Anyone who knows me can attest to one thing; I am obsessed with Kansas City food. For real, hold just one conversation longer than six minutes with me, and I guarantee I'll somehow turn the topic onto something like "the BEST burger I had the last week in Westport" or this "phenomenal new flavor the ice cream place in Brookside just added." That being said, I actually didn't grow up as this exuberant KC foodie. In fact, I didn't grow up in Kansas City at all. Springfield, MO is where all my edible obsessions began, and  there are just some restaurants there that will always have a special place in my food-ridden heart. This became incredibly apparent the other week when I went back for a visit, and not only went out to coffee and dinner, but also to lunch, dinner, coffee, and donuts all within a 10 hour period... After that, I realized there was no way I could NOT make a tribute to the places where my love of all things "please get in my mouth" began; so here's my list of "10 Food Places You Crave When You Leave Springfield, MO."

1. Bourbon Chicken From the Battlefield Mall (Max Orient)

Sarah Atallah

I really don't know if it's because they've covertly trained our tastebuds by feeding us samples every time when we walk through the foodcourt doors, OR if it's just because they put crack inside the pretzel sticks they use as skewers; but seriously, that chicken is just too addictive. It's honestly to the point where I can't go through the Battlefield foodcourt and not get a sample. It doesn't matter if I just engorged myself with a full course meal; I literally just cannot say, "no" to that sweet, glazed, for the love of god, chicken. Sometimes I actually get sad when we go out to eat and then go to the mall, because I know it's just not acceptable by any societal standard for me to walk up there and get myself a full plate of chicken when I literally just stopped eating approximately five minutes prior. It's not like the food station is run by a 5 star chef, or they have some secret ingredient from a magical land (or maybe they do; it would actually explain a lot), the chicken is just plain good... And honestly, I don't think I will ever stop craving it. 

2. Hurts Donut Company 

Day or night, rain or shine—Hurts will always be waiting for you. Open "25 hours a day, 8 days a week" this speciality donut hub is a pride and soul of the Springfield community. My particular donut obsessions include the Homer classic and the infamous Cookie Monster, but if you're looking for a cake donut, I have friends who swear up and down by the Slim Shady. They also do these donut shakes if you're just looking to be just completely donut-extra. Hurts has two locations in Springfield, but if you're looking for the true experience, I recommend trekking it out to the original in downtown. Regardless of which flavor you choose, I guarantee that as soon as one of those donuts hits your taste buds, you'll be addicted for life. 

3. Pineapple Whip 

Seriously, what actually is pineapple whip? Is it frozen custard? Is it a sorbet? Honestly, it tastes more like some weird hyper-fusion of both. Well, regardless of what it is, oh, my goodness, does it taste good! They always have the original pineapple flavor available but if you're looking to be adventurous they always have an additional one of the seasonal flavors which rotate between locations. History wise, the Pineapple Whip company actually started out as small family run shack only available at the Ozark Empire Fair, but due to huge popular demand, the frozen treat has blossomed into a full time, all-year, business. They now have three locations in the Springfield area, and if you're ever craving the frozen fruity delight, "just follow the hula girl." 

4. Mexican Villa

The first Mexican restaurant to ever open in Springfield, Mexican Villa has for sure earned its spot on this list of beloved 417 cuisines. The first location on National has been around since 1951, and over the years, six more have popped up in the Springfield area. The Sancho is a big fan favorite with its combination of beef, cheese, lettuce, and burrito sauce all wrapped in a flour tortilla, and I'm personally a huge supporter of their Chile con Queso. A friend of mine is totally obsessed with the Taco Burger, but regardless of what you get, make sure you test out the hot sauce—it's so good, they even sell take home bottles!

5. Peking House

Who would have thought this midwestern Missouri town would come to be known for its own "Chinese" delicacy? Springfield Cashew Chicken is such a big thing, we even have t-shirts for it—multiple t-shirts. I'm pretty sure you could drive down any road in the city and there would be AT LEAST one sketchy Chinese place selling the stuff, but a general consensus will tell you that Peking House does it best. The chicken has this kind of nutty gravy thing going for it that's unique when compared to any other oriental dish and, regardless of any reservations you may have, its just one of those things you've got to try. 

6. Grad School

A favorite among the college crowd, Grad School can be found in the heart of downtown and is a must on the list of Springfield classics. I've never been to the place and  seen it not completely packed, so you know it's got to be good. The diner has an energetic feel, and they even make all their buns and sauces in house daily. My personal favorite is The Full Ride burger, but I'm also a huge fan of both their pastas. Regardless of what you get, visit the place, and you're bound to be in for some great food and an awesome time. 

7. Andy's Frozen Custard

I know, I know, Andy's has franchised—trust me, I showed up on opening day at the Kansas City location and cried a little bit. But let me tell you, those first couple years I lived in KC, and an Andy's wasn't around? it was pretty rough. So this is for everywhere that Andy's hasn't branched out to yet. Technically, Andy's started at Lake of the Ozarks, but after the custard shack took off in popularity, they moved on down to Springfield. I try to tell people how big a deal Andy's actually is, and here's the best perspective I can give you: there are six Andy's locations in Springfield, MO. Guess how many Quik Trip gas stations are in KC (not including those in the suburbs like Mission, OP, Lee's Summit, etc.)? Seven. Yeah, and they just keep adding them... Gotta love that frozen custard. 

8. Mudhouse Coffee

Another list maker found in downtown, Mudhouse is a top pick for coffee house in Springfield. It's a place that I've been going to for so long that my favorite drink, the "Co-co-cabana-tribe," isn't even technically still on the menu—but they'll still make it if you ask. I'm definitely a lover of the frozen coffees, as I've had every flavor at least once, and besides the tribe I'm also a big fan of their Grasshopper (especially if you're feeling something a little minty). Morning or night the place is always busting, and it doesn't matter if you're looking for some caffeine or the just a chill place to relax, Mudhouse is not one to disappoint. 

9. Bambinos Cafe

Voted one of the "Best Italian Restaurants" and literally "Best Hidden Restaurant" by 417 Magazine, this cafe is so off the beaten path that unless you're a local, you probably haven't heard of it. The original is tucked away in a residential area by MSU, making it a walking distance favorite among the students on campus. Supposedly, the restaurant building used to be a grocery back in the 1930s, but it's since been converted to the beloved cafe with a menu full of Italian favorites. You can't go wrong with the pizzas or pastas, but if you're looking for my suggestion, for sure try the Ziti. It may take first timers a little longer to find than your average Italian place, but I promise that once you get there you'll be so glad you made it. 

10. Keen Bean

tea, beer, coffee
Sarah Atallah

All right, all right, you caught me. I'm not actually from Springfield, MO, I'm really from a little town about 25 minutes west called Mount Vernon. That being said, there's pretty much nothing to do in my small town, so by default, I spent all my free time in Springfield (which I think totally gives me the authority to write this article). Now any time I did spend in Mount Vernon was spent at our local coffee house, Keen Bean. To be honest this coffee shop is by far what I miss most from the great 417, and it should absolutely be at #1. The only reason Keen Bean is so far down on this list is because, technically, it's not in Springfield... but it is really close. Everything this place makes is amazing, from the coffee, to the soup, to the smoothies, to the stuffers... I feel like I spent my entire high-school life living off their frozen mochas, but truly, there is just nothing I don't crave off the menu. It's a great study spot with this quirky hipster atmosphere, and it's super neat because they display local artists' work literally everywhere. The staff is awesome, and order a drink once, and I promise they'll remember your name forever after. Honestly, you can say I'm biased all you want, but they did just officially win the award "Best Coffee Shop in the 417" so... If you're ever passing through, its definitely worth the stop. 

So here I sit with a big shout out to the Springfield, MO food industry. Without you, who knows if I ever would've found my undying passion for all things meats and eats. The restaurants making up this list not only helped form my fabulous palate, but also they will forever fill a special niche in this modern foodie heart. It doesn't matter that I'm now in KC or that I plan to spend the rest of my life finding the best foods across the world. The restaurants that make up the heart of my beloved 417 simply cannot be replaced.