My chariot to freedom was a 1966 Plymouth Fury III, a four door, Spartan, bright white monstrosity that guaranteed unfettered access to the many diners, dives and burger joints that dotted the landscape in central Missouri. My first driver’s license, also issued in 1966, was my ticket to see the world, a part of which was Springfield, the Queen City of the Ozarks. I made a number of day trips to Springfield, and almost always enjoyed lunch at one of the many great eateries in that city. Somehow, I never made it to Casper’s Chili in downtown Springfield. I added this splendid little eatery to my list of places that I adore. Why, you ask……..
The sterile environment of chain restaurants where America can grab a consistently prepared, aesthetically pleasing meal in the company of folks who like their food in a hurry, has never been my first choice. Styrofoam is another of life’s little nuisances that I abhor, ranking right along with a bored wait staff that is there because they have to, as opposed to want to, earn their keep in this business. Efficient, yes….fun, no. Instead, we regularly peruse the trip advisor or other sites that are careful to include little places with big characters, where you enjoy a little of the local flavor. Casper’s chili is just such a place.
It is a Quonset hut, a reminder that shelter can be ingenious and simple at the same time, situated in an interesting but old part of town. It doesn’t seat many, thus permitting the waitress, a lady that Trump would have never fired on his reality television show, to chat a bit as she hustles one of the few menu items out to the tables. The chili is old school, bland to my taste, but flavorable and easily modified by the various pepper sauces on the table as well as the onions and cheese that is served along side the bowl. The bowl is a real bowl, the kind you have to wash after use, and is on a saucer to catch the overflow from the huge ladle of chili that is de rigueur for this diner. The burgers are smash burgers, thin patties on top of one another, with that wonderful texture that make each one of them unique. Bagged chips, tasty onion rings and the accompanying banter with the waitress who is as interested in you as you are the food……..my kind of place. All the while you can enjoy the panoramic art display in the form of various posters and other stuff that graces the gentle curve of an old, very old Quonset hut with a climate control system out of the 50s, mounted through a hole carefully sawed into the timeless old structure. Leave your American Express at home, they like cash here, again just like it used to be!
I am fortunate to discover this great little diner before age and a cantankerous digestive system preclude enjoying this wonderful if not challenging fare. I would have been proud to beach my patrol car out front….if I would have only known. Caspers is that kind of place….you know what they say about choosing a place to eat. Stop in if you see police officers eating there…….
….they know where the good stuff is!