One of the best ways to find a restaurant that’s unique to a destination is to look for a diner, and Branson has your diner! Of course, our recent post on buffet dining certainly includes plenty of comfort food, but there’s something special about the old-fashioned diner atmosphere...something comforting about looking at a menu that’s simple and straightforward, with nothing complicated that your server will have to explain! Want that pancake breakfast that locals love? Looking for that down home satisfying feeling you get from an open-face roast beef sandwich special? How about that cup of good, plain, hot coffee that’s so darn difficult to find at those brand-name coffee shops? You’re sure to find all this and more at a treasured Branson diner - one of those places that residents know about, including a spot here and there that’s off the “beaten path.” (Planning that first Branson visit - or maybe your thirty-first? This might help: “Branson - 11 Good Things to Know Before You Go!”)
As usual, we’re not promising a complete list of every restaurant in the area that would qualify as a “diner,” and we didn’t include anything that hasn’t had time to build up a solid reputation - we also didn’t rank these special spots, we’re sharing them in alpha order, then you can give them all a try and tell us what you think. If we really missed the mark and left off a doozy of a diner, let us know that, too!
So, we’ll get right to it...our picks for the 10 best diners in the Branson area:
1. Billy Bob’s Dairyland: A long-time favorite among Branson locals and guests alike, this retro-style diner serves up one mean hamburger, a tasty hot dog, irresistible onion rings, and other deliciously simple fare.
Location: 1829 West Highway 76 - The Strip (neighboring a Quality Inn - just across the street from the Apple Tree Antique Mall and Applebee’s)
Hours: 10:30 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. daily
Take Note: If you’re familiar with Billy Bob’s, but haven’t been to Branson in a few years, they’re now in their third Branson location - still on Highway 76, but just a little closer to Dolly Parton’s Stampede. They also DO NOT accept cards of any kind, so don’t forget to bring cash!
2. Billygail’s Cafe: Famous for pancakes bigger than your head, word of this family owned cafe treasure even reached the popular Travel Channel show, Man Vs. Food. Order anything - no bad menu choices here!
Location: 5291 State Highway 265 (just beyond the Branson city limits and before the turn-off to Silver Dollar City and Indian Point)
Hours: 7:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. daily (seasonal schedule - usually opens mid-February and closes mid-December)
Take Note: It can get very busy and parking is limited, so arrive early to secure a parking spot and your place in line. And just like Billy Bob’s, Billygail’s only takes cash - NO cards of any kind - it might seem like a hassle, but it’s one way to keep prices reasonable.
3. Branson Cafe: The oldest, longest-operating restaurant in Branson, this family owned and operated downtown diner has been keeping folks comfort-food happy since 1910. Save room for dessert!
Location: 120 West Main Street in Historic Downtown Branson (practically at the corner of Main and Veterans Boulevard)
Hours: 6:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Monday through Saturday
Take Note: Don’t miss the cafe owner-baked fresh goodies, including yummy cinnamon rolls, available at the front counter - but arrive early, they won’t last long!
4. Clocker’s Cafe: A long-time favorite, especially for Branson entertainers, Clocker’s offers hearty breakfast and brunch eats. Biscuits and Gravy for breakfast - Prime Rib Sandwich for later - highly recommended!
Location: 103 South Commercial in Historic Downtown Branson
Hours: 6:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Monday through Thursday -- 6:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. Friday & Saturday -- 6:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. Sunday
Take Note: Sunday’s can get busy, so allow extra time, but service is great and they tackle the guest line quickly.
5. Donnie’s Diner: A favorite breakfast or lunch stop for locals or anyone headed to a day at the lake. Serving up generous helpings of comfort food at low prices - locals will tell you to try the Monster Mash.
Location: 11016 State Highway 76 - located in Branson West, but the mailing address is Reeds Spring - just keep driving on Highway 76 beyond the turn off to Silver Dollar City - you’ll happen upon the Claybough Plaza where Donnie’s can be found.
Hours: 7:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Monday through Friday -- 7:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. Sunday -- 8:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. Saturday
Take Note: This diner is in Branson West, not Branson proper, but it’s still nearby - about a 10 minute drive, and definitely worth the short trip!
6. Farmhouse Restaurant: Another of those valued Branson institutions, most long-time loyal visitors make regular stops at the Farmhouse, where homemade Blackberry Cobbler reigns supreme!
Location: 119 West Main in Historic Downtown Branson (across the street from the Branson Cafe)
Hours: 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. daily (closing hours may extend to accommodate demand)
Take Note: After gettin’ your fill in the dining room, head upstairs for a fun gift shop experience.
7. Hungry Hunter Restaurant: Like many great cafes, this one sticks to what they’re best at preparing - breakfast, brunch, and lunch in generous helpings, and the service is as friendly as the food is delicious!
Location: 5753 MO Highway 165
Hours: 7:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. Monday through Saturday -- 8:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. Sunday
Take Note: Landmarks that’ll help you find the Hungry Hunter - State Park and State Park Marina - Dewey Short Visitor Center - Showboat Branson Belle - Table Rock Dam...the restaurant is in their neck of the woods, just a few minutes from Highway 76.
8. Jackie B. Goode’s Uptown Cafe: A little bigger than most diners, but for good reason, you can get a free live music show with a meal! A genuine soda fountain makes this back-to-the-50s experience complete!
Location: 285 South Highway 165 - less than a block from Highway 76
Hours: 7:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. daily
Take Note: Take advantage of the live music show with a meal; there’s a morning show with a breakfast buffet, a dinner show with four meal options, including Prime Rib, and another dinner show with sandwich or soup options - all three are excellent!
9. Mel’s Hard Luck Diner: Branson’s original home of the singing servers, Mel’s has even more to brag about, including really cool retro decor and delicious treats from the soda fountain.
Location: 2800 West Highway 76 - The Strip - in the Grand Village Shops
Hours: 11:00 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Sunday through Thursday -- 11:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. Friday & Saturday
Take Note: Mel’s is in a really charming and enchanting little shopping center; make time for strolling about and finding a special treasure to take back home. Make sure you stop in at T. Charleston’s, Branson’s only independent bookstore!
10. Scooter’s Sports Grill: A best-kept-dining-secret, it’s actually located at a mini-golf course, Scooter’s is one of those places folks like to keep to themselves! Worth stopping for a Reuben Sandwich - the best around!
Location: 4800 North Gretna Road in Branson Meadows
Hours: 11:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. daily during Summer -- 11:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. daily during Spring & Fall (operating schedule is seasonal - closed during colder winter months)
Take Note: You’ve gotta try the Dragon Eggs - bacon wrapped jalapeno cheese appetizers - deep-fried and delightful!
So, ten isn’t really a terribly long list, so make sure you try them all! If you enjoy having a wide selection of items for one meal price, give Branson buffets a try: “Branson Buffets - 16 Places for Belly Fillin’ Fantastic Food!" In the mood for barbecue? “Branson Loves Barbecue - These 8 Places Prove It!”