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 Noel, Missouri.
Greetings from Noel, Missouri
N 36° 32.7378′, W 094° 29.113′ Elev. 817 ft.
The road into Noel is a narrow, winding, hilly two-lane highway. As I sailed in I kept saying, “I’d sure hate to drive a big-ass truck on this road.” It turned out I should’ve been saying, “I sure hope I can find a decent breakfast.”
Noel (pronounced knoll, with the emphasis on NO) is tucked in the far southwest corner of the southwesternmost corner of Missouri. It’s a remarkably beautiful place.
It claims to be the “Canoe Capitol of the Ozarks.” If the sheer number of canoes I saw being hauled around by the canoe rental folks is any indication, it’s true. Hell, I’d venture to guess that if you set every canoe in Noel end-to-end they would reach the Gateway Arch some 321 miles away, if not well into Illinois.
But I didn’t want to canoe. I wanted breakfast. Specifically, I wanted eggs and hash browns or grits … or both. But where?
I came to Noel to pick up disassembled poultry from that chicken-plucking behemoth named after a World Heavyweight Boxing Champion. Why they named the company after an ear-biter like Mike is somewhat baffling to me. After all, he raises pigeons not chickens. Nevertheless, the corporate giant of processed meat let me drop the box … and off I went.
I first backtracked to the intersection of MO-EE and US 59 in Lanagan, to a place I thought looked really interesting, The Cave Bar and Grill, a bar (and grill) located in one of Missouri’s 6037 caves. (I did not make this number up. Six thousand thirty-seven is the actual number of recorded caves in the state.) I was quite giddy about eating breakfast in a cave. I imagined they might offer The Spelunker’s Spam Special or something. They don’t. They don’t even serve breakfast.
I toured the place nevertheless and it was pretty cool (56°). As I left I had to wonder: On their readerboard advertising “Bike Night”, etc., was a curious addition: GOAT. Outside the Cave’s cave is a rocky-ledge pen with a bunch of goats in it. There are gumball machines fully stocked to dispense goat feed (25¢) at the turn of a handle. This raised a question: Should the goats dread Wednesdays?
So off I went to downtown Noel. You can imagine my delight when I saw Kathy’s Kountry Kitchen, which is “Open 7 Days a Week.” It was just after noon when I reached for the doorknob. I was ready for eggs, hash browns and/or grits. I knew I could get ‘em here.
The door was locked. I saw someone inside, so I called. When are y’all open, I asked? “Six to two, but we’re going to start opening at night.” But it’s just after noon and the door’s locked. “Yeah, my wife had a doctor’s appointment so we’re closed right now.” This really sucked. I knew he had hash browns and grits in there.
C’est la vie.
Across the street side-by-side were two other restaurants, the 219 and the Hog Shop. Did you know neither of them serve breakfast? Now you do.
In my travels I’d passed a couple of Mexican restaurants, one with cars and one without. My gut instinct said to visit the least traveled but my head said perhaps I should ask. So I did, of a couple of local poultry drivers. They directed me to the Rio Grande Mexican Restaurant.
The Rio Grande is a puny place, maybe 10 tables total. It’s clean and homey but they don’t have hash browns (shock!) and they don’t have grits (shock x10!). But they have eggs.
I ordered the only egg dish they offered, Huevos ala Mexicana ($4.99), “Three scrambled eggs with sauteed onion, tomatoes and jalapeño peppers. Served with your choice of tortillas.” I got corn.
While the service was impeccable and the food was fulfilling, everything you’d expect eggs scrambled with onion, tomato and jalapeño would be, I was still somewhat disappointed. You see, I know that all Mexican restaurants have hominy hiding somewhere in the pantry. If figured if they ground the hominy and dried it out, they would have the makings for grits. It ain’t that hard.
I probably should’ve asked them to do it but I didn’t. You never know, they may’ve gone the extra mile.
And so we roll.
Rio Grande Mexican Food, 445 Cliffside Dr., Noel, Missouri
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.