Montgomery City makes me sad

One of my favorite things to do is cruise around backroads taking as much time to get from point A to point B. With young kids this is ill-advised, as it usually takes quite a bit longer and they tend to find less charm in the scenery. So I enjoy it when a work trip comes up and I can pick my way through the neglected small towns and diners of rural Missouri. But sometimes those diners turn out to be terrible, smoky shitholes. More on that later.

A few weeks ago I found myself in Montgomery City early for a work meeting and decided to take a look around. A long line of impeccably parked, rusting hulks of cars from the 1940s (?) was kind of interesting. As was the abandoned stroller next to the vacant offices at the corner of the two main thoroughfares. But mostly in a sad, Dorothea Lange kind of way.

Still, you can often get good diner food in towns like this. So it was with a sense of optimism that I stepped into Dani Mac’s Steakhouse just south of the downtown area. I was greeted by a wall of smoke. Or rather, not smoke itself, but the collective stank of what must have been 20,000 cigarettes the night before (the place clearly doubles as a nightclub in the evenings). Not a great start.

Do not let the charming camp fool you: Dani Mac's is an awful dump.

Still, I sat down and ordered the pork tenderloin sandwich. Normally this is a pretty failsafe option – take slice of loin, pound thin, fry – but what rested on my plate was the size and texture of a hockey puck. It was awful, bad enough that I just threw in the towel. I would eat lunch elsewhere.

And so I found myself at Happy Joe’s Bar and Grill, way up on the other side of downtown. It was next to the Knights of Columbus building, which had a handy warning out front in case I got preggers at lunch and had any shifty ideas:

Few people know Montgomery City is home to the planet's most stylistically bankrupt and soulless depiction of the Madonna and child.

I walked up to the aluminum shed for secondlunch. 

Happy Joe’s served me a fine Cubano sandwich and fries. Not a world-beater, but fine. Regardless, there are small towns across Missouri that offer quality scenery and good food (talking to you, Freeburg). Montgomery City isn’t one of them.

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Author: Scott

I am a married father of two. I graduated from Rock Bridge High School and then Mizzou before spending six years in the Washington, D.C. area. We returned to Columbia, Missouri in 2006.

14 thoughts

  1. I used to drive through there all the time for work. Your assessment is dead-on. I had the “burrito” once at Dani Mac’s when it was still a “Mexican” restaurant. I never returned.

  2. About 10 years ago, for the span of about 9 months, Montgomery City had a GREAT restaurant, Chris’s Steak House (not to be confused with Ruth Chris Steak house). Some unusual things for the time period, fried pickles, sweet potato fries and an amazing shrimp kabob with a delicious yellow sauce.

    That’s the only time there was an exceptional restaurant there.

    When I was little, we would go to the ORIGINAL Tonanzio’s for a new-fangled dish called “pizza” in New Florence.

    Fortunately, mom is a great cook so we didn’t need to go out to eat. Although I didn’t know there was such a thing as “rare” steak until I went to High School. If we did go to eat, it was typically at Dairy Queen.

    Next time you go to town, maybe you should stop at mom and dad’s. That used to be a favorite trick of mine when I was doing post graduate work and a bunch of us would go to KC for the week-end. I would gather everyone around as I would telephone:

    “Mom, there are going to be six of us there for lunch in about 2 hours.”

    “I don’t have a thing in the house, but I’ll think of something.”

    By the time we arrived, there would be an amazing feast. All my friends were always impressed with the amount, the variety and the taste. Although, in retrospect, it’s a wonder she didn’t kill me!

  3. Hey, Scott, you should have gone to the BIG diner that’s at the MC exit on I-70. The name escapes me right now (I think it’s a woman’s name), but heard they have good food. It’s the big red building with a gravel parking lot and LOTS of trucks in it, right beside the McDonald’s. Probably won’t be able to avoid the smoke smell, though, I’m thinking.

    I can vouch for Frumpy Joe’s at Jonesburg, right down I-70 east of Montgomery City. It’s clean, has good food, and a fairly welcoming atmosphere. In beautiful downtown Jonesburg (you think MC is depressing…..) 😦

  4. Scott, I can’t help it. I’ve resisted for days now. The proper response to “Montgomery City makes me sad” is…

    You know what makes ME sad? YOU DO! …~snip~… YA JACKWAGON!

    Wanna tissue?

  5. Oh, I think Maggie’s is the name of the big red truckstop diner at the Hwy. 61 exit on the north side of I-70.

  6. Great post. I do my best when traveling to get at least a mile off the highway before choosing a place to eat. It only takes a few minutes extra to get into a town and get food that somebody cares about. Sorry to hear that Montgomery City won’t live up to that hope.

  7. Describe the Cubano sandwich if you will? Whatever you do, don’t expect to cure the Cubano craving in Columbia, at least at Guadalajara. I knew I was in for a disappointment when he asked what meat I wanted on it.

    If you can suggest a place for Cuban food or a good Cuban sandwich, I’m all ears!

    I spent 10 years in S. Florida and boy do I miss the food, coffee, pastries and beautiful people.

  8. It had the pickle, the cheese, the ham and the mustard. No roast pork. In the end it was just a nice grilled ham ‘n cheese.

    At the same time, I had the Cubano at Versailles in Miami and thought it really week. So I may just not like Cubanos.

    Your Guadalajara comment is hilarious, though. There was a Cuban place in Fulton for about an hour and a half. If there’s Cuban food in Columbia I don’t know about it.

  9. There was a kind of rivalry for the best Cuban sandwich between the Tampa area and Miami if I remember and there were differences between them. I don’t actually remember a noteworthy Miami version but I loved the one from the old gas station turned used car lot/deli at the Clearwater end of the Courtney Campbell Causeway in Tampa. I worked near the place for several years. I still remember the bags of La Segunda Bakery’s Cuban bread laying on the counter. A different version of French/Italian that had a palmetto tree (plant really) leaf baked into each loaf which they removed before making the sandwich. The well seasoned roasted pork was carved on the spot for each sandwich, the ham, Swiss, sweet pickles, mayo and mustard added and the whole thing pressed in a panini press with an extra brick tossed on top. Sure do miss it! I also miss good Thai and good Mexican food in this town, but don’t get me started! ;0)

  10. I stumbled on a place in the Columbia Mall that is owned by a woman of Cuban decent. She serves a Cuban dish special on Thursdays. (its been a few months since I have been there). She does not make a Cuban sandwich but she said the one at Schnucks is pretty good. Sure enough it is. I need to talk to Schnucks and see if they will offer both variations though. I like the Tampa version which also has Genoa salami which I think makes for a better flavor. Just wanted to pass that on.

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