If you don’t get to the Hungry Hunter when it opens at 7 or shortly thereafter, you will wait for a seat, sometimes as much as an hour. It’s that popular, and with good reason.
Portions are immense and prices are reasonable, which are good things; but the real value is the quality of what’s served. Despite hordes of tourists who would eat anything big and cheap, the Hungry Hunter is a diner that maintains good, from-scratch cooking standards (which explains why it’s popular among locals, too).
Chicken-fried steak, for example: It is hand-cut, lightly breaded, then grilled rather than deep-fried, resulting in a rather elegant cutlet on which fragile crust stars as much as the beef within. Cream gravy on top adds an Ozark accent, but is not the least bit overwhelming. At lunch, a smaller version is available in a bun; or you can get a slice of pork cooked the same way, becoming a modest and satisfying version of the Midwestern tenderloin sandwich.
Side dishes to accompany a chicken-fried steak breakfast are bountiful enough to crowd a large oval plate. Three eggs, a biscuit, and sausage gravy share space with a cylinder of beautiful gold hash brown potatoes. Good as the hash browns are, I highly recommend upgrading them to “Bob’s Special Hash Browns,” for which the crisp spuds are folded around a great lode of Swiss cheese, sour cream, peppers, onions, and mushrooms. Add bacon, ham, or sausage to the mix and Bob’s hash browns become a memorable meal unto themselves.
Other noteworthy breakfast choices include French toast made using house-baked bread, plate-wide pancakes, and big cinnamon buns overflowing with sweet icing.
It’s good food, but equally impressive is Hungry Hunter’s attitude. In a destination town like Branson, it is not uncommon for very popular restaurants to forsake personal charm for programed service. But in this restaurant, one does not feel like just another visitor on a theme-park ride. The staff goes out of its way to make guests feel like … guests.