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Big Chief Restaurant is Back in Wildwood

PHOTO GALLERY: This week, the vintage Route 66 restaurant opened with new owners, revamped menu and a fresh approach.

The prized buffalo head still graces restaurant's main dining area in , but customers will find many new touches and a remodeled ambiance at 17352 Manchester Road. Big Chief owner Stephanie Mulholland said even the buffalo head was retouched and fixed up.

Big Chief's owners from Wildwood officials, and as planned, officially reopened the doors June 11. This week, the new staff has been working through the ordering and "soft-opening" operational process.

Located across from , customers have been frequenting this historic Route 66 restaurant since 1929. The present owners took possession of the building March 4, and it has been closed since for remodeling.

Big Chief Roadhouse originally was built in what was at the time Pond, MO, as part of the Big Chief Highway hotel to serve transcontinental travelers on the now famed Route 66. Local historians and tourists guides from the period indicate Big Chief was one of the largest tourist cottage courts in Missouri. It differed from average spots of time in that it offered relatively elaborate and elegant dining. It is one of the last remaining full-service restaurants on the Route 66 today.

Big Chief's kitchen hours are Monday through Sunday 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. To review the new menu, click here. The tavern portion is open Sunday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to midnight, and on Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 1:30 a.m.

Mulholland, a Wildwood resident, said she has two partners who both are chefs. One has 25 years of experience; the other 31 years. One interesting note is that Big Chief's staff smoke their own meats. They expect to soon be able to move their smoker onto the restaurant's property.

Indoor seating capacity at Big Chief is about 150, and outdoor is nearly 80. Starting in July, an upstairs room will be available for private parties of up to 40 people.

Mulholland knows the local area well because her children are or were part of and .

History Was Reinvigorated at Big Chief Already

About two weeks ago, Floyd Gilmore and his family traveled from Show Low, AZ, to see Big Chief, where Floyd was born April 9, 1944. Mulholland said the Gilmore family showed up on the restaurant's doorstep, before the restaurant was open.

"We were still moving things around and didn't have the kitchen open or anything, but we welcomed the Gilmores in," she said. "It was absolutely amazing to hear the stories he shared about the area. His aunts and uncles went to the Old Pond School and are buried at Bethel Cemetery one block away. They just stopped by in two full RVs and four cars!"

Mulholland said it was an incredible experience to meet the Gilmores. "Floyd was so proud to show his family, four generations, his birthplace after he had shared stories with them for years."

Gilmore walked away with a new Big Chief T-shirt, photos and new memories of one of his favorite restaurants in the United States.

Pam June 15, 2012 at 12:27 PM
Glad Big Chief is back, but sorry to see it's largely the same calorie-laden menu. That will limit our visits, although we live nearby.
Pam June 15, 2012 at 12:28 PM
Now if only someone would restore and reopen the old Pond Inn!
Julie Brown Patton (Editor) June 15, 2012 at 12:37 PM
I agree with you, Pam, about Pond Inn. It's a shame to watch it fall in on itself. The stories of who all passed through there are so rich!
Jo Beck June 15, 2012 at 02:37 PM
I agree with Pam - I would like to see some healthy choices on the menu. Such a neat venue and a great location-
Stephanie June 15, 2012 at 05:10 PM
Thank you for the interest in healthier choices. Please check out our full menu at www.bigchiefstl.com. 80% of our menu is made from scratch family recipes. Our turkey, brisket, pastrami and chicken wings are all smoked in house. We take pride in details, from our staff, to the food served in our one of kind environment. Please stop in and visit. P.S. 90% of the craftmens who remodeled our historic building from the painter, plumber, tile, electrician and our general contractor were all local residents. We believe in supporting the community.
Julie Brown Patton (Editor) June 29, 2012 at 02:57 AM
Just had another good meal at Big Chief. Someone was celebrating their birthday—ask about the novel and fun way the staff honors birthdays.
Jack Rempe July 30, 2012 at 03:23 AM
What a great place for dinner and to relax. The food is the best. The staff is wonderful, as is the environment. I have been here three times in the last week and a half. My friends all agree, you won't be disapointed.
Kathy Erins March 10, 2013 at 07:59 PM
My husband & I went last night with friends from out of town. We all loved the meal. We felt they had a good selection of food choices. The wings & portabella mushroom appetizers were a perfect size to not spoil our appetite. It was fun to read the history. Wish they had even more info available.

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