It’s spring — get out and explore Southeast Missouri and beyond. Here are a few gems I’ve discovered throughout this beautiful region we get to call home:
The Mudcat Coffee House in Oak Ridge, Missouri
The 1911 building that is home to this restaurant-coffee shop was once a hardware store and is complete with a jail holding cell in the basement, which the town used when it was first established. From the vintage Formica-top tables and funky mismatched chairs, to the beautiful vent hood above the grill made by a local farmer from his grain bin, this is a place where everyone knows each other, a place that feels like home. Enjoy it while trying original recipes you can’t get anywhere else. (Example A: The Gato Caliente. Espresso with chocolate and homemade ghost pepper sauce.)
Villainous Grounds in Perryville, Missouri
This coffee shop has a cozy downstairs, friendly people and delicious coffee. Bonus: there’s a comic book shop on the second floor, as well as art on display from local artists and artisans. While you’re on the square in Perryville, check out Petunia and Lilly’s Flower Shop, Hopi Lane music store and Incredible Edibles, just down the street.
The Pie Safe in Pocahontas, Missouri
The Pie Safe building dates to 1910 and was the original Bank of Pocahontas. There, amid the lovely, homey decor of her bakery and restaurant, owner Sharon Penrod makes daily specials for customers to choose from each day and gathers in-season fruits and nuts from which she makes her pies. History, locality and homemade pie in a tucked-away rural Missouri town; what more could you want?
I love small places, and Vienna qualifies. Just an hour’s drive from Cape Girardeau, this town hosts a trailhead for the 45-mile hiking and biking Tunnel Hill State Trail. The Foreman Depot is also in the park with the trail head, housing a museum about the nature and history of the area. Eat at the pizza place, Family Pizza, on the corner of the town’s square, then browse through the antique shops around the square or check out the flea market that happens in the park every summer Saturday morning. This is where I learned a pro tip: locals pronounce the “Vie” part of “Vienna” with a long “i” sound so it rhymes with “tie.”
Dogwood-Azalea Festival in Charleston, Missouri
This festival, April 11-14, 2019, literally has it all: a town adorned in beautiful dogwoods and azaleas, a 5K race, an antique bazaar. A candlelight street tour, a carnival, carriage rides. A pioneer days encampment, a beauty pageant, a parade. A dog show, swine races and tours of people’s homes, the Mississippi County Historical Society and the 1873 St. Henry Church. Storytellers-magicians-musicians-comedians Professor Farquar and Miss Polecat Annie will also be there. Grab someone you love get yourselves there, too.