Sawyer’s Creek

6 12 2006

If you didn’t know by now my three great loves (besides my family, of course) are cheap eats, traveling, and preaching. And, as luck would have it, I can do all three at the seminary for free! There’s this wonderful little secret called Pulpit Supply. It’s an opportunity for us seminarians to practice our preaching, travel to new towns and experience new things. First, a word on how Pulpit Supply works. In exchange for preaching and leading the liturgy, and maybe a Bible study, the church will provide an honorarium, gas money, food money, and, in some cases, lodging. Before going on vicarage, my family and I headed north to Hannibal, the home of Mark Twain, Tom Sawyer, the Unsinkable Molly Brown, and St. John’s Lutheran Church to do Pulpit Supply. St. John’s is about as good as it gets when it comes to Pulpit Supply. They provide a fully furnished guest house, money for dinner and lunch, a continental breakfast in the guest house, and the best coffee hour food I’ve ever had. Ok, I’ve done a lot of typing about the church and Pulpit Supply, now let’s get the restaurants. Now, I’m going to do something I’ve never done before: tell you where you shouldn’t go for cheap eats. After spending the day seeing everything that had to do with Mark Twain (house, museum, store, office, etc.,) we asked for a recommendation for a good place to eat and the Mark Twain Diner came highly recommended. It was in downtown, just a few blocks from our house, and we had seen its large rotating beer mug. Unfortunately, that’s about as good as it got. Bland restaurant, bland food, and not all that cheap. However, the next day turned out much better. We had heard of a kitschy tourist trap south of town on Scenic Highway 79 and on the Mississippi River called Sawyer’s Creek. Pulling into the parking lot a mass of rustic wood buildings extended up a small hill. In an oversized courtyard is a mini-golf course, amusement rides, and a pond with the biggest, scariest orange and black fish we’d ever seen. After getting a great deal on a handmade quilt rack in the craft store, we headed over to Riverview Cafe, not a Café. The inside was not fancy; it’s a cheap eats. However, there was a wall of windows that gave a beautiful unobstructed view of the reds, yellows, and purples of the fall trees, the swirling browns of the Muddy Mississippi, and the boats and trains that lazily passed by. Checking their menu I found a Catfish Fritter Sandwich with a choice of sides for $6.50. This is appropriate for a Tom Sawyer place, I thought, but our eyes, being bigger than our stomachs, found their way to the buffet. At $9.95 for an adult, $4.95 for kids and kids under 5 eat free, it was a little pricier than my usual cheap eats, but St. John’s had just given me food money and 10% off coupons, so we went for it. It was a standard American buffet. Nothing really exciting, but everything was fresh, hot, and tasty. The selection consisted of huge salad and soup bar, mashed potatoes, a big selection of pies, and the many main dish choices, including the fried Missouri catfish I had been eyeing. After pigging out, strolling the grounds and taking one last look at a riverboat floating down the forested Mississippi, we left the kitschy Sawyer’s Creek with happy bellies, happy memories, and a happy wallet.

Scenic Hwy 79 (just a few miles south of Hannibal)

(This article originally appeared in the April 2006 ATT)



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