The past two years have been very hard for restaurant owners during the pandemic. Many struggle with paying their buildings or keeping a full staff. 

“There’s not been full staffs of employees during the pandemic and there’s been logistical issues that made it a challenge to get in all the food products you use on your menu,” said Bob Bonney, CEO of the Southwest Missouri Restaurant Association.

But that didn’t stop several new places from popping up this year. 

In Springfield alone more than a dozen new restaurants and food trucks started a business journey this year. Here at the News-Leader, we put together a list of some of the new local restaurants that generated the most buzz this year.

Storming Crab

The Storming Crab, a new restaurant at Battlefield Mall, offers up cajun style food specializing in seafood boils.

Storming Crab opened this past summer at the Battlefield Mall, and it has quickly become a favorite for seafood-lovers in Springfield.

Storming Crab’s specialty is its seafood boils that feed two to three people. Another popular dish on the menu is the “create your own combo” which gives diners the choice of two or more seafood options (like shrimp, lobster tail or crawfish) plus three sides.

More:A look inside the Storming Crab restaurant at Battlefield Mall

Ozark Mill at Finley Farms 

The Ozark Mill at Finley Farms will open to the public on Sep. 3, 2021. The mill, originally built in the early 1800's, includes a restaurant, general store, and other event spaces such as the Hawkins Room and The Garrison, a speakeasy that will be opening soon.

The Johnny Morris-backed Ozark Mill restaurant opened this year at Finley Farms in Ozark.

The restaurant, which features a nice ambiance and views of the Finley River, instantly became one of the most popular places in Springfield for a night out. The menu includes hand-crafted cocktails and fire-baked grain mill pizzas.

More:A look inside the Ozark Mill at Finley Farms

Chicago Smerqs 

Chicago Smerqs Springfield

The Chicago Smerqs restaurant in southwest Springfield is a Chicago-themed restaurant that had customers rejoicing when it reopened this summer after construction issues caused it to close for several months.

Chicago Smerqs is a family-owned restaurant that serves many different dishes, including rib tips, hot links and turkey burgers. The wing and catfish plates are two of their most popular items.

PKD Venue

PKD Venue 7330 W Farm Rd 170, Republic, MO

Owners Javier and Michelle Romero opened PKD Venue earlier this year, and the restaurant is quickly becoming a local favorite for breakfast and lunch.

People love PKD Venue not only for its food but also for its mission. Michelle Romero is a human trafficking survivor who spent time in the foster care system and now operates a nonprofit called Unfiltered, which raises money and brings awareness for foster children in Greene and Christian counties.

The Sandwich Scene 

Secret Sandwich Shop, now known as “The Sandwich Scene on McDaniel” was once located inside the Sweet Boy’s Neighborhood Bar in downtown Springfield but expanded to a bigger space this year on McDaniel Street where Sliders used to be.

The Sandwich Scene is a restaurant that serves many different sandwiches with new specials every week. One of their popular sandwiches this year was the Prosciutto Happiness, which is loaded with crisped prosciutto, sliced chicken, melted provolone, sun-dried tomatoes, lettuce mix and their house-made ranch. 

Corner 21

Corner 21 Chinese Cuisine

Corner 21 is another restaurant that took Springfield by storm. Co-owner Jiapeng Lu called Corner 21’s chef and fellow owner Yuming Han “the best Chinese chef in Missouri.” 

Corner 21 is known for its authentic Chinese menu that many people in Springfield have grown to love.

Gettin’ Basted

Gettin' Basted owners say one of their restaurants is planned to open this spring on South Glenstone Avenue.

After starting off as a food truck in the Queen City, Gettin’ Basted returned to its roots with a restaurant on South Glenstone Avenue. Gettin’ Basted recently won the Jack Daniel’s World Championship barbecue competition in Tennessee, adding to an impressive list of awards the restaurant has won from groups like the American Royal and Kansas City Barbecue Society.

Gettin’ Basted bills itself as “Ozarks-style barbecue.” The meat is cooked over open flames using Missouri hardwood charcoal instead of in commercial smokers.

La Habana Vieja

A new Cuban restaurant, La Habana Vieja, opened on June 3rd at 220 E. Commercial Street.

Cuban restaurant La Habana Vieja opened in early July this year and had customers making the Cuban restaurant the talk of Commercial Street.

This restaurant has many interesting Caribbean-style dishes and a full cocktail and wine menu. A popular dish at La Habana Vieja is the lechon asado, which is roast pork shoulder, frijoles Colorado and tostones.

Queen City Soul Kitchen

A plate of BBQ rib tips, collard greens with smoked turkey, candied yams, and East coast style macaroni & cheese at Queen City Soul Kitchen.

Business partners Francine Pratt and Lyle Foster opened Queen City Soul Kitchen at a location on North Broadway Avenue.

Queen City Soul Kitchen is one of the only soul food style restaurants in Springfield. Queen City Soul Kitchen serves fried chicken wings, baked beans and much more. A popular dish at this establishment is the fried fish, which is served on Fridays. Queen City Soul Kitchen modifies its menu every month.

More:Inside Queen City Soul Food

Smoked 417

Smoked 417 is the newest restaurant on the list, and the menu is full of surprises. A dish that is already gaining attention is the chicken and waffles, which includes smoked pecans and maple syrup with a waffle bun.

El Tamale Drip

El Tamale Drip Co-Owners Phillip Ulesich and Miguel Guzman

El Tamale Drip replaced Secret Sandwich Shop when it vacated the space inside Sweet Boy’s Neighborhood Bar.

This new tamale stand offers many great tamales and stays open late. Many people have fallen in love with El Tamale Drip because it’s a great way to end a night out.

Kung Fu Taco

Kungfu Taco on South National Avenue opened in May and serves Korean street tacos and other Asian fusion food.

Kung Fu Taco was another social media favorite in Springfield when it opened, and many were surprised that Asian food would work well inside of a taco shell. 

But it might have been the perfect fit because it’s now a popular restaurant in Springfield and a favorite spot for a quick and tasty lunch.

Ralph Green is a business reporter with the Springfield News-Leader. Contact him at [email protected], by phone: (417-536-4061) or on Twitter at RalphGreenNL