Lambert's Cafe

Lambert’s calls themselves the “Home of the Throwed Rolls.”

Gimmick like that, they could do nothing more than throw the rolls.  It would be so easy.  Nobody’d say anything.   Just keep those hot soft yeasty rolls flying across the dining room into waiting hands, like lazy fly balls on a nice summer night.  The tourists’d go home happy.  Really, those perfect rolls, flying around, would be enough to make Lambert’s Café famous if the rest of the menu came from vending machines.  It would be so easy, just to phone it in.

But, bless them, they don’t.   The rolls are only the start.

In a just world, the already-famous “Home of the Throwed Rolls” would be famous for more than throwin’ rolls.  Ozark cooking should be better known in America, surely at least on a par with Thai food.  It’s good for the soul, if bad for the body.  Chicken-fried steak, big as hubcaps.  Chicken-fried chicken.  Actual honest salt-cured country ham, pinky and porky and leather-tough. Pass-around sides, like fried potatoes, and okra, and black-eyed peas.

But it’s the hog jowl that’ll chase me through my dreams.

It took my third visit to get up the nerve to order what’s described on the menu as, “A large serving of sliced jowl.”  I knew I had to try it, but it was just so risky to pass up all the safe choices, all the goodness I’d heard of.  But I grew to trust the menu, so jowl it was.  I was expecting something kinda like a wet pile of pulled pork.

What I got was bacon.  No, not bacon.  That’s not enough praise.  Hog jowl is the bacon they serve at Sunday brunch in Heaven.   Bacon half an inch thick, crunchy and fine on the outside, and so luscious in the middle you could spread it on toast for a treat.  It goes nice with the sorghum molasses they pass for the rolls, too, and also particularly with the fried-apple side.  Catch a roll, and you can fashion about the best sandwich anyone ever might.

As to desserts…in a half-dozen visits, I never once had room to try any of them.

Lambert’s Café has two locations in Missouri, Sikeston and Ozark.  See

(© 2010, Missouri Life)