Friday, October 9, 2009

Claysville Store and Café

Fall is here, so you’d better get goin’ if you are planning on eating at the Claysville Store! And fortunately, this is a lovely time of year for the visit.

The Claysville Store—a restaurant with a simple menu of pan-fried chicken and country ham, often barbecue, with all the fixin’s including desserts—is only open from February to about the middle of December, so you’d better start picking a weekend to enjoy a dinner there.

It’s a homey little place, the inside of an old country store, with beadboard paneling, shelves holding quaint old antique kitcheny stuff, and bluegrass music playing in the background.

The “town” of Claysville is actually just a memory, instead of an actual burg. During the steamboat era, the Missouri River ran right by the town and its railroad tracks, so the Claysville Store was a busy shipping and railing point for southern Boone County.

Then the river moved, and the railroad went defunct. Claysville shriveled up. But then the state of Missouri created the Katy Trail State Park, which breathed new life into many old railroad towns. Locals are now able to make an honest buck off of bicyclists, hikers, and other tourists eager to explore rural Missouri along the old railroad line. B&Bs have sprung up in formerly derelict old buildings; neat little cafés, antiques shops, and bicycle rentals and repair places occupy storefronts that used to be empty and dusty.

Claysville is one of these places—and you have to applaud the folks who have grabbed this opportunity to resurrect such a place. While a stereotype of small-town folks is a reluctance to try new things, these people are reinventing their communities. This is economic revitalization at the grass roots. Let’s cheer them on! Let’s give them some business!

Mark Hooibrink, who owns the restaurant with his wife, Laura, explained to us that since they rely so heavily on Katy Trail traffic (bicyclists, pedestrians) for business—and since getting there by car can be kind of dicey in snowy weather—they simply close the restaurant during the off season. He and his wife both have full-time jobs, anyway (which explains why their café is only open on weekends and at select other times). They’ve been known to close the restaurant for family events such as weddings and the like.

So memorize these hours, and then think about calling ahead, anyway, to make sure they’re really open: Saturdays, 4–8 pm; Sundays, 12:30–4 pm. One day we rode past Claysville on the trail, and they had a sign out that advertised a “Wednesday special” of pork steak with potato salad and baked beans.

As I said, they offer dinners of homemade fried chicken or country ham, and these come with mashed potatoes and gravy, green beans, coleslaw, apple sauce, and lovely, delicious biscuits.

You can order dinners separately (prices range from $7.50 to $8.75) or family-style, where it’s $11 to $13 per person, all-you-can-eat, including drinks. The least-expensive entrées are the mixed dark- and white-meat chicken dinners, and the most expensive are the all-white-meat dinners. Ham and chicken combo plates are intermediate in price.

I should mention that their country hams are from Burgers’ Smokehouse, over in Moniteau County, and it’s simply the best. Hooray for them using a local ham producer!

The Claysville Store also offers barbecue, when they expect a good turnout or when the mood hits them. Or sometimes there’s another special of the day.

They’re also famous for their pies and cobblers—the varieties of the day are handwritten on a board in front of the store; the desserts are $2.50 each. Blackberry cobbler is one of our favorites, and yes, you can get it with ice cream for an extra fifty cents. The cobbler is served hot, just the way you like it.

Beverages include tea and sweet tea, lemonade, and soda.

In the past year or so, the restaurant’s dining area has been expanded, with a projection screen and room to accommodate groups of 60–75. So it’s perfect for small conferences or retreats.

I understand camping is also available, but I strongly suggest you call first to confirm availability.

The last time I talked to them, the Hooibrinks were planning renovations to a nearby historic home, hoping to provide week-long getaway rentals—a guesthouse with a stocked refrigerator, something like a B&B.

They really enjoy offering friendly hospitality along their little stretch of the trail, and like Good Samaritans, they have been known to provide complimentary emergency services for hikers and bikers who’ve experienced sudden health issues or equipment trouble. I encourage you to give them some business for that reason alone.

As for the chow, it’s all just your basic, good, homemade, down-home cooking, salty, rich, and sweet, immensely satisfying. Afterward, you can walk off part of that big dinner by enjoying the trail. If you walk to the east a couple of miles, the forested section of trail opens up and rejoins the Mighty Mo, and there are three sites with benches offering you a tremendous view of the shimmering river.

Or, if you want to make a mini bike trip of it, you could drive your bikes to Hartsburg, pedal the (approximately) three easy miles to Claysville (or beyond; whatever you want), and then, on the return trip, have a late lunch or a dinner at Claysville, then pedal back to Hartsburg by dark, in time to catch a live bluegrass jam and enjoy libations at the Hartsburg Hitchin’ Post. (Ah, but that’s another post . . .)

How to Get There

By car, it’s off of Highway 63: About 25 miles south of Columbia (or about 5 miles north of Jeff City). Turn west on Claysville Road and drive about 2 miles. It’s a red building to the left. They have a big sign.

Via the Katy Trail, it’s between Hartsburg and North Jefferson City, at mile 149.8.

Keep their phone number handy so you can confirm they’re open: 573-636-8443.

The Claysville-Ashland Connection

For fun, here’s some trivia on the town’s name: Robert L. Ramsay, in Our Storehouse of Missouri Place Names, informs us in so many words that southern Boone County was occupied by Kentuckians and others who were mighty proud of statesman, Speaker of the House, founder and leader of the Whig party, and four-time presidential candidate Henry Clay, who helped give us the War of 1812 as well as the Missouri Compromise. Among many other things.

Thus Claysville was named directly for Henry Clay, and the city of Ashland, just to the north, was named for Henry Clay’s estate in Lexington, Kentucky, which was also named Ashland. In fact, the folks at Ashland named their town in 1853, the year after Clay’s death. Remember: Boone County is in Missouri’s Little Dixie!

Claysville Store on Urbanspoon


Amanda Dahling said...

I stumbled upon your wonderful blog while doing some research on the Claysville General Store for an article I am working on for my weekly magazine, The Little Dixie Weekender.

You have some wonderful photos and I wanted to inquire the possibility that we might use your photos, giving full credit to you, of course.

Thank you for your time.

John Ward said...

On 20 August 2006, I visited Calvary Baptist (Columbia) and closed my church shopping. (Two of the other eight I attended looked like they would be good.)

On 2 September (Saturday), about forty of us went to Claysville. The second restaurant I have visited that was excellent and affordable. (I am 55.) The other was "Bonnie's" near Joplin, Missouri, in the 1950s and 1960s.

This Saturday (19 Nov 2011), I expect about forty at Calvary Baptist will arrive at Claysville around four p.m.

If you have not tried it, schedule a time in the next six months where a large group of people will go there with you

Julianna Schroeder said...

Thanks, John, for the comment. I'm sure the folks at the Claysville store had a great time serving you--last time I was there, they were quite proud of their expanded section for largish groups.