I’m happy to have Tio Wally (long-time Me So Hungry reader) aboard to send in his eating adventures from across America. Here he is in Ozark, Missouri.
Greetings from Ozark, Missouri
N 37° 04.164′ W 093° 13.409′ Elev. 1271 ft.
Be forewarned: If you’re sitting in Lambert’s Cafe no one will yell “Incoming!” or “Heads Up!” You simply have to pay attention because some people just can’t catch very well and you may well end up having a piping hot, oven fresh dinner roll carom off the side of your head. You can expect that sort of thing here. After all, Lambert’s is the “Home of the Throwed Rolls.”
The first Lambert’s Cafe was established in 1942 by Earl and Agnes Lambert in Sikeston, Missouri. According to their hand-out, they began throwing rolls to folks on May 26, 1976 when, during an extremely busy lunch hour, a roll-jonesing customer yelled “Just throw the damn thing!” They did. And to the delight of children and adults alike a tradition was born. And they’re great rolls.
A guy rolls a cart through the restaurant laden with trays of fresh made rolls and throws them, often across the room, hopefully into the waiting hands of customers. There are many misses, but he’s got more rolls. (He has the best job in the restaurant if you ask me.) Following close behind the roll-pitching Muffin Man is another person with sorghum, which they’ll happily drizzle on your hot roll.
Lambert’s is truly a quirky, somewhat wacky place with large open dining rooms of wooden booths and some of the busiest interior decorating known to man. And the service is unique as well. After your server takes your order people wander around with “Norm’s Pass Arounds,” the aforementioned hot rolls and sorghum, sides of fried okra, fried potatoes and onion, black-eyed peas, and really great macaroni and tomatoes.
Moreover, you can get as much as you want of anything: entrees, pass arounds, rolls, etc. But if you get seconds on your entree you can’t get a to-go box. There’s actually a sign to that effect reading “Please, No Doggie Bags, Extra Plates or Sharing Plates!” in the entryway. But how anyone could order seconds is beyond me as the portions are so generous to begin with.
For entrees my Gang of Four ordered Shrimp ($15.99), huge shrimp deep-fried golden brown; Pork Chops ($13.99), which you can get grilled, smoked or deep-fried; and Golden Fried Chicken ($12.49). Because he ordered all white meat ($1 extra) the plate came with two giant breasts, of which he could only finish one. I ordered the XXL – Center Cut Ham ($14.99). The sugar-cured ham was definitely XXL, nearly covering the giant skillet it was served in. All the food was great.
Every entree comes with two sides, of which they have 18 choices. One of them, however, a Pineapple Walnut Salad, costs $1.99 extra. It sure is good though, and it’s a big bowl worth the extra couple of bucks.
At first glance at the menu, Lambert’s may seem sort of pricey but it’s more than made up for in gargantuan portions, and the rolling Roll Show. And, like I said, you can get a to-go box if you don’t order seconds. In fact, plan on having at least two meals from whatever you order.
There is also some true weirdness to be found on the menu as well, like “Somethin’ Southern. All the white beans a body can eat with your choice of ham or fried bologna and 2 vegetables served with a King Edwards cigar or Big Red chewing gum.” It’s only $8.99. Those same white beans minus the meat are also one of the vegetable choices by the way. But why a mess of white beans comes with a cigar or chewing gum is anyone’s guess.
If you visit Lambert’s you can plan on waiting to get in, sometimes up to a good hour or more. We showed up about 10 a.m. for the 10:30 opening and there was already a line. Thankfully, it’s a fairly big place and we were seated immediately as soon as it opened. When we left, however, it was another story altogether, with a line out the door. A lot of this is a combination of its proximity to Branson — it’s located right off US65, the road to (as Bart Simpson accurately described it) “Las Vegas as envisioned by Ned Flanders” — thus a must-stop for passing tour buses, and because the locals eat here as well.
Another weird quirk about Lambert’s is that they don’t take credit cards, which baffles me to no end. They only take cash or personal checks. As luck would have it, though, there is an ATM inconveniently located in the entryway (which they own, no doubt). Why it isn’t next to the cashier just adds to the bafflement. The rhyme and reason of some things seems to be on permanent holiday at Lambert’s.
Lambert’s Cafe is an extremely fun dining experience that more than lives up to its motto: “Come hungry, leave full, and hopefully have a laugh or two.”
And so we … roll.
Lambert’s Cafe, restaurants in Sikeston and Ozark, Missouri and Foley, Alabama
Tio Wally pilots the 75-foot, 40-ton(max) land yacht SS Me So Hungry. He reports on road food from around the country whenever parking and InterTube connections permit.