My grandson Joey turned 11 years old Thursday. I have the tradition of taking each of my grandchildren out for a birthday lunch or dinner and shopping, just the two of us. More correctly, I give each child an allotted amount of money that he or she can spend, or save. It is always their choice.
Today I had the joy of taking Joey to lunch and out shopping. He chose Lambert’s Cafe, near Springfield, MO, for his celebratory meal. I picked him up mid morning and off we went on an adventure.
I was as excited as Joey about going to Lambert’s. I have heard about this restaurant, famous for their tradition of throwing rolls to diners, since I moved to Joplin in the early 1980s. And yet, I have never visited it before.
I looked up the history of this fun cafe. It was launched in 1942, in Sikeston, MO, when Earl and Agnes Lambert borrowed $1500 to open their own cafe. The original building was small, seating only 41 diners, but the couple immediately established the custom of serving wholesome meals consisting of vegetables, meats and desserts.
Their son, Norman, inadvertently began what is now a tradition. Passing out freshly made rolls in the cafe, he couldn’t get to a customer tucked into a corner. “Just throw the #%@$ thing!” the diner called out. They are still tossing out rolls at Lambert’s, these many years later.
The cafe near Springfield is the company’s second location. It opened in 1994. Lambert’s is still owned and operated by the family.
Joey expressed a concern as we drove to Springfield. Lambert’s is so popular that there is always a wait time. What if we had a two hour wait? Joey had plans with his family later in the evening. We had a limited amount of time. This thoughtful boy googled to find other dining options, if we needed to go to Plan B.
I silently put our desire to eat at Lambert’s out there as a request of the Divine. I asked for a short wait time so Joey could eat at his first choice for his special lunch. As we arrived at 11:30, I wondered though. The parking lots, all three of them, were full. A crowd of people milled about about outside. We decided to park in good faith, in the lot down the hill from the restaurant, and inquire about the wait time.
I’m so glad we did. In spite of the crowds, we only had a 30 minute wait time for a booth for two.
What a bustling restaurant we walked into with a party like atmosphere! There are three dining areas, that combined, hold a surprisingly large number of people. Just before we were seated, a party of 35 strolled by us. The interior of the cafe is warm and homey, with lots of wood. Colorful flags hang from the ceilings and metal signs and car license plates adorn the walls.
We ordered our lunches, chicken tenders for Joey, a vegetable plate for me, and enjoyed people watching and chatting as we waited for our food. My water and Joey’s Dr Pepper arrived in huge containers. That was foreshadowing. Everything is done in a big way at Lambert’s.
Not only are the meal portions very generous, the servers also bring around additional sides called “pass arounds”. Offered in an all you can eat manner, the extras consist of black eyed peas, fried potatoes and onions, fried okra, macaroni and tomatoes, and those famous rolls. It is a lot of food! It is good we were hungry.
At last a server came into our dining room with a large basket full of hot rolls, fresh from the oven. You raise your hand if you want a roll, and prepare to catch it as the bread is thrown. This was great fun to watch, and difficult to capture well in a photo. Watch a brief video of roll throwing HERE.
We had a great lunch. I love that after sitting across from me initially, Joey asked if he could sit by me. He’s growing up, but he doesn’t mind being close. We talked about so many topics today. Joey is a great conversationalist. He’s polite, kind and thoughtful. I see him beginning to govern himself, monitoring his own speech and behavior, as he takes responsibility for his words and actions. Those are definite signs that this young man is leaving childhood behind. The teen years are rapidly approaching.
Joey is artistic, creative and loves music, video games and technology. Later in the car he showed me birthday presents he received, demonstrating how his new gadgets for his iphone worked. Driving home, we listened to Ed Sheeran through a new mini speaker he got.
Joey boxed up his leftovers and we left Lambert’s, extremely happy with our lunch. Our waiter even secured a birthday discount for us, in honor of Joey’s special day. I look forward to a return visit.
And I look forward to many more such outings with Joey. We stopped by Toys R Us and the Battlefield Mall on our way out of town, so Joey could spend his birthday money. He scored with sale items today, making his money go even further.
I am so proud of this gracious young man. He expressed gratitude for the lunch and the shopping trip and the time spent together. I felt gratitude too. I am grateful for him and for the incredible joy he brings. Happy birthday, Joey! Thank you for picking out such a fun place to eat. And thank you for being you, so delightfully. I love you!