Restaurant and Food Options in Branson
My favorite picks for where to eat while you're in town
Branson has a lot of chain restaurants, but I'm always a fan of eating local. What better way to enjoy what makes a local area special than to experience its flavors! Branson lies at the nexus of a number of culinary regions, so we're at home with everything from Southern fried catfish to barbecue to Midwestern pork tenderloin sandwiches and of course the all-American burger. And there's a surprising number of great ethnic options, too! The chain restaurants are the most visible, but if you look beneath the surface, there's a number of gems just waiting for you to discover. Here's my guide to help you unearth them.
These are NOT sponsored listings or paid advertisements! As a self-professed foodie, these are simply my favorite places to dine. :)
Barbecue: Star Bar Grill's Branson Beast sandwich wins my award for best barbecue sandwich in the state (yes, better than anything in Kansas City). Chef Cee's other creations are worth exploring, too. City Butcher (in Springfield) isn't in Branson, but it's worth stopping at on your way to or from town (or simply taking a drive up there during your stay) for absolutely amazing and authentic Central Texas-style barbecue (their moist brisket is as good as anything I've had in or near Austin). For more traditional competition-style BBQ, Gettin' Basted is quite good competition/KC-style BBQ.
Breakfast: BillyGail's near Silver Dollar City is an institution (famous for their oversized crepe-style pancakes), but it gets tremendously busy, so plan accordingly. For something a little more down-to-earth, Clockers in downtown is a pretty good "greasy spoon" diner and does well for breakfast.
Burgers: A few options here. Branson's most popular burger stop is Billy Bob's Dairyland, which feels like an old-fashioned malt shop (cash only). For more interestingness, I prefer the Mimi Burger at Danna's BBQ (or some of her other burger options). Danna's barbecue isn't my favorite, but her burgers are very good. A third option is Burger Shack (on 76 near Walmart). It’s very similar to the Five Guys style, but with even more free topping options and about a quarter as much grease (in other words, you don’t walk out of there feeling like you’ve just swum in an ocean of oil). Great flavors and one of the best milkshakes I’ve had in a long while.
Coffee: The nearby village of Hollister is home to Vintage Paris, a great, cozy, European-style second-wave coffee house serving third-wave-quality coffee plus a well-curated selection of wine and beer. (Note they cater to the nearby College of the Ozarks crowd, so they aren't open early but do stay open late.)
Comfort Food: Absolutely worth the drive is Flat Creek Restaurant about 30 minutes west on Highway 76 from Branson in Cape Fair. Everything on their menu is fantastic (including the burgers, steaks, and barbecue), but pay special attention to their fried chicken and their catfish, which is some of the best I've ever had anywhere. Portions are massive, prices are extremely reasonable, and the service is great!
Fine Dining: A special treat is a meal at Dobyns Dining Room at the Keeter Center, where College of the Ozarks Culinary Arts students serve up wonderful farm-to-table meals at very reasonable prices. And for true foodie-quality contemporary farm-to-table dining, head up to the very southern edge of Springfield and drop in at Progress, where Chef Daniel Ernce is doing some amazing and creative things with top-notch local ingredients.
Indian: Branson has a surprisingly good Indian option in India Clay Oven. Standard American/Punjabi cuisine but executed reasonably well and certainly one of the more interesting ethnic options in Branson.
Mediterranean: Vasken's Deli is one of my most frequent lunch spots for a quick but great meal. Their gyros are excellent, but I usually get the beef shawarma (my favorite). I've also had several other sandwiches and personal pizzas and all have been fantastic.
Mexican: For upscale (but moderately priced) Mexican semi-haute-cuisine (like what you might get at a decent restaurant in Mexico City), Botanas Premier Mexican is fantastic, especially if you order some of their more authentic dishes. For more street-food-inspired eats, Arandas Tacos is tops; their Tacos Al Pastor plate is excellent if you like (or have never tried) tacos al pastor. Fantastic salsas, too. About 15 minutes north of Branson on US 65 (so perfect for a stop when coming to or leaving Branson) at Saddlebrooke is Taqueria El Camino, a little taqueria counter inside the Phillips 66 gas station, at which Hector makes some fantastic tacos, burritos, tortas, alambres, and other authentic Mexican street food. Worth a stop.
Pizza: Rocco's New York Style Pizza does what its name suggests well enough to hold the #1 spot on TripAdvisor for Branson restaurants. If you like your pizza a little thicker, Mr. Gilberti's Place in Hollister makes a mean Chicago deep-dish pie (pro-tip: even if dining in, call ahead so it's ready when you get there; they take awhile to bake!). I haven't been personally, but Mr. G's Chicago Pizza in downtown Branson is a long-time spin-off from Mr. Gilberti's with a similar menu and equally good reviews. For a more creative (and excellent!) approach to pizza toppings, head out to Reeds Spring Pizza Company a short drive past Branson West. If you're looking for something a little more low-key for the kids or for takeout, Pizza World and Pizza By The Chef are both decent options.
Sandwiches: I'm addicted to Sugar Leaf's roast beef sandwich on salt and pepper bread, which is super juicy and moist and flavorful. Everything else on their menu is fantastic, too, especially the desserts they're famous for. You also can't go wrong with their peach iced tea. If you're in the area, the Pickin' Porch Grill serves up casual sandwiches at good prices. Out in Branson West is Mickey's 76 Drive In, which serves the best Chicago-style Italian beef I've ever had outside of Chicago (and better than some in Chicago), plus Italian sausage, Chicago-style hot dogs, gyros, and Phillys.
Sushi: You would absolutely never expect to find it in Branson, but some of the best sushi I've ever had is right on the Strip at Mitsu Neko Sushi (and I've been to Sushi Dai at the Tsukiji Fish Market in Tokyo and Morimoto in Philadelphia, plus I grew up in Alaska, so I'm very picky with my fish). It's not cheap, but they air-freight their fresh bigeye tuna in from Hawaii (shipments usually arrive Fridays) and (in season) fresh salmon from Kodiak, Alaska as well, so it's worth the premium price. Several of the rolls are quite interesting and inventive as well; the Blue Flame was an experience, though I tend to stick to the standard nigiri sushi that highlights the quality of the fish. Check in on Yelp when you get there and they'll give you a free edamame appetizer, which helps to offset some of the cost. Tell Roman and Kate that Chris sent you. (Their attached Cryptex Escape Room is a fun—and different—diversion.)
Thai: In a strip mall on the Strip, Thai Thai is actually one of the better Thai restaurants I've been to (and I've eaten at more street stalls in Bangkok and Chiang Mai than you can shake an elephant trunk at, plus fantastic Thai in Seattle and—a surprising Mecca for Thai people—Fairbanks, Alaska). Well worth a stop if you enjoy Thai.
I'm always on the hunt for great food, so if you've come across something that I've missed that's worth pointing out, let me know!