Legendary | Worth driving from anywhere
Keeter Center | Sophisticated Country Fare in Branson
Review by: Michael Stern
Worldly Meals in a Country Town
Looking for an extraordinary meal in Branson, Missouri? For sophisticated country fare cooked with expertise and served with enthusiastic hospitality, go to the Keeter Center. Located on the campus of College of the Ozarks, it is a hotel. The Keeter Center restaurant combines refined hotel dining room ambience with rustic charm. Here, students earn their education (rather than pay for it) by working in the kitchen and as the waitstaff.
Reconfigured downhome classics stand out on the bill of fare. Recipes use such local ingredients as cured-on-campus ham and campus-raised pork, tomatoes grown in college gardens, Ozark trout, and ice cream from the college creamery.
I spent a few days eating in this dining room, and couldn’t get enough. I won’t soon forget a dish called Peachy Pig. This one combines smoke-cooked pork and ham in peach glaze. They pile it atop a bed of smoked gouda cheese grits. Nuggets of fried okra surround it. Deviled egg fanciers need to know about an appetizer of deviled eggs flavored with pimento cheese. Alongside them comes a cup full of shattering-crisp pork rinds. The contrast of creamy egg and crunchy pork inspires taste-buds joy.
Dessert is Dreamy
The kitchen triumphs at dessert. Alas, I missed the Thursday-to-Saturday evening special of 10-layer chocolate cake served with whipped cream and raspberry sauce. But the raspberry white chocolate bread pudding I did savor rocked my world. I do not necessarily love white chocolate. But this sweet, fruity, butter-rich concoction inspires reconsideration. Flake-crusted apple pie, served warm under a scoop of vanilla ice cream, put a big smile on my face.
Service With a Smile … and a Purpose
All this sophisticated country fare is served by students who are good at their job and truly relish doing it. College of the Ozarks is nicknamed Hard Work U. It is clear that for these young men and women, good hard work is a joy of life.
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