One of the most boring things you can do to ruin a perfectly good Ozarks vacation is eat at a chain restaurant that you eat at back home. While there’s nothing inherently wrong with going to a good chain, it’s always good to promote local businesses and get a taste of local cuisine when you’re somewhere new. Branson has some of the best local eateries in the area and cater to tastes of all kinds. You’ll even be able to please those picky eaters you have stuffed in the back seat of your minivan. If you want quality service from friendly Branson locals, here are nine restaurants that are locally owned and operated in the Branson area.
Billy Gail’s is a classic Branson staple. The parking lot (recently expanded!) has been full ever since they opened their doors in 1995 by the Blong family, who fell in love with the local rolling hills and decided they didn’t want to live or work anywhere else. The log cabin-style gives off a downhome feel that is matched by the signs and trinkets that adorn the walls inside.
Their menu spans breakfast, lunch, and dinner, with classics that you would expect to see from a diner, but amped up. Their sloppy biscuit is some of the best biscuits and gravy you’ll ever have. And their tri-tip sandwich will have you begging for more of that smokey goodness. They also have staples such as chicken tender baskets and burgers (although the flavor is anything but basic).
The Keeter Center is a very unique restaurant on our list. While it is widely known as some of the best food in Branson, it isn’t located in a standard area that you would think to look for a restaurant. Instead, it’s nestled away on the beautiful College of the Ozarks campus. It still has that rustic Ozarks feel, but on a more upscale level.
You would expect the menu to have a higher price tag based on the quality and feel of the dining area. However, the meals are pleasantly affordable and have a spread ranging from fried chicken to locally sourced trout cakes. If you’re looking for a good twist on a classic, take a look at their barbecue mac and cheese.
Flat Creek is not technically in the Branson borders. It is only a short drive out in Cape Fair (also with a location in Republic), but don’t let the drive deter you from a visit here. You will be greeted with a fantastic view of a local favorite, Flat Creek where it meets with Table Rock Lake. You may be greeted with a line, but that’s just how good the food is.
The menu at Flat Creek is vast and has some of the best fish and seafood offerings in the area. If you like good catfish and hushpuppies, this is your spot. They also have a really cool Thanksgiving meal that they do every Thanksgiving Day that has become a favorite of people from all over the area. I would venture to say that Flat Creek has the most generous meal portions out of any of the restaurants near Branson that aren’t a buffet.
Do you like BBQ? Of course you do. There is no shortage of information about the BBQ at Pickin’ Porch Grill. This restaurant is also not in a classic sort of location. Instead, it is nestled away within the Branson Craft Mall. A fun aspect to Pickin’ Porch is that you can go in for dinner and watch some live local music!
The menu has everything you could hope for. BBQ. Po Boys. Even some incredible BBQ or fish tacos! If someone can look at the Pickin’ Porch menu and not find something they like, then they’re just being stubborn.
You know the old saying about food that it’s “so nice they named it twice?” That’s how I feel about Thai Thai Cuisine. When you think Branson, Missouri, you probably wouldn’t think of Thai food. But that’s a mistake. This isn’t just a restaurant someone opened to fill a niche flavor, Thai Thai is genuine Thai food at its best.
With food options on the menu some may not be familiar with, they do a fantastic job of communicating what is in the dish. Also, the staff is very knowledgeable and can help guide you to a good decision. They also have options to make it extra spicy if that’s your thing! Another way Thai Thai goes above and beyond on is offering vegan and gluten-free options.
Tequila’s started just a few minutes outside of Branson in the smaller Branson West, Missouri. It was so popular that they decided to expand into Branson itself and they haven’t looked back. It’s ran by some of the friendliest people you could imagine who make sure your dining experience is everything you hoped for.
The menu is pretty standard fare for Mexican food, with some deluxe burritos, quesadillas, and fajitas mixed in. The nice thing is that basically everything is under $10 besides some of those deluxe items mentioned, and they’re fajitas. However, the fajitas are fantastic and come in a very generous portion. You can also get some great margaritas mixed up!
Sugar Leaf is one of my family’s favorite locations. I feel like my sister-in-law posts pictures there weekly and each of my nephews have all of their birthday cakes made from there. While headed into Sugar Leaf, you can build your appetite by hopping into the other shops at the Grand Village Shops. All of the shops at the Grand Village are locally owned and operated, with that good Branson charm to them.
Sugar Leaf has some of the best bakery items in the business. I don’t think I’ve had a bad dessert item from there in all the years I’ve been going. The cakes, scones, and cookies are always prepared perfectly. Make sure to enjoy some of these excellent items after you have lunch there! That’s right, it isn’t just a bakery. They have great breakfast and lunch options, primarily consisting of several sandwich options.
Since I’ve already taken you to the Grand Village Shops, I’ll mention another one of their local favorites: Mel’s Hard Luck Diner. This place has a truly unforgettable atmosphere that screams Branson. The inside decorations and menu take you back in time to a 1950’s diner… if it were set in a musical. That’s right, the wait staff sings to you as they serve. Fortunately for everyone, they do it well.
What sets Mel’s apart from other diner food is their absolutely massive dessert menu. Also, the desserts themselves are quite large. The food is classic, and you can’t go wrong with whatever you choose.
If you’re walking around in the downtown area of Branson just above the Branson Landing, make sure to visit Branson Café. While it doesn’t have any of the “gimmicks” you may expect from a show town like Branson, it does have great food and a convenient location.
The menu is everything you’d hope. Breakfast is filling and prepares you for the day, and the country fried steak will get you ready for your mid-day nap before you get back out for more shopping. Everything is well-crafted and affordable. You can’t go wrong here.
There are far more locally operated restaurants than these listed, but this will give you a pretty good start to the wonderful dining options that Branson offers! Is there a restaurant that you expected to see on this list, but didn’t? Let us know about it!