Lambert’s Cafe: Home of Throwed Rolls

Lambert's Cafe - Home of Throwed Rolls - 01-27-2013For some reason or another, I’ve never been a big fan of Lambert’s Cafe, which bills itself as The Home of Throwed Rolls, but the place has a huge following. Mother, Friend Jan and I were getting a little empty while we were on a trek to the Stoddard County Confederate Memorial in Bloomfield, so we decided to pop over to the tourist attraction for Jan’s benefit.

License tags everywhere

Lambert's Cafe - Home of Throwed Rolls - 01-27-2013I can remember going to Lambert’s when it was a small place. This one is huge with all kinds of interesting artifacts – particularly license tags – covering everything.

Throwed rolls

Lambert's Cafe - Home of Throwed Rolls - 01-27-2013

When things got busy on May26, 1976, servers started tossing rolls across the room to customers. It has become as famous as flinging fish at Pike Place Market in Seattle. I’m not big on gimmicks, so that’s probably one of the reasons I’m not overly fond of the place. It IS good fun for folks who like that kind of thing.

The cafe’s website says they bake on average 520 dozen 5-inch in diameter rolls a day, for a grand total of 2,246,400 individual rolls a year. It doesn’t say how many of them aren’t caught.

Huge servings

Lambert's Cafe - Home of Throwed Rolls - 01-27-2013

I ordered the XXL Center Cut Ham. The site says they served 52,322 pounds of ham, country ham and pork steak a year. I think it all must have been on my plate. I wish I had taken the picture before I started carving. It was nearly half an inch thick, and as big as the platter. I brought home at least half of it.

Photo gallery throwed together

Here’s a gallery of photos taken in and around Lambert’s Cafe. I could pretend that I had done a bunch of research, but I’ll send you directly to the source for interesting factoids about the place. They LOVE keeping stats. Click on any photo to make it larger, then click on the left or right side of the image to move through the gallery.

Dew Drop Inn

On my pilgrimage south on U.S. 61 (Highway 25 to the real oldtimers), I passed the Dew Drop Inn at the intersection of Hwy 61 and Hwy Y in Bloomsdale. It was the kind of thing that made me do a quick U-turn. I’ve heard of Dew Drop Inns, but have never been inside one. You can click on the photos to make them larger.

A quick Google search turned up less than a handful of reviews, including, “Good bar food. Tried the patty melt and would order it again. Drinks are reasonably priced with a nice pour.” This didn’t have a thumbs up or a thumbs down, so I’m not sure how to interpret it: “Hicksville. If you have more tattoos than teeth this is the place for you, don’t forget your shotgun and sister!

This one was clearly favorable: “I was there for the first time last week. It was brilliant! Definitely a hole-in-the-wall…but I mean that in the BEST way. The bartender and cook (owners?) were really really nice, the clientelle all knew each other, and we all watched some kind of “Dumbest 100 Disasters on Wheels” on the TV together. I didn’t eat, but the pizza looked great. The appetizers were cheap (curley fries!!! $1.50 and Fried Pickles too!) and the decor was…quaint. Walls decorated with posters, signed photos, and what looked like gifts from the patrons.  Milwaukee Best cans $1.50, Budweiser bottles $2.00.  I want to live in this place. It felt like the home I never had.

Lots of Dew Drop Inns

That Google search popped up lots of Dew Drops. Here are just a few towns:

  • Forks, Washington
  • Honolulu, Hawaii
  • Mobile, Alabama
  • Miller, South Dakota
  • New Orleans, Louisiana
  • Alpena, Michigan
  • New York, New York
  • Moline, Illinois
  • Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

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Restaurants (Colored)

I’ve spent most of this trip interviewing folks who lived in what we called South Cape. I’ve learned some things about that area that most of us “north of the hill” – Tollgate Hill – never knew.I'[ve heard tales of prejudice and discrimination in Cape – and the amazing lack of it in some other cases.

It’s going to take some time for me to boil it down and digest it. I need to talk with more folks, but it’s time for me to saddle up and head back to Florida.

Today was a wrapping-up day. The car had to go in for a minor repair; I was supposed to pick up some rubber stamps (not in); I roamed around shooting some quick topics to give me stuff to post while I’m on the road. One of my stops was to say goodbye to Friend Shari’s mother, LaFern.

(She thinks I’m a witch or a genius  – she said it was the latter, but the look in her eye let me know it was the former – because I brought her dead computer back to life just by pressing the ON button.) As a reward, she gave me a 1944 Cape County telephone directory. (You can click on the images to make them larger.)

Cape County Restaurants

Like most people, the first thing I did was check for family connections – I recognized some. Then I leafed through the classifieds to do a light-weight piece on businesses that had come and gone. When I got to Page 32, which covered Rental Agencies (see Real Estate) to Service Stations (see Filling Stations), I thought I had found an easy and popular topic: Restaurants.

“Restaurants (Colored)”

Then, I saw the heading that appeared BELOW Restaurants.

When did this become unacceptable?

I wrote about Brother Mark and me hitting a bunch of antique shops in 2008. I ran across this set of postcards for sale and said, in part, “I saw a reminder of just how far we’ve come in this country. One night this week we’re watching Barack Obama stumping to be President of the United States and a day later, we’re looking at a collection of black memorabilia of the most racially offensive nature I ever recall seeing.

There wasn’t a stereotype left untouched. Lil Black Sambo and Aunt Jemima were tame compared to this stuff.

I’m not knocking the antique shop for carrying it. It’s probably valuable to see how crap like this was acceptable at one time.”

“I’m not going to point any moral”

With apologies to The Beatles, “I read the news today, oh, boy.”

We’re going through a period of anger and angst about another group looking for its civil rights.

Pete Seeger said it better than I ever could in his song, “Waist Deep in The Big Muddy:”

Well, I’m not going to point any moral,
I’ll leave that for yourself

Wayne’s Grill

Many of my lunch hours at Trinity Lutheran School were spent in Wayne’s Grill, Beard’s Sport Shop and Vandeven’s Mercantile in the 800 block of Broadway. My folks were good enough to give me permission to leave the schoolgrounds to eat lunch at Wayne’s. A burger and a coke were 35 cents, the same as lunch at school. Add 15 cents and you could get fries. A great coconut cream pie covered with “calf’s slobber,” as Dad called meringue, was two bits.

If Dad took us out in the evening, we would order a bacon-wrapped filet Mignon, the steak against which I have measured every steak thereafter. It was a whole buck and a quarter. I celebrated most of my Saturday Missourian paydays by having one for lunch.

The photo above was taken Sept. 12, 2001, long after Wayne’s had turned into a variety of other businesses. At some point, but I don’t remember when, there was a pool hall in the building.

Original Wayne’s was east of the Esquire

When Brother Mark and I rode by the building Oct. 14, 2007, it had changed appearance again. The marque on the Esquire had fallen down, so the sidewalk was blocked off. You can see more Esquire photos here.

When I first started eating there, Wayne’s was located on the east side of the Esquire theater.

A brief in The Missourian on May 17, 1961, said that “the sale Mrs. Miller’s Cafe, 828 Broadway, to Wayne Freeman has been announced by Mrs. Eva Mae Miller. Mrs. Miller said the sale becomes effective today and she will close the restaurant at the end of tonight’s business.

“Mr. Freeman is owner and operator of Wayne’s Grill, 816 Broadway. Presently, he said he plans to remodel the Miller’s Cafe before reopening it sometime this summer. He will also continue operation of Wayne’s Grill until 1963 when his lease expires. The property was acquired early this year by the Southwestern Bell Telephone Co.

“Mrs. Miller and her late husband, W. B. Miller, bought the cafe six years ago after moving here from Marion,Ill. She plans to devote her time to the operation of her business at the Plaza Cleaners and Coin Wash in the Town Plaza for the present.”

Wayne’s is nothing but memories and parking stops

When I went back to look for Wayne’s in the fall of 2009, it was gone, gobbled up for more parking for Southeast Missouri State University.

Wayne Freeman’s obituary appeared in the paper Feb. 21, 1984. “Wayne E. Freeman, longtime owner of one of the city’s best-known restaraunts, Wayne’s Grill, died Monday, Feb. 20, 1984 following an illness of several months. He was 69 years old.

“Mr. Freeman was born April 7, 1914, in Salem, son of Evan and Ruth Gerhardt Freeman. He married the former Dorothy Pregner. Mr. Freeman had resided here since 1948, moving here from St. Louis. He operated Wayne’s Grill here from 1949 until his retirement in 1974. He was a member of St. Mary’s Cathedral Parish, the Benevolent and Protective Order of the Elks, and the American Legion. Mr. Freeman was a veteran of World War II.

“Surviving are his wife; a son, William W. Freeman, Ballwin; brother, Thomas R. Freeman, Cape Girardeau; and grandchildren, Jennifer K., Caitlin Suzanne and Erin Elizabeth Freeman. Pallbearers will be Dr. Keith Deimund, Jack Slaughter, Gale Heise, Joseph Quatmann, Dennis Stockard, Richard Esicar and Ken Werner.”

I remember Dorothy

Wayne wasn’t particularly outgoing, at least to me. I remember him as a skinny guy who handled the grill. If he said a dozen words to me in all the years I went in there, I’d be surprised. For some reason, I picture him with a cigarette dangling out of his mouth, but I could be wrong about that.

His wife, Dorothy, on the other hand, was a peach. She may have been one of the first adults I called by her first name. I’m not sure I even knew her last name until I did this story. If she wasn’t busy, she’d come over and talk with me like I was a regular customer, not some kid from elementary school.