With over 300 restaurants offering a wide variety of dining options, you may have a hard time choosing where to eat in Branson, Missouri. For some tasty and reasonably priced down-home food and a welcoming atmosphere, try these seven unique restaurants in the "live music show capital of the world."
1. Branson Cafe
In downtown Branson, you'll find historic buildings, Victorian lampposts and Branson's oldest restaurant. The Branson Cafe first opened in 1910 and has been operating in its current location since the 1920s. Its menu features breakfast dishes, sandwiches, burgers, soups, salads, and homestyle entrees such as fried chicken and country fried steak.
Stop by this no-frills diner for a hearty breakfast, for coffee and a bakery treat (warning: their fresh cinnamon rolls and Danish pastries sell out quickly), or for a satisfying comfort food lunch. Save room for pie. Branson Cafe's homemade pies have been featured on the Today show.
2. Farmhouse Restaurant
Also located in Branson's historic downtown, the family owned and operated Farmhouse Restaurant serves hearty food made in a real country kitchen. Their menu includes soup, salads, sandwiches, and a variety of dinner specialties, including chicken and dumplings, chicken fried steak, and a Bar-B-Que plate. Chicken fried chicken and lightly breaded catfish are signature dishes. You won't want to miss their house dessert either -- blueberry cobbler.
The Farmhouse Restaurant is a cheerful place with friendly staff. It is a favorite with locals and tourists alike.
3. Mel’s Hard Luck Diner
For a fun dining experience, head to the 1950s-themed Mel's Hard Luck Diner, conveniently located on the Branson Strip, for traditional American fare with a side of music. Singing waiters and waitresses serenade diners with their favorite songs as they serve. Sometimes cooks and bus staff join in too. Many of the singing staff members have been or are currently appearing in Branson's popular productions. A couple have become American Idol contestants.
Burgers, shakes, fried steak, battered cod, chicken fingers, sandwiches, wraps, soup, and salad are a sampling of what's on the menu at the diner where "we sing for your supper."
4. Billy Bob’s Dairyland
Billy Bob's Dairyland is a Branson dining legend. Located along the Branson Strip, this old-time burger joint is known as the place in Branson for burgers. In addition to its famous burgers, Billy Bob's serves hot dogs, chicken tenders, grilled cheese, chili, BLTs, and Frito pie, a dish made with Frito chips topped with chili, cheese, and onions. Accompany your burger or other order with fries, onions rings, a milk shake or a malt. Cobblers, fried pies, sundaes, and soft serve or hand-dipped ice cream are available for dessert.
The décor is 1950s retro and the prices are reasonable. Bring cash. Billy Bob's doesn't accept credit cards.
5. BillyGail’s Café
For a hearty breakfast or lunch, head to BillyGail's Café. The restaurant, housed in a former gas station and log cabin, is a little off the beaten path on state Highway 265, a short distance off bustling Highway 76. Vintage flea market finds decorate rooms inside the cabin. An attached country store offers crafts and souvenirs for sale.
BillyGail's Café consistently makes the list of the best places for breakfast in Branson. It is known for its extra large pancakes, hanging over plate edges. Other all-day breakfast options include biscuits and gravy, French toast, omelettes, and French cakes. French cakes are a Billy Gail's creation. They are pancakes dipped in egg batter and fried on the griddle to create a combination of pancake and French toast flavors. Lunch menu items include burgers, sandwiches, and homemade soup.
BillyGail's is only open from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. and is a cash-only restaurant.
6. White River Fish House
The White River Fish House is actually a floating barge with floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking Lake Taneycomo, a lake created in 1913 by a dam on the river the restaurant was named after. Owned by Bass Pro Shops, the restaurant is located next to the Bass Pro Shop along the promenade in the Branson Landing shopping and entertainment district. A short walk along a wooden pier takes you onto the barge. There are also spots for boaters to dock.
Inside, canoes hang from the wooden rafters. Old photographs, moose and deer heads, snowshoes, lanterns, and vintage accessories decorate the rustic wood walls. White River Fish House serves pasta, burgers, chicken, ribs, steak, and a large variety of fish dishes. Signature seafood dishes are brown sugar glazed salmon, Ozarks trout almondine, pan seared halibut, and crab topped redfish.
7. Danna’s BBQ and Burger Shop
Visit one of Danna's BBQ and Burger Shop's two locations for tender pulled pork, homemade burgers, smoked meat, fall-off-the-bone ribs, barbecue nachos, burgers, chicken, and more. Get a side of Memphis rolls, fried sourdough rolls with melted butter centers.
This family-owned restaurant makes its own barbecue rub and barbecue sauces. Beef and pork are smoked for 12 to 14 hours each day over hickory wood. Ribs, chicken, and sausages are smoked for four hours twice a day.
8. McFarlain’s Family Restaurant
Located inside the Branson IMAX Entertainment Complex, McFarlain’s Family Restaurant is known for its Ozark cuisine. Black-and-white photographs from the Branson Historical Society and items from a “simpler time” decorate the walls of this rustic restaurant.
McFarlain’s menu features hearty, cooked-to-order breakfasts, plus lunch and dinner entrees that include crispy country fried chicken or steak and slow-cooked pot roast. Their famous honey cornbread accompanies dinner meals. Ozark appetizers include fried green tomatoes.
Save room for dessert. McFarlain’s has a large selection of made-from-scratch cobblers and fruit and creme pies. Their one-of-a-kind Branson Traffic Jam Pie, made with cherries, strawberries, rhubarb, and cranberries, offers a combination of sweet and tart flavors.
For a bit of fun, ask to be seated at the rising table. After your food is served, you may feel as if you are shrinking, but what is actually happening is that staff are slowly raising the table. While the prank may initially confuse people around the table and diners seated nearby, it eventually elicits laughter. The good sports at the rising table receive a McFarlain’s Certificate of Membership that makes a great Branson souvenir.
9. Jackie B. Goode’s Uptown Cafe
Jackie B. Goode’s Cafe is a 1950s- and ’60s-themed restaurant with rock ’n’ roll music playing on the jukebox near an old-time soda fountain. Their menu includes burgers, country fried steak, fish and chips, and a variety of hot and cold sandwiches. A hearty breakfast buffet is served every day from 7:30 to 11 a.m. Sundaes, shakes, malts, ice cream sodas, banana splits, apple pie, and peach cobbler are available from the soda fountain. Jackie B. Goode’s Cafe is family-oriented with a kids menu, but also offers patrons beer, wine, and cocktails.
Jack D. Goode, the brother of owner David L. Goode, was a soldier killed in the Vietnam War. Jack was a musician and songwriter before joining the U.S. Armed Forces. David is keeping his brother’s memory alive by naming the cafe in his honor and featuring live entertainment. The restaurant vestibule contains a memorial tribute with Jack’s photo and over a dozen medals awarded to him.
Jackie B.Goode’s is open daily from 7:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. and features free live musical entertainment during breakfast, lunch, and dinner. A bit more history: The yellow taxi parked in front of the restaurant is a 1953 Henry J. Kaiser, which was manufactured from 1951 to 1954. It was also sold as an Allstate through the Sears and Roebuck catalog.
10. Shorty Small’s
Located on the Branson Strip, Shorty Small’s features “jumpin-off-the-bone” tender ribs and Southern-style cuisine. The Branson location is one of three Shorty Small’s restaurants. The first Shorty Small’s opened in a historic building in Little Rock, Arkansas, in 1980. There are now restaurants in Oklahoma City, Arkansas, and Branson, Missouri, too.
The menu includes homestyle burgers, soups and sandwiches, pulled pork, and Shorty’s original ribs. Catfish, roasted chicken, chicken tenders, and chicken fried steak are among the house favorites. Desserts include cheesecake, cobbler, apple pie, carrot cake, and a chocolate-chip-brownie sundae. There is also a kids menu.
According to the restaurant’s website, Shorty Small’s traces his story to 1888, when his daddy was a mining cook who made the worst pancakes ever. When Shorty grew up and inherited the family business, he got rid of breakfast and started making lunches and dinners. Shorty Small’s is open daily from 11:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. weekdays and 9 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.
Located in historic downtown Branson, nostalgic Clockers Cafe features home-style cooking with fresh, hand-cut, hand-breaded meat, pancake batter from scratch, and fresh pies and cobblers. The restaurant opens at 6 a.m. daily and is a long-time breakfast favorite. Items on the breakfast menu include pancakes, waffles, French toast, croissants, omelets, eggs Benedict, and hearty platters of ham, sirloin steak, or pork tenderloin served with eggs and hashbrowns. Breakfast is available all day, although the pancakes and French toast are not served after 11 a.m. Clockers’s biscuits and gravy are said to be the best in Branson.
Lunch and early dinner entrees include homemade soup, salads, a variety of burgers and sandwiches, fried catfish, country fried steak, chicken tenders, fish and chips, and daily specials. The prime rib sandwich is one of the restaurant’s most popular items. Closing time is 6 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 2 p.m. on Sunday.
There you have it: 11 great places to get home cooking at fair prices in the great city of Branson. We hope you get your fill!