The Cave Restaurant in Missouri’s Ozarks has the unique distinction of being housed in a cave. Finding out about this restaurant was one of those least expected travel surprises.
We had popped into the Talbot House Antiques in Waynesville, Missouri, a small town near Ft. Leonard Wood, on our quest for something “interesting” to see.
Talbot House Antiques is one of those chock-full-of-everything-but-the-kitchen-sink type stores converted from a several room house. Here, browsing items is a trip through the history of kitschy and classy Americana. Before we left, the owner handed us a map, pointing to the spot labeled “The Cave Restaurant.”
“You have to go here,” he said. “There’s nothing like it. It’s worth the drive.” Now, that sounded interesting. So off we went, map in hand, following the route that to Richland Highway 7 through some of the prettiest countryside of Missouri.
Located on a limestone bluff that overlooks Gasconade River, The Cave Restaurant gave us far more than interesting. Amazement comes to mind. Unusual? You bet.
First, after turning into the parking lot, we found out that a van brings people to the restaurant due to a lack of parking space at the top, 100 ft. above the river. The van makes continuous trips, shuttling people along the winding road that offers a bit of a thrill with each turn.Once at the top, the restaurant is accessible by circular stairs or an elevator. We took the stairs for the view.
The restaurant that began as a “crazy idea” in 1989, became a reality four years later after Dave Hughes and his wife Connie, the former owners, cleaned out rocks, debris and bird poop, and figured out how to expand the interior to house a restaurant. In the 1920s during Prohibition, the cave had served as a dance hall complete with a still, so a restaurant idea was not so far-fetched.
Air conditioning, dehumidifiers and heating keeps the climate comfortably controlled. Plus, this is not a Fred Flintstone version of a cave either, but more of a fairyland grotto with carpeting. There is a waterfall, fountains and a different eating sections partly established by the contours of the cave.
With enough space to seat 245 people, the cave is not claustrophobic. Quirky fun is more like it.
Happily, the menu does not disappoint. American cuisine is its specialty. You can chow down on steak, seafood, chicken and fish dishes, or a sandwich selection. Or, do what we did–stock up on appetizers. The restaurant’s bar serves a wide selection of libations as well.
Although we didn’t have time, you can expand The Cave Restaurant experience. There are cabin rentals and river trips. We did have time to browse the gift shops located at the van drop off/pick up point near the base of the restaurant’s stairs and the elevator.
If you go, take note of the restaurant’s hours. As a point of reference, The Cave Restaurant is located about 2 1/2 hours west of St. Louis and 1 1/2 hours east of Springfield.
Winter -Late Oct. – April; closed: Mon. & Tues. open: Wed. – Fri., 4:00 – 8:30 pm; Sat. 11:30 am – 8:30 pm
Sun. 11:30 am-5:00 pm
Summer – April – Sept.; 7 days a week 11:30 am – 8:30 pm
The Cave Restaurant and Resort
26880 Rochester Rd.
Richland Missouri 65556
Blog post and photos courtesy of Jamie Rhein, member of Midwest Travel Writers Association