Springfield, Missouri. It’s the state’s third largest city, set in the foothills of the Ozarks and has the distinction of being the birthplace of Route 66. Its roots on the American frontier left Springfield with a unique blend of farmland and a vibrant downtown with freight and passenger trains intersecting at this centerfold of America, delivering people east to west. Three universities made their home in the city center and at the peak of the Gold Rush, the prominent Heer’s department store held its flagship on Springfield’s own Park Central Square.
About 100 years later, President Dwight D. Eisenhower transformed American road travel forever by constructing the Interstate Highway System. Route 66 was refashioned from a major thoroughfare into a scenic byway and Springfield too fell into disrepair as passenger trains soon stopped running, the industrial downtown emptied, and Heer’s flagship, abandoned. The late 1950s brought in new access highways that disconnected travelers from the towns on their routes. Springfield did however still rank third in the U.S. after New York and Hollywood for turning out nationally-broadcast television series. It remained a reservoir from the crossroads of the Middle West, the South and Great West in the face of a changing economic structure.
It should be no surprise that the heartbeat of Americana transmogrified again about ten years ago. An abundance of brick warehouses and retired theaters, an inexpensive cost of living, plus a devoted community of people who love their city and the surrounding mountains, horse-filled pastures and local farms, together, have created a full-on renaissance. Springfield has resurrected as a tech hub, artisanal coffee hub, craft beer and cocktail scene, organic food scene, with creative entrepreneurs, talented musicians and enough competitive beard trimmers and reclaimed wood to make any hipster swoon.
The once abandoned Heer’s is the new home to luxury apartments. The vacant Vandivort Theater was converted to Springfield’s first four diamond hotel, Hotel Vandivort. Park Central Square, once highly concentrated with methadone addicts, now attracts visitors to hip cafés, barber shops, and a museum. With three co-working spaces and the eFactory — a partnership between the city and Missouri State University which fosters startups and small business growth — Springfield is ripe with opportunity.
I’m a native New Yorker who can vouch for its “Brooklyn”-esque appeal. This is a town full of young visionaries who are enterprising enough in an environment that is affordable, malleable and receptive enough to make dreams happen. And that freedom is a distinct amalgam of Midwest entrepreneurship.
So go on, make a trip to Springfield and have one hell of a hipster time.
From Portland, OR to Brooklyn, NY to Springfield, MO industrious souls are pulling out their laptops. Here in Springfield, the square footage is wide, the walls are brick, the wifi is free and the coffee is fair trade.
The Coffee Ethic
124 Park Central Square
The Coffee Ethic were revolutionaries with a clover machine before Starbucks patented it. They’re still pouring delicious brews to nice tunes for productivity.
Brick & Mortar Coffee
1666 East St. Louis Street
Round the corner from the eFactory, this is the latest inviting caffeine hub downtown.
Scotch & Soda
310 South Avenue
If the sexy lighting and liquor library behind the bar doesn’t warm you up, the live music will.
Cherry Picker Package x Fare
601 South Pickwick Avenue
This is both a wine, beer and liquor shop and spot for sipping and snacking. Buy a bottle of wine and open it inside to drink by candlelight, or sit out by the fire pit.
507 West Walnut Street
Springfield’s only spirit house delivers tasty cocktails made with locally grown ingredients in locally made barrels… in an enormous space.
Mother’s Brewing Company
215 South Grant
This craft brewery is a beloved Springfield local. At the end of summer, Mother’s hosts Oktoberfest in their own backyard, complete with live music, pretzels and lederhosen.
5 Pound Apparel
412 South Avenue and Farmers Park
What started out as a tongue and cheek graphic tee company has evolved into a full collection of witty goods, in their sleek boutique shops which also carry brands like Toms and Herschel.
2816 South Ingram Mill Road
Self-dubbed home of the boot daddy and America’s Western store, you’ll swiftly understand why. Get yer boots here.
2814 Fremont Avenue
Clive Gray is the owner and visionary behind one of the most beautiful home stores I’ve ever set foot in, and as you can see pictured above, with a scattering of vintage menswear, candles and artisanal soaps. Clive was there when Andrew and I showed up for a third time in two days with a Penske truck “just looking” again at a barn wood dining table — which of course we took home with us back to Brooklyn.
And you thought people just drove in the Midwest. Well, that’s not untrue but once you get to where you’re parking there are plenty of places to amble and promenade in the Queen City of the Ozarks. Walk around Downtown and Commercial Street for shops, restaurants, bars, cafés, galleries et al. Check out Farmers Park where there’s both a farmer’s market and more dining and perusing to be had.
Springfield, MO for Amblers on Roadtrippers
For a uniquely Missourian experience, visit Springfield’s number one tourist destination: Bass Pro Shops’ flagship.
It’s a living natural history extravaganza store, and it’s incredible.
400 East Walnut Street and Farmers Park
This quaint bistro is rooted in classic French fare. Go for brunch or an afternoon cappuccino. Grab a pastry from their pâtisserie next door to their Farmers Park location.
234 East Commercial Street
You need not go far for a taste of Peru and the Andes Mountains at this healthy, South American inspired two-story restaurant. The ground floor is a converted pharmacy with glasswork over a century old and the upstairs has a dimly lit bar.
314 West Walnut Street
Midwesterners know how to savour in red meat and Flame whips up some of the finest steaks I’ve ever tasted. With a thorough menu of beef, including tartare (for all my francophiles), these folks are experts.
318 Park Central East
Competitive beard trimming is real. These guys also have a members-only underground bar accessed through a secret door, where you can stash your personal, private booze collection in your very own cabinet.
Hudson & Hawk
Multiple locations around Springfield
It wouldn’t be competitive beard trimming if there were just one.
Where to Stay
305 East Walnut Street
Hotel Vandivort is a stunning boutique hotel renovated from an old theater. The hotel features a sleek design and modern amenities while retaining exposed brick walls and high ceilings. You don’t need to be a guest to enjoy the bar and small restaurant whipping up delicious cocktails made with Coffee Ethic cold brew and rangoon made with goat cheese. Enjoy one of the long working tables or a glass of wine by a large fireplace in the lobby.
This is where my husband-to-be and I will be staying for our wedding weekend. Remember to take a #VandivortBathroomSelfie (or don’t).
There are so many great places I’ve missed, like the awesome organic food source MaMa Jean’s and there are plenty more cafés and boutiques that I just haven’t made it to yet. Springfield is happening, it’s hipster, and it’ll give you a warm welcome. See you soon!
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Great article. Thanks for featuring our wonderful town!
A few minor corrections I noticed:
Hudson Hawk photo credit should be Nathan Stracke and
Dapper Barber photo credit should be Josh Stewart/Hook Creative.
Disappointed that you missed out on the Rogue Barber and D’s Wax Factory. They are great people there too; make sure you stop in next time you’re in town. I’m a transplant from growing up in the military (from Ankara, Turkey to Cosby, Missouri and many other places in between); I’ve been here for 14 years now and I absolutely love it.
Apparently the writer of this article was not a resident of Springfield before it became hopelessly commercialized in the downtown area, There used to be a thriving art and music scene in the late 80s and through the 90sI don’t recall it being overpopulated with methadone addicts, it was like most towns ,where actual interesting artists musicians and yes even chefs hung out and encouraged one Anothers crafts and products.It was then set upon by people that wanted to change the original authentic feel of the area, and substitute overpriced restaurants and upscale sterile bars, for what used to be the gritty productive and fun scene that spawned this REAL ESTATE boom. Springfield had enough restaurants and places to get coffee before this throughout the city. It was not necessary to turn it into Hipsterville USA in my opinion, but I am just one guy, ask someone with a beard I’m sure they love it.
Springfield, MO, this inspiration for SouthPark’s SoDoSoPa!
Spfd MO…SouthPark’s inspiration for SoDoSoPa
Thank you so much for pointing that out! Updating those credits right now. 🙂
Thank you so much for putting these spots on my radar. The next time I’m in town I will definitely check these out. As I noted, I’m sure I’ve missed plenty but I do hope to get to them all ;-).
I appreciate your insights. Certainly, I am coming in with an outsider’s perspective as I’m from New York City. It’s exciting to see young people pursuing their goals and that’s what I think is awesome about Springfield.
That’s fine I don’t mean to be disparaging towards you personally, and you enjoy it the way that it has become, then you should. In fact I am sure that it is better for the city itself to have so many businesses represented downtown. I am only one guy with a nostalgic opinion, however I am not the only person with this opinion generally, there were MANY of us that preferred it when it was more music and art centered rather than a village for consumers of coffee, internet and fine dining. Basically just like the rest of town. I don’t feel there is much that differentiates the areas from one another. There once was. Developers drove out cheaper rents in favor of semi luxury that many of us feel lack personality. And Do take Umbragevwith the Methadone comment. None of my friends personally were consuming methadone. Every city has drug problems, but just as I have probably generalized my perception of the current state of the city and the downtown district, you are generalizing about what come before the current occupation. I feel that WE once did some worthwhile things and to have truncated that to just those that roamed the square to score dope is offensive and poorly researched. Apparently My friends and I didn’t even exist in that time period, or others slightly before my time. Furthermore, many do not visit the downtown area now because of the fear of violence and excessive drinking proliferated by events like” cup nights” and the like. Violence in the 90s in downtown Springfield was rare, and often there were teenagers in the area that felt perfectly safe at 1:00 a.m. I don’t feel safe there on a Saturday night at 10 p.m. now. So I don’t choose to patronize a place where everybody knew my name once upon a time. But once again that is merely an opinion
Stay the fuck away. Your banal comparisons to Brooklyn do little to help our scene and only further the increase in rental prices, driving locals out. It’s cool that you visited the Midwest and felt at home but remember that your lumberjack, flannel, Brooklyn bullshit style is an amalgamation of all things not new york. Elvis and Zeppelin stole the blues from blacks and yall stole country. Get off our collective, dirt farmin’, meth dealin’ dicks and find your own culture. Maybe go back to the Patrick Bateman, cocaine fueled, prostitute killing disco fuckery that made you famous in the 80’s. There’s a saying here: We always lie to strangers. There’s a reason for it. We’re not Williamsburg inspired, Williamsburg is us inspired, you insipid little twerp.
Thanks. Can you update the Dapper Barber as well?
Credit should be Josh Stewart/Hook Creative.
I recommend checking out North Springfield for a real taste of what the midwest has to offer next time you’re in the area! Grant Beach specifically, if you’re in search of that Brooklyn-esque appeal.
Thanks for the great review. I’m one local that cherishes the progressive style of the community. Ignore the naysayers. There are always going to be people stuck in their comfort zones. (See: Settlers, ie. DirectTV commercial) You hit the nail on the head. This comes from one of those 30 years ago musicians and mid-life (non-hipster) normal guys that are glad to see us move away from the hillbilly reputation. Thanks, New York. I dig it! 🙂
Updated! Sorry for the delay!
Thanks so much! Will do!
Thank you Steve!!