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’ hearts.

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.

Runner up: Big Piney River, south central Missouri

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.

Runner up: Arrow Rock State Park, Arrow Rock.

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.

Runner up: Echo Bluff State Park, Eminence

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 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

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.

Runner up: Chris Paszkiewicz, The Ivory Grille, Sedalia

BEST SUSHI ROLL

Love Sushi, Jefferson City
Indulge in all of your favorite sushi and appetizers at this restaurant.

Runner up: Drunken Fish – Central West End, St. Louis

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.

Runner up: The Ivory Grille, Sedalia

BEST FOOD TRUCK

Jamacian Jerk, Columbia
Try the jerk chicken, Jamaican beef patties, and the thirst-quenching Rasta Lemonade.

Runner up: Ozark Mountain Biscuit Truck, Columbia

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.

Runner up: Madison’s, Jefferson City

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 up: Crown Candy Kitchen, St. Louis.

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.

Runner up: Arthur Bryant’s, Kansas City

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.

Runner up: Paddy Malone’s Pub, Jefferson City

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.

Runner up: Cate Zone Chinese Cafe, University City

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.

Runner up: Old Glory Market, Warrensburg

BEST LOCAL COFFEE SHOP

Ozark Coffee Company and Roastery, Sedalia

Now you know where to go for the best cup of joe.

Runner up: Coffee Zone, Columbia

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.

Runner up: Donut Palace, Moberly

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.

Runner up: Nee Nee’s Italian Steakhouse, Warsaw

BEST JEWELER

Kas-A-designs, Jefferson City
Kas Jacquot and her daughter Toni work together to create stunning jewelry.

Runner up: Kent Jewelry, Rolla

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 up: Arcadia Valley Soap Co., Ironton

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.

Runner up: Blackwater Country Store, Blackwater

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.

Runner up: ASL Pewter, Ste. Genevieve

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 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.

Runner up: Lexington

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.

Runner up: Boonville

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.

Runner up: Pythian Castle, Springfield

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.

Runner up: Madison’s, Jefferson City

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.

Runner up: John Goodman

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

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.

Runner up: Roots N Blues Festival, Columbia

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.

Runner up: Twain on Main, Hannibal

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: 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

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

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.

Runner up: Powell Gardens, Kingsville

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.

Runner up: Lafayette Square, St. Louis

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.

Runner up: Columbia Farmers Market, Columbia

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 up: Battle of Lexington State Historic Site, Lexington

BEST MISSOURI WINERY

Adam Puchta Winery, Hermann
This standout winery is located in the German town of Hermann. Readers love the view and service.

Runner up: Les Bourgeois, Rocheport

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.

Runner up: St. James Winery, St. James

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 up: Ozark Hellbender, Stone Hill Winery, Hermann

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.

Runner up: Bruleed Baileys And Banana Colada, Doxie Slush, Hermann

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

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.

Runner up: The Pat Connolly Tavern, St. Louis

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

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.

Runner up Mother’s Brewing Company, Springfield

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.

Runner up: Logboat Brewing Company, Columbia