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Trip Report Branson Trip Report, Nov 26-29, '11

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We were guests of our neighbors . . . they have a timeshare at the Wyndham Mountain Vista. Both couples had a 2 b/2 b unit and the units were outfitted with everything one would need to set up housekeeping except for food. We did have starter coffee and popcorn. The units are approx 1,300 sq. ft, are beautiful, and are spotless. We were impressed. We were not pressed to attend a “session.” It was mentioned at check in and that’s all.

We actually had 2 full days in Branson. We saw Shoji Tabuchi ($55/ea), the 12 Irish Tenors ($30/ea), and Clay Cooper ($29) . . . they all three were different and we loved them. They all do a great show and did not have the corny Hee-Haw routines that some shows have. (You may like that kind of humor but we don’t particularly). We were concerned about our timing (Sun-Tues after Thanksgiving) but the shows were only about one-third full, there was no traffic or crowds. We thought it a very good time to go. This was our first visit to Branson and we will definitely return. We love the whole Branson concept of God, country, family.

What/where we ate (prices approximate, as I can’t remember exactly)

We stopped en route at noon in Muskogee, OK and ate a wonderful lunch at the Amish Country Kitchen. They make everything in house, lots of pies and fried pies, even some sugar free. St had meatloaf, mashed potatoes, green beans ($8). K had a turkey sandwich which was about 6" tall ($6). A had salisbury steak, mashed potatoes and gravy, corn ($8). I had a large bowl of beef stew and dry cornbread ($5.50). Everything was delicious except for the cornbread. Two of us had apricot and one had peach fried pies. They were $2.50 ea and huge. Great place to eat.


Andy Williams’ Moon River Grill. Arrived at 7:30 p. to a large, empty restaurant . . . only four other people at one table, we thought maybe they were closing up. St had fried catfish filets, fries, coleslaw ($15); K had the pot roast, baked potato, steamed mixed vegetables ($15); A and I had the 8-oz tenderloin, baked potato, mixed veggies, salad ($26 ea) . . . we also had a glass of house wine ($6 ea.). St said the catfish was wonderful and there was a lot of it. K had enough roast to feed about three of us. She said it was good . . . and it looked good. Our steaks were very good, as was our salad. However, everything except the fish and our steaks was luke warm. We were asked if we wanted everything on the baked potatoes and said yes. “Everything” to us means butter, sour cream, chives, bacon bits, and cheese. “Everything” to them meant sour cream and butter. The baked potatoes looked and tasted like they were leftover from the day(s) before. We had to keep reminding our waiter that we were missing items . . . bread, salad, dressing, butter. The hour and a half we were there, only two other people came in to eat. Our waiter told us a uncomplementary story about one of the “stars” of Andy’s show . . . and the manager reprimanded one of the waitstaff in hearing distance . . . both events very unprofessional. This place had very good reviews so we were very disappointed. I doubt we would return. This ended up being our worst meal of the trip.

Keeter Center. This was the highlight of the trip, regarding both food and reputation. The College of the Ozarks is a small, liberal arts college . . . a.k.a., Hard Work U. The college receives no government funds, students pay no tuition but must work 15 hours each week and 40 hours during the semester. The school is funded by private donations and proceeds from their various enterprises . . . dairy, farm, jam/jelly kitchen, gift shop, hotel, and their restaurant. The restaurant is large, beautifully decorated, and staffed by students. Dress is casual, reservations recommended but not required.

We went for Sunday brunch ($23 pp + drinks), had no reservations, but were seated in about 20 minutes . . . just enough time for us to look around the gift shop and take a few photos. There is also a hotel on-site. The food was set up in stations around the room . . . waffles . . . omelets . . . salads . . . lunch dishes . . . and desserts. I won’t describe the breakfast dishes other than they had everything! The lunch dishes were smoked pork loin, fried chicken, chicken breasts in a mushroom demiglaze sauce, a fish dish, ham, green beans w/almonds, squash and tomatoes dish, mashed potatoes, oven-roasted potatoes. Salads were all kinds of greens, veggies, along with many different kinds of cheeses and a variety of fresh fruits. Their house dressing is a pear-honey vinegrette and was so good that I bought a couple of bottles. The dessert table was long, tiered, and filled with lucious creations on all four sides . . . and there were several sugar-free items.

Our waitress was from Kosovo and was happy to chat with us about how she got here (missionaries). A student was playing the piano, a mix of Christmas carols and easy listening tunes.

The restaurant is open for lunch and dinner. Do not miss this dining experience. The food and service was outstanding . . . and we felt good about helping support these young people. We rode around the campus after brunch, lovely campus, wonderful concept.

Billy Bob’s Dairyland. This is a mom-pop burger joint, no alcohol served but delicious-looking malts/shakes. A burger basket was $6.59. The burgers are huge, the meat is about an inch thick (and they do get it cooked through), the burgers are wonderful. The fries are frozen and were pretty non descript. We ordered onion rings and they were very greasy . . . and I thought not very good. The batter did not stick to the onion. We had a hot fudge sundae and it was big and good, complete with cherry and nuts. This was a good place for a burger, shake, and sundae, just skip the fries/rings.

McFarlain’s. This place came highly recommended by both TripAdvisor and Fodor’s Forums folks . . . and we (both couples) had a voucher for $30. St and A both ordered the pan-fried talapia, corn, green beans, rice. K had turkey and dressing, green beans; I had chicken friend chicken, mashed potatoes, green beans. All meals are served with a huge square of sweet cornbread, good enough to be dessert. Service was not good here. My order came wrong and instead of immediately fixing it, she stood there, got out her order book and checked it, as if to say no it wasn’t. She did take it back and fixed it but was inattentive and surley. She asked if we wanted our blackberry cobbler warm and it came cold. Why ask? The was an average place to eat. The food was not bad but wasn’t really good either, appears to cater to tours as the lot was filled with big buses. But, the price was right, we only had to pay $2.35 for taxes. We would eat here again for free and hope to get a better waitress. No alcohol.

Mel’s Hard Luck Diner. What a fun place to eat! Oh yeah, the food is good, too! This is the place that has singing staff, not just the wait staff. The cook crooned us a song, too. Several of the staff are American Idol finalists and all are very talented. But the best part is they are all very personable and interact with the diners. Their CDs are for sale.

St and I had the “sensational” salad w/chicken . . . mixed greens, with strawberries, oranges, almonds, grilled chicken, and raspberry vinegrette ($8.50) . . . great! K had a club sandwich w/fries ($8), and A had the soup/sandwich combo . . . cup of broccoli cheese soup and half a ham sandwich ($7). The food here is large portions and very good. We did not have room for their banana splits or sundaes but they were giant-sized and delicious looking. This was our second favorite place and we would definitely return. No alcohol here either.

On the way home, we stopped in Vinita, OK at Clanton’s. This is a old-fashioned café with lunch specials daily, and outstanding chicken fried steak. They raise their own beef and the CFS is hand cut, hand breaded, fork tender. At lunch, $6.59 buys you the daily special (liver/onions on Tues . . . meatloaf on Thurs . . . don’t remember the rest but they all sounded good) or a plate-size CFS, served with your choice of potato, veggie, a salad, and home made whole wheat rolls. Three of us got the CFS and it was fabulous! It was the best I have ever eaten and I’ve eaten a lot of them! Some had mashed potatoes and I opted for fries . . . real fries, not frozen. K had chicken and dressing and tator tots and raved about it also. Home made pie for dessert . . . coconut with whipped cream instead of meringue, very light and delicious. We all wished we were closer to Clanton’s. Not only is this a great place to eat but it is on Rt. 66, part of history.

That’s it . . . had a great time . . . can’t wait to return!

I cross posted this on TripAdvisor . . .

Sandy (in Denton)