Big Chief fills the plate, with a side of Route 66 history

 Daily, Missouri  Comments Off on Big Chief fills the plate, with a side of Route 66 history
Sep 042012

Anyone who traveled years ago along Route 66 near Pond, Mo., knew that Big Chief – which opened in 1929 as a hotel and restaurant – was the place to stop. Thanks to a recent renovation, Big Chief once again is the place to stop along the old roadway to revel in good food and nostalgia.

New owners are responsible for returning the historic Big Chief building to its former glory days, reopening back on June 11 as Big Chief Roadhouse.

“It’s like a dream come true,” said Stephanie Mulholland, who co-owns the restaurant with John Fox, admitting she had a tear in her eye when she first walked through the renovated building that preserves the authenticity and integrity of Big Chief. “You can’t find places like this anymore.”

It has been a 20-year vision that has come together for Mulholland, whose passions are cooking and history.

“I’m a huge history person,” Mulholland said. “I’ve read every history book on Wildwood, St. Albans and the area. I live just a couple of miles down the road and always loved the Big Chief and its history.”

Mulholland has used items such as vintage advertisements and western memorabilia illustrating Big Chief’s history to decorate the interior walls of the bar and dining room. An iconic buffalo head trophy seems to smile as it overlooks the dining room and new, open kitchen.

Also smiling are Big Chief’s customers when they view the menu, which is best described as a playful mix of classic retro and creative, new age cuisine. Signatures include fruitwood, house-smoked meats like the beef brisket, turkey and apricot jalapeno-glazed pork chops. Retro offerings include a tuna salad-stuffed tomato, and chicken-fried steak draped with white pepper gravy.

For something more modern, try the toasted lasagna. Resembling an egg roll, it is lightly breaded, flash-fried, baked and then finished with red and white sauces.

Mushroom fans will enjoy the Chief’s stuffed baby portabella. An order includes four baby ‘bellas stuffed with Monterey Jack, cheddar, gorgonzola and cream cheese, sauced with a decadent, rich, garlic-infused cream sauce.

Salads, soups and sandwiches are given equal attention. Soups are made from scratch daily with onion soup being the Big Chief specialty. Order up a bowl to complement an entrée salad, such as the Route 66. Reminiscent of a chef salad, Big Chief’s Route 66 salad features grilled chicken, shredded cheese, hard-cooked eggs, tomatoes and red onions with a bacon onion ranch dressing.

The house-smoked beef brisket is a sure winner for those with hearty appetites. Topping a pile of house-cut French fries is sliced brisket that is drizzled with barbecue sauce. Big Chief also offers a range of burgers and pizzas, plus a “Little Indians” menu with kids’ meals priced at $4.95.

Before checking out, ask for a slice of Ghia’s award-winning cheesecake.

“You gotta try the cheesecake,” Mulholland said. “It’s my mother’s recipe.”

Suzanne Corbett – Newsmagazine

Big Chief Restaurant on Route 66 is Back in Wildwood, MO

 Daily, Missouri  Comments Off on Big Chief Restaurant on Route 66 is Back in Wildwood, MO
Jun 162012

This week, the vintage Route 66 restaurant opened with new owners, revamped menu and a fresh approach.

The prized buffalo head still graces Big Chief Roadhouse restaurant’s main dining area in Wildwood, but customers will find many new touches and a remodeled ambiance at 17352 Manchester Road. Big Chief owner Stephanie Mulholland said even the buffalo head was retouched and fixed up.

Big Chief’s owners recently received their liquor license from Wildwood officials, and as planned, officially reopened the doors June 11. This week, the new staff has been working through the ordering and “soft-opening” operational process.

Located across from Wildwood Middle School, customers have been frequenting this historic Route 66 restaurant since 1929. The present owners took possession of the building March 4, and it has been closed since for remodeling.

Big Chief Roadhouse originally was built in what was at the time Pond, MO, as part of the Big Chief Highway hotel to serve transcontinental travelers on the now famed Route 66. Local historians and tourists guides from the period indicate Big Chief was one of the largest tourist cottage courts in Missouri. It differed from average spots of time in that it offered relatively elaborate and elegant dining. It is one of the last remaining full-service restaurants on the Route 66 today.

Big Chief’s kitchen hours are Monday through Sunday 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. The tavern portion is open Sunday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to midnight, and on Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 1:30 a.m.

Mulholland, a Wildwood resident, said she has two partners who both are chefs. One has 25 years of experience; the other 31 years. One interesting note is that Big Chief’s staff smoke their own meats. They expect to soon be able to move their smoker onto the restaurant’s property.

Indoor seating capacity at Big Chief is about 150, and outdoor is nearly 80. Starting in July, an upstairs room will be available for private parties of up to 40 people.

Mulholland knows the local area well because her children are or were part of Pond Elementary and Lafayette High School.

About two weeks ago, Floyd Gilmore and his family traveled from Show Low, AZ, to see Big Chief, where Floyd was born April 9, 1944. Mulholland said the Gilmore family showed up on the restaurant’s doorstep, before the restaurant was open.

“We were still moving things around and didn’t have the kitchen open or anything, but we welcomed the Gilmores in,” she said. “It was absolutely amazing to hear the stories he shared about the area. His aunts and uncles went to the Old Pond School and are buried at Bethel Cemetery one block away. They just stopped by in two full RVs and four cars!”

Mulholland said it was an incredible experience to meet the Gilmores. “Floyd was so proud to show his family, four generations, his birthplace after he had shared stories with them for years.”

Gilmore walked away with a new Big Chief T-shirt, photos and new memories of one of his favorite restaurants in the United States.