A muscle car squeals into a parking space by the patio, Cruisin’ USA Frozen Custard’s neon sign reflected in its polished red chrome. At the umbrella-clad tables, families eating hot dogs and couples sharing banana splits pause to admire the ride. Though this scene seems straight out of the 1950s, it’s commonplace on summery Saturday nights in Nixa. Cruisin’ USA Frozen Custard regularly hosts concerts and fills its parking lot with vintage cars, motorcycles, and souped-up hot rods. Customers dropping by can enhance the classic American scene with classic American eats, including sandwiches, malts, custard-based concretes, and deep-fried El Caminos.
Ray Lamar hasn't spent decades perfecting his donuts. In fact, his namesake shops still use the same recipes that Ray developed in 1933—at the age of 17—when he got his first job working a donut fryer. World War II and a postwar career as a stockbroker interrupted Ray's donut-making pursuits, although he returned to his roots in 1960 when he founded the first LaMar's Donuts.
The shop went on to become a Kansas City icon, with crowds arriving well before 6 a.m. to line up outside the doors and taunt the roosters for sleeping in. Ray and his wife, Shannon, eventually decided to expand their business into a regional empire, and LaMar's Donuts currently boasts 27 franchised stores spread across six states.
Even with all of this growth, decades-old traditions still dictate how things are done. The workers prepare more than 75 different kinds of donuts, hand-making fresh batches of perennial favorites as well as recent inventions each and every morning. In addition to the original glazed creation that dates back to 1933, the menus can feature a variety of cake donuts with flavors such as red velvet, apple spice, and maple.
Since donuts and coffee go together as naturally as paper shredders and subpar report cards, the stores also prepare cappuccinos, mochas, and other coffee drinks. These are all made with handpicked beans that slowly roast inside Italian brick ovens.
Smokehouse Bar-B-Que’s dinner and lunch menus satisfy cravings across the protein spectrum with a selection of hickory-smoked beef, pork, chicken, and seafood. High-quality cuts mingle between the Junior Smokehouse’s sesame-seed buns ($8.45), which grant diners a choice of two savories such as beef brisket, polish sausage, or time-traveling triceratops shank. The Monterey chicken's 8-ounce grilled breast nestles in a corn-dust bun alongside its eponymous cheese, ham, bacon, and dijon-mustard bedmates ($9.25), and chefs catapult a 16-ounce whole catfish through a Cajun-sauce and lemon-butter waterfall before bringing it in to land gently next to a house salad and choice of side ($14.95). Also flanked by a patron-preferred side dish, the Kansas City Strip rolls a 12-ounce certified Angus beef steak down sizzling hickory logs and into eagerly awaiting mouths ($23.95).
Ingredient restaurant offers a smorgasbord of gourmet and customizable culinary bites in a quick-serve atmosphere, catering to dietary restrictions whenever possible. Local ingredients claim squatter's rights on the menu, sprucing up dishes such as the custom salads ($8.95), with more than 75 options to arrange into fully functioning veggie ecosystems.
Crystal Mooers has been decorating cakes for nearly three decades, including 15 years working as a cake decorator for large food chains. About seven years ago, she and her husband Steven decided to tap into the teamwork they'd honed raising five children together and started their own business: Just Cakes. Together, they provision parties of every sort with festively layered cakes.
Crystal festoons birthday sheet cakes with basic decorations or spruces them up with edible images, cutout shapes, or fondant designs. Her grooms' cakes express new husbands' interests, from cheering on a sports team to fixing up vintage cars to eating cake. Wedding-cake flavors, including butter pecan and red velvet, are spackled together with cheesecake mousse, peach-velvet topping, and other sweet fillings, creating multi-tiered masterpieces that realize newlyweds' confectionary dreams. She also shapes adult novelty cakes into risqué works of art for bachelor or bachelorette parties. To help hosts and hostesses put the finishing touches on their events, they rent out plate-topped columns, stands, pedestals, and fountains.
Just Cakes is a labor of love for the couple for reasons beyond their confectionary passions. They donate a percentage of the bakery's proceeds to help Crystal's sister pay her medical bills as she fights breast cancer.
Country Lane Bulk Foods weaves delicate webs of nostalgia with more than 20 flavors of locally churned ice cream and hand-crafted treats from Amish communities throughout the country. Frozen mounds of sweet cream flavored with fudge brownies, cinnamon, or blueberry muffins fill cones and dishes in the shop’s charming café. A plethora of pickled vegetables that hail from the heart of Pennsylvania Dutch country and local Amish and Mennonite communities range from watermelon rind ($5.29) to bread 'n' butter pickles ($4.49), tastefully stretching vinegar’s usefulness beyond the usual boundaries of powering science-fair volcanoes. Pickled okra ($5.49) or beets ($4.89–$6.99) and spicy ginger snaps ($1.64/12 oz.) tingle tongues, and rolled butter ($4.29/10 oz. or $8.90/2 lbs.) evokes sentimental memories of antique butter churns checking their pagers.