These days were spent doing some shopping and seeing shows at Branson. Since the Barkers had BreAnn and Jeff along, they spent one of the days at Silver Dollar City, an especially nice amusement park nearby. When our Mindy was younger, we made several trips to this park and many others, and by far, Silver Dollar City was our favorite. As for the shows, we saw the Haygoods, the Hughes Brothers, 50s at the Hop, Pierce Arrow, Broadway and Ray Stevens. Of these, only Ray Stevens disappointed. Ray seemed a bit off his timing and didn't have much to offer beyond his old silliness, which by now is a bit worn. The other shows were well worth the price of admission and are definitely recommended. As for dining, we have not found much that is impressive in Branson. We ate at the only Thai restaurant in town, which was too expensive and so unremarkable that we're not even going to mention the name; in fact, we've already forgotten it! A definite T.A.G.L. (Take a Good Look, cause we ain't coming back!) We also tried the Dockers buffet, which was absolutely insipid. Same for the Cannery, whose only saving grace was an old gentleman playing the guitar and singing some wonderful old tunes while we dined. We also ate at Casa Fuentes, a small Mexican food place that wasn't too bad by Missouri standards but would surely have been burned to the ground by the tex-mex aficionados in Dallas/Ft. Worth if it had opened there. We actually found two bright spots: Billy Bob's Dairy Mart, a tiny mom-and-pop hamburger joint that advertised old fashioned hamburgers. These were cooked to perfection, with large hand-formed patties and properly grilled buns. The frozen French fries disappointed, however; next time, we'll order potato chips. We also tried Smack's, a little deli across the street from Dick's Five and Dime store. It had been recommended to us because of their homemade bread used to make sandwiches. While the bread was good, the sandwich was nothing but cold cuts and cheese, and we could have done that ourselves. Their biggest gaffe of all, however, was the iced tea, of which Sandy is a world-class judge. She proclaimed their swill to be much too old and strong and, when she asked for a glass of ice, they served her—no kidding—a mouthwash-sized Dixie cup with a few cubes of ice in it! Now Sandy is nothing, if not particular about her iced tea. It must be fresh, not too strong, and served over a washtub full of ice. When the owner set the little Dixie cup of ice on the table, I thought she was going to pop a vein right there on the spot. I ushered her out before she garroted the guy, who deserved at least a good dressing-down, but we were running a little short on time before the next show. I knew that the ensuing felony proceedings would delay things entirely too long.
Speaking of Dick's Five and Dime, this is a must-see store for Branson visitors. It is faithful to its hype as a last-of-its-kind dime store. The place is huge and, although we have visited it several times, we still haven't managed to see everything. It is truly a throwback to a bygone era when ladies selected their undergarments from shelved stacks of various sizes along one side of an aisle. You could buy paper dolls and hairnets, sprinkler tops for soda bottles (used for sprinkling clothes while you ironed them), bubble gum in the shape of a cigar, oldtime planks of taffy and hundreds of other things you just don't see anymore. Of most fascination to me were the one-of-a-kind gadgets. We weren't able to leave the store without buying corn ear butterers and a lemon squeezer, of all things. We also bought a small broom and a picnic tablecloth (complete with corner grippers for windy weather) for Homer. What a place! We tried to impress on the Barkers that they need to visit this unique store before they leave Branson, but I wasn't sure they would be able to work it in. Perhaps it's just as well; LouAnn, like Sandy, is a shopaholic and, if she ever sees the place, she will likely never leave. They'll just have to bury her in the back parking lot when she goes to her reward!
Bubba suggested Landry's for our meal on the last night in Branson. Now Landry's is a chain restaurant, and all who know me are aware of my aversion to most chain store food emporia. There are a few exceptions, however, especially when one is desperate, as we were in Branson. Landry's is one of those exceptions, as is P. F. Chang's, now that I think about it. Landry's serves reliable seafood and, amidst Branson's vast collection of mediocre country buffets, it stands out as a rose among the thorns. Sandy and I shared a very nice broiled seafood platter, and it proved to be plenty for both of us. This was definitely the best meal found in Branson this trip.