Just a few miles north of Route 66 near Laquey, Missouri is a fascinating restaurant and resort complex that has to rate near the top of any list of unusual places for lunch or dinner. In fact, I would be willing to go out on a limb and say this IS the most unusual restaurant in America.
|These are a few of the quaint shops that line the road to
However, before you can enjoy the unique ambiance, or select from the many interesting dishes on the menu, or enjoy the breathtaking view from the bar, you must first embark on an adventure. As a sound track for this particular Route 66 detour I would suggest the now classic sounds of dueling banjos.
The odyssey begins at the junction of state highway 7 and exit 150 on I-44. Follow highway 7 north for several scenic miles past old farmsteads and through a series of twists and turns that flow with the mountainous landscapes.
At Rochester Road, marked with a small sign proclaiming the Cave Restaurant is just ahead, turn right. This road was in good repair during the time of our visit but it should be noted that in places it is graded gravel.
After driving a couple of scenic miles doubts begin to creep into your mind. Did I miss the turn? Is this a trick, a joke? I wonder if there will be a place to turn around on the other side of that beautiful bridge?
And then a sign appears that directs you into a gravel parking lot dominated by what appears to be an open front stable. Here is where you wait for the “bus” that will take you to the restaurant.
|Rustic gift shops with a view at the Cave Restaurant.|
The “bus” is a well used, battered mini van with mismatched tires and a broken windshield that will transport five guests at a time. The driver, in our case a polite young man that seemed better suited for a tractor, opens the doors, provides a step stool for entry, and then during the drive over a rutted rocky road that provides occasional glimpses of the river below, provides a commentary on the cabins (now rentals), the clay tennis court, and other traces of what was once a classy resort a century ago.
With abrupt suddenness the road is squeezed between a sheer rock wall and a series of small log cabins that overhang the river bank linked by a covered walkway. These are gift shops that specialize in hand crafted Ozark goods as well as candies and similar items.
A spiral staircase hugs the rock wall. This I later learned was the fire escape. The restaurant itself is accessed via a covered staircase or an elevator housed in what appears to be a grain silo combined with a frontier era control tower. We chose the climb as it was a crisp fall afternoon accentuated with a misty rain and the views of the river below were most stunning.
If the view from the stair case was stunning the one from the porch and bar were absolutely breathtaking. The splash of fall color added to the sense of awe.
Well, the menu here runs the gamut from simple items such as a grilled chicken salad to the exotic (alligator tale in apricot sauce). The prices follow a similar scale with a salad running around $9.00 and steak dinners starting at $14.00. Judging by our lunch (salads), the comments from diners, and the fact that on weekends the place is packed, I would say that the food ranges from good to superb.
Suffice to say this is not a dining experience we will soon forget. And rest assured it will be featured in the current book project, a Route 66 guide that features very short detours like this.
Here are a few more photos of the amazing Cave Restuarant.