Just outside Rolla, along I-44, is the city of St. James (pop. 4,216). Fishermen and park visitors pass through the Mayberry-size town on their way to Maramec Springs State Park and the old Ironworks. Military retirees come to reside at the historic Missouri Veterans’ Home.
The tree-lined streets and park have earned St. James the apt designation: “Forest City of the Ozarks.” For years the town was favored by funding from a foundation established by one of its early residents, Lucy Wortham James, great niece and benefactor of the R. G. Dun fortune (Dun and Bradstreet).
Try Just a Taste
But enough of the history (though the story of Dunmoor Mansion, that once graced the city, is a fascinating one). I want to take you along the main street of St. James to a spiffy restaurant, that would catch your eye in any community.
Just a Taste, as it’s called, sits on the corner next to Cardetti’s Flag store and is owned by members of the old family. The place has been there for four years and friends have urged us to stop on our way to, or from, the farm. But we were always in a hurry.
First Impressions Count
But one Friday earlier this summer, we stopped. Wow! What a great surprise! It was live-music night and the spacious, well-decorated restaurant was nearly full.. Happily, the performing group had a pleasant repertoire and a sound level that still allowed for table talk.
Just a Taste not only makes a good first impression, it follows through with a stunning menu. Their food is locally sourced and dishes prepared from scratch. The place also boasts a certified sommelier, as well as a mixologist and professional mead maker. This is not your average small town diner.
The Cardetti family has long been recognized for their good Italian cooking, so I immediately went with one of the half-dozen pasta dishes. My choice, the Pappardelle Bolognese, was as flavorful as I’ve had anywhere.
With the fish hatchery near by, naturally, trout was on the menu. JC ordered the Semolina-Crusted Whole Fried Trout. Robin had the Little Gem salad served with green goddess dressing, pecorino, anchovy, herbs and toasted focaccia. All was well prepared, promptly served, and attractively presented.
If you’re tootling along I-44, by all means stop for a meal. If you live nearby, you’re lucky.
Just a Taste. 200 N. Jefferson, St. James, MO. Open: Wed-Thu 4p-9p; Fri 4p-11p; Sat 11a-11p; Sun 11-4p. Closed: Monday and Tuesday.