Miner memories to fill 150th anniversary book

Larry Gragg, Curators’ Distinguished Teaching Professor emeritus of history and political science

In anticipation of Missouri S&T’s 150th anniversary celebration in 2020, Larry Gragg, Curators’ Distinguished Teaching Professor emeritus of history and political science, has collected memories from hundreds of alumni for a sesquicentennial history book. One of the most popular topics: Rolla restaurants. In a story published in the spring 2018 issue of Missouri S&T Magazine, alumni reminisce about their favorite restaurants. The title of the story. “Alex’s Pizza, of course,”  makes it clear that Miners love their pizza.

“Alex’s Pizza, of course!”

by Larry Gragg

Regardless of the decade they attended, alumni most often identified Alex’s Pizza as their favorite restaurant in response to our recent Q&A. However, they identified 26 other places, including eating clubs, they enjoyed.

Most, like Little King’s Sandwich Shop, Bill’s Burger Basket, Rock Villa, Ku Ku Burgers, the Blackberry Patch and La Posada are long gone. Only a few—Penelope’s, Maid Rite and Los Arcos—remain.

Most alumni, because they had little money as undergraduates, recalled inexpensive places, most often pizza restaurants and burger places. Ted Becker, ME’69, remembers venturing to Ku Ku Burgers where the inexpensive food was not particularly good, but “what hungry young man has a discriminating palate?”

There were specialty places. For cold beer and hard boiled eggs it was the Top Hat Lounge. For south-of-the-border food it was La Posada. For cheese balls it was Alex’s. For the best burnt ends it was Johnny’s Smoke Stack. For a date night it was Gordoz.

For those seeking “fancier meals,” the Houston House in Newburg often beckoned. Wick Doll, ChE’65, especially remembered “rolls right out of the oven” served “with home-made apple-butter.” Even the ice cream there was homemade. Doll recalls walking to Newburg along the Frisco rail line, having a meal and then catching the train back to Rolla.

Alumni judged Zeno’s Steakhouse, however, as the best destination for up-scale dining. There, Willis Wilson, CE’73, remembered one always got “great food and great service!” Hardy Pottinger, EE’66, “didn’t realize just how good the steaks were until” he dined “at a ‘famous’ steak joint in Washington, D.C.,  Zeno’s won hands down.”

In the end, with over half of those who responded selecting it, Alex’s emerged as the clear favorite. It was such a special place that one couple even announced their engagement there. So, for off-campus dining in the past five decades, it has been Alex’s, of course!

NOTE: Larry Gragg is a Curators’ Distinguished Teaching Professor emeritus of history and political science and the author of the Missouri S&T sesquicentennial book, currently in the research phase. Missouri S&T will celebrate its sesquicentennial, or 150th anniversary, in 2020-21.