For years, David Allison and Ryan Gerster—both standup comedians—worked as bartenders and cooks at bars and pubs, alternating work nights with comedy gigs. So when they decided to team up and take the reins at First Ward House, a storied saloon first opened as a hotel in 1878, they already had a vision for the place. "We've worked in bars and we know what people want," Allison told a writer for St. Joseph News-Press. Their formula consists of a broad selection of beers and spirits, live bands, and nourishment that ranges from specialty burgers to late-night pulled-pork tacos.
Dark wood floors and exposed brick walls lend First Ward House a timeless ambiance in which visitors can entertain themselves with games of Keno, billiards, and pool. With its close proximity to the historic French River Trade Route and the paths of the Pony Express, the pub is rumored to be haunted by spirits who finish patrons' beers when they're not looking.
The first IHOP—the dream of founders Al and Jerry Lapin—opened in 1958 in Toluca Lake, California, and was originally dubbed the International House of Pancakes. Since then, rapid expansion has led to myriad milestones across the company's colorful history, from introducing its modern IHOP acronym in 1973 to its 1,000th restaurant opening in Layton, Utah, in 2001.
Today, the company stands strong with around 1,500 locations across North and Central America, each one an enthusiastic dispenser of pancakes, french toast, and tables constructed entirely out of bacon. Though IHOP is known as a bastion of breakfast, it also stays open during the day and into the evening, delivering lunch and dinner as well.
Espoused epicureans Max and DeDe Shields team up to man the pots and pans in Shields Manor Bistro, which inhabits a historic, 1850s house that's oozing with old-fashioned romance. Diners who frequently fall prey to bouts of dietary indecision will appreciate the bistro's short-but-sweet, monthly changing menu, which is currently topped by blue- cheese shrimp, a vampire-vexing mélange of garlicky sautéed shrimp and melted blue cheese presented elegantly in a martini glass ($12.00, serves two guests). Hudson Valley grilled duckling with a raspberry-chipotle rub and sweet-potato soufflé ($36) is one of this month's featured entrees, as is steak au poivre, a 7 oz. fillet laid between a fluffy mattress of Yukon mashed potatoes and a warm blanket of peppery cognac sauce ($36). Save a shelf in your belly's taste library for one of Max's signature desserts ($5–$8) such as Platte County black-bottom pie, a blissful marriage of crunchy walnuts and smooth, rich chocolate.
Planet Sub sidesteps the flavorless land mines of days-old bread, opting for filling-packed subs and sandwiched meaty delights. The menu may differ slightly between the two locations, but omnipresent signature subs cross state lines to sate hungering masses, such as the bacon-bolstered mega roast beef ($4.69/$7.29 ) and the Planet BBQ, a saucy concoction stacked with ham, turkey, and roast beef ($3.99/$6.99 ). Vegetarian options abound, so meat abstainers can try the spicy cheese sub ($4.49/$6.99 ) or the pesto bello ($4.99/$7.19), which is loaded with portobello mushrooms, red peppers, and a tomato-garlic pesto as smooth and suave as an Italian R&B crooner.
If it's not in season, Cafe Chilingo won't serve it. The chefs are so devoted to fresh, perfectly ripe produce, that they create a new menu every week. In winter, that might include an arugula salad with pear and goat cheese, whereas spring might bring about pineapple-adorned caribbean chicken kebabs on a bed of greens. The regularly changing selection may mean diners need to stay on their toes, but it also ensures they'll get the most flavorful meal possible. Even the beverages observe the seasons—hot cocoa is available during colder weather, while sunny days and volcano eruptions bring fresh-squeezed lemonade. The café does feature a few enduring dishes, including classic and creative sandwiches such as the corned-beef reuben and the fried-alligator poboy, and always offers gluten-free and vegetarian options for those with dietary restrictions.