One of the residual benefits of having campaigned in all of Missouri’s 114 counties is knowing its diners, dives and drive-ins. This week, on my way to Memphis, I stopped in Sikeston for lunch at one of our more popular tourist destinations: Lambert’s Cafe. Now Lambert’s is not a hang out for those with diminutive appetites. But it’s a welcome oasis for road hungry travelers in search of comfort food, Southern-style and plentiful.
If you’re hankering for a plate of chicken and dumplings, ham and beans, liver and onions, meat loaf, fried chicken and catfish, or sausage and sauerkraut, this is your place. Meals come with two side dishes, plus freebies known as “pass arounds.” Just nod your head and a roving server will slap a large spoonful of fried potatoes and onions, mac and tomatoes, fried okra, black-eyed peas, or apple butter onto your plate. Other regional delicacies not to be overlooked include fried bologna, chicken gizzards, and smoked hog jowl.
The centerpiece of Lambert’s home-style cooking is their bread. The “home of the throwed roll” got its unique designation years ago, when the restaurant became so crowded a server couldn’t reach a man wanting bread. “Just toss it,” the diner yelled out. And he did. Since then, playful patrons have plucked thousands of the yeasty missiles from the air. A few hit the floor, but 200-300 dozen rolls make it onto plates each day.
Lambert’s is as much entertainment as it is over-sized helpings of mashed potatoes smothered with gravy—brown or white. All this fun takes place in a humongous building filled with photos, old auto license plates, trivia, collectibles and folk art. Servers in red suspenders, bow ties and baseball caps go out of their way to see that customer have fun with their meal.
If you’re headed toward one of the restaurant’s three locations, Sikeston, Ozark, or Foley, AK, go on an empty stomach and with cold cash (or check) in hand. No credit cards. Have fun.