July 12th, 2011
Even though we travel a lot, you might be surprised to learn that there are only so many restaurants we get the chance to eat at. As I documented before on the blog, more times than not, we’re bound to restaurants we can walk to. There is the occasional “lunch bus” that will take a group of guys to a local strip with some eateries, but more times than not, it’s up to you and your insoles to find lunch.
That is, unless you have a hookup, and I have one in Springfield. My good buddy, and Voice of the Springfield Cardinals, Jeff Levering, who promised me a great lunch at a local hole-in-the-wall called Grad School.
If you’ve ever seen Dinners, Drive-Ins, and Dives on the Food Network (click the link for Guy’s visit to one of my Dallas favorites, Twisted Root), you’ll agree that this is right in that show’s wheelhouse. First of all, here is what it looks like from the curb. Not much. But see that big silver exhaust jutting out of the wall? That’s the exhaust fan for the tiny kitchen inside. Although my camera couldn’t pick it up, there’s the most amazing smell of grilled goodness wafting throughout a 300 foot radius, begging you to go in. Temptation being what it is, I entered with Jeff’s guidance. The following events are real.
Upon entering, you can see pretty much the the entire dining area right away. There aren’t many tables to choose from, and if you get there much later than noon, you’ll probably be stuck standing outside. Immediately to your right is the exposed kitchen – not much bigger than that of many small apartments. They had two guys sharing real estate in this humble galley cooking pastas, fish tacos, burgers, and more. And, before we go any further, allow me to point out that this is also home to what I have to imagine is the only Obama ’08 bumper sticker in Springfield, MO. Just a guess.
One of the best parts about this place is how small the menu is, yet virtually everything looked great. If you walk a little ways down the only place you can walk once inside, you find the menu up on the wall. I might be mistaken, but I think this is a requirement to be considered a “dive.” Needless to say, there were just enough options to choose from, but I had this suspicion that if I passed on the burger, which came standard with two patties (good sign), I’d live to regret it. After some debate I settled on the cheeseburger and was intrigued by what was described on the menu as “soft, sharp cheddar cheese.” As it turns out, it’s hands down the best kind of cheese mankind can possibly melt on top a patty of beef – and it’s not even close. Behold, the best burger in the Texas League (sorry, In-N-Out), and some really outstanding fries as well.
Just when you think you know everything about the Best Burger in the Texas League, and the restaurant that serves it, there’s one more detail that, if left out, would fail to give you the full picture.
While we were waiting for our food to be served, Jeff said to me, “take a walk down to the end of the restaurant and check out what’s on the wall.”
So I did. ”Is this what I think it is? It can’t be, can it?” Yup. It is. I give you, Purple Jesus. For many, it’s the man who for so many years has helped them win their fantasy football league, Minnesota Vikings’ running back, Adrian Peterson. For some in Springfield, he’s the man who blesses their cheeseburgers. And, as I learned by speaking with one of the restaurant’s employees, this one-of-a-kind piece was painted on cardboard by a local artist named Francois. I promise I’m not making this up. The logical question is which is more rare in Springfield, MO: an Obama ’08 bumper sticker? Or a guy named Francois? Your guess is as good as mine.
The final trip to Springfield was a success. The ‘Riders took two out of three against the Cards, and I got to savor a truly unforgettable cheeseburger. I know this much, I can’t wait to dine with the Man in Purple once again next April. -AG
Here at Dickey-Stephens Park in North Little Rock, AR, they have a fantastic organ that really gives the ballpark a classic feel. Before the pre-game show I was able to record this short video. Pretty cool, huh?