Site BEST MISSOURI WINERY Adam Puchta Winery, Hermann This standout winery is located in the German town of Hermann. Readers love the view and service. Runners up: Les Bourgeois, Rocheport; Baltimore Bend Winery; Stone Hill Winery BEST NORTON Stone Hill Winery, Hermann Stone Hill’s Norton is made with Norton grapes (Missouri’s official state grape) grown on twenty-eight acres in its vineyards. The winery produces about 332 gallons annually. This winery’s Norton has won the Governor’s Cup five times. Runners up: St. James Winery, St. James; LaChance Norton BEST WINE Adam Puchta Winery, Hermann Adam Puchta Winery is the oldest, continuously owned family winery in the United States. It was founded in 1855. Runner ups: Ozark Hellbender, Stone Hill Winery, Hermann; Joli Vin Baltimore Bend; Lucky duck; The Riverhouse BEST COCKTAIL Oh Sweet Mystery of Life at Last I Found You Martini You can find this cocktail at Madison’s (the winner of Missouri’s best Italian) in Jefferson City. Runners up: Bruleed Baileys And Banana Colada, Doxie Slush, Hermann; Pinckney Bend Gin and Tonic BEST DIVE BAR The Geyer Inn, Kirkwood This homey bar has a large fenced-in back yard that is dog friendly. Runner up: Klik’s, Columbia BEST COCKTAIL BAR EDITOR’S PICK—The Golden Girl Rum Club, Springfield This eclectic cocktail bar transports you to a tropical paradise the minute you step inside. The carefully crafted cocktails are almost too cute to drink, and the inside of the bar follows suit. With more than thirty cocktails to choose from, eye-catching tiki glasses, and a menu full of tasty drinks and food, you’re destined to have a good time. And on warm days, the glass garage door is opened to let in fresh air. Try the Son of a Banana Man made with 151-proof rum and banana liqueur, fresh banana, pineapple, cinnamon, and lime. It’s the best seller. —Corin Cesaric READERS’ CHOICE Raging Bull Steakhouse, Warrensburg Runners up: The Mission; Taste BEST HISTORIC TAVERN The Heist, Lexington This building was built around 1850 and was originally the Alex, Mitchell & Company bank. On October 30, 1866, the James–Younger Gang robbed the bank stealing $2,011.50, which is how the now bar got its name. Runners up: The Pat Connolly Tavern, St. Louis; Old Town Smokehouse BEST DISTILLERY Phantom V Distilling Company, Warrensburg Five friends with a penchant for wine-making opened Phantom V Distilling Company three years ago and embarked on a journey of making uniquely flavored spirits. Try Butterscotch or Spirited Apple Orchard. Runner up: Wood Hat Distillery, New Florence; Pinckney Bend Distillery BEST BREWERY Flat Branch Pub & Brewing, Columbia The beer here is brewed in-house. Try a Katy Trail Pale Ale or the Mango IPA under the umbrellas on the outdoor patio. Runners up: Mother’s Brewing Company, Springfield; Logboat Brewing Company BEST TAP ROOM Flat Branch Pub & Brewing, Columbia The tap room here features several of the brewery’s house-made beers. As of press time, nine were available. The industrial architectural design provides great ambience. Runners up: Logboat Brewing Company, Columbia; Mother’s Brewing Company