November 14, 2017
By Molly Riddle, Director of Content Strategy at Mostly Serious
I first set foot in downtown Springfield when I moved to this lovely city in 2009. I was a college freshman at Drury University, and my friends and I desperately needed places to hole up and study or just get away from the chaos of dorm life. We found refuge most often in the softly lit corners of Mudhouse, our hands melting large glasses of Funky Monkeys (which, by the way, turned out to be my gateway drug to utter coffee abandon). We spent countless hours eating spanakopita at Nonna’s and wandering in and out of galleries during Art Walk.
That’s the time my love affair with downtown Springfield began, but the downtown Springfield it was then is not the downtown Springfield it is today. In eight short years, these blocks have exploded with life and personality. The majority of downtown’s shuttered buildings have been fixed up and reopened as luxe apartments or upscale bars or small businesses. And although that growth has come with setbacks and its share of closings as well, the difference between 2009 downtown Springfield and 2017 downtown Springfield is, overall, utterly night and day. I feel lucky that I’ve gotten to witness it since I’ve always been nearby, and after more than three years spent working in the thick of it all at Mostly Serious, I’ve definitely developed a soft spot for the things that I feel makes downtown Springfield so awesome. Because there’s no time to give you my top 50, here are my top five.
Bonus reason: An occasional appearance by the Ozark Mountain Flower Truck.
If you’re not a local, one thing you should know about every true-blue Springfieldian is that they have an opinion on where the best cashew chicken in Springfield can be found. Even if they don’t like cashew chicken, they have an opinion. And if they don’t, I’d be suspicious about whether they are who they say they are if I were you.
My personal opinion is that the best cashew chicken in Springfield is at Yan’s Chinese, which sits snug on the corner of Kimbrough and Cherry by Missouri State University. I’ve eaten a lot of cashew chicken at a lot of different places and Yan’s is hands down my favorite (plus, Yan’s has an authentic menu that’s hard to beat). But Rice House, which is literally a stone’s throw away from Yan’s, also has extremely good cashew chicken.
Between monthly meet-ups for organizations like Springfield Creatives, introductions between mutual friends at coffee shop run-ins, weekend community events, and people walking into the Mostly Serious office at random just to get acquainted, I’ve met dozens of wonderful, talented,community-minded people in the handful of years I’ve worked downtown. I’ve even met people while working out in the evenings at the downtown YMCA. Downtown helps foster professional and personal connections in a way that’s hard to come by anywhere else.
I couldn’t ask for a better work location in Springfield considering I’m an irreversible caffeine addict with a non-negotiable requirement to start each and every morning (and afternoon, and sometimes early evening) with a good, strong cup of coffee. In downtown Springfield, the coffee choices are many, and I take advantage of a few of them on steady rotation. That said, some might call my monthly coffee budget excessive, but hey—I’ve worked in southside offices with nothing in the way of coffee but an ancient bin of Folger’s. I’m living in greener pastures now.
When I’m in a rush before a morning meeting, I’ll jog down to Mudhouse for a large grab-and-go cup of coffee, which runs me a mere $2.25 and grants me the privilege of skipping the line. If I’ve got a little more time to kill, I’ll head down to The Coffee Ethic and put myself through an existential crisis trying to decide between an immaculately poured latte or a cold brew (and probably catch up with a few friends or acquaintances all the while). And if I just need a long walk to problem solve a work task or if the weather is especially lovely, I’ll trek down to Kingdom Coffee’s sleek setup by Springfield Brewing Co. Wherever I end up, it’s all great coffee and great company.
Even though I live on the southeast side of Springfield now, I’ll gladly drive downtown and back more than once a day if it means I can grab Friday night drinks at Golden Girl Rum Club, Saturday morning workouts at the Y, Saturday night shows at the Outland, and Sunday morning breakfasts at Gailey’s. When the weather’s nice, I’ll spend a reclusive Saturday afternoon catching up on reading at Jordan Valley Park. But festival season is the possible way to spend a weekend downtown—the few times I’ve had to miss an annual Cider Days or Arts Fest were serious disappointments.
There’s a lot to love about every corner of Springfield, but downtown puts our city’s best movements on display. The movement for more public art can be found on unassuming brick walls in alleys and in installations around Park Central Square. The movement for shopping local is in the doorways of stores like Bookmarx and A Cricket in the House and in the many art galleries. The movement for big city dining experiences is in CB Social House’s downstairs tavern-like bar and in The Order’s luxe booths. The movement for classic, so-good-you-go-every-week dining experiences is alive and well in Casper’s and Gailey’s and Joselin’s. The movement for support and self-expression in the community is in every flyer and sidewalk chalk message.
Downtown Springfield is a product of years of hard work and leaps of faith on the part of the community that lives and works in these blocks, which makes me love and appreciate its growth all the more.