I’ve Been Everywhere & Then I Had Dinner, Springfield
IBE&TIHD, Springfield Edition
By Jessica Conoley
PIE = YUM; MEAT = DELICIOUS; ere go MEAT PIES = YUMMY DELICIOUSNESS.
Deciding it was time to add another IBE&TIHD adventure to my list, my mom-parents and I set off in search of meat pie in the town of Springfield, MO. Everything I knew about meat pies prior to this escapade came from Sweeny Todd, the musical. Which is not really the best way to think about meat pies, since Sweeny Todd pies were made out of people. But I don’t regularly sing my dialogue, nor am I prone to elaborate costumes and lots of eyeliner, so I felt safe in proceeding under the assumption we would find traditional, human free, meat pies in Springfield.
1 p.m. CST on March 12, 2016. —We arrive at London Calling, a kind-of-restaurant set up at the intersection of two main highways. “A kind-of restaurant?” you ask. Yes, that’s right. There’s no proper building, so it’s more of a food-truck/covered-area-to-eat-in hybrid. There’s a trailer where all the cooking and ordering is done and a gutted-red-double-decker-bus parked next to the trailer. The bus is full of booths, as well as countertops and stools, so you can eat inside—which especially helpful today because it’s gray and drizzly outside. There’s also a red phone(less) box outside which makes for a great photo op. I shove my parents into it—my reluctant models.
The good sign is even though it’s gray and drizzly, there’s still a short line of people waiting to order. It’s normally a plus when there’s a line, especially under adverse conditions; it indicates the food within is worth waiting for (or it could mean the place is terribly inefficient, but I always land on the side of hope and in this case it was the right side.) The three of us stare at the menu for a bit and the gent taking orders looks down from his tall window to talk us through the menu. “The traditional’s our best seller, but we’re out of it. And I just sold our last steak & cheddar. If you want to wait fifteen minutes I’ll have some more. Oh, and our Shepherd’s Pie is really good too, but those take forty-five minutes so you have to call ahead.”
Every person who goes through the line ahead of us scoops up another pie and I don’t think there’s going to be anything left for us to eat, so I tell Mom and Don we better make a decision fast. Mom orders a sausage roll. Don, the Bangers & Mash pie, and I try something called The Bombay because they’re out of my first and second and third choices. After a few seconds I realize The Bombay is a vegetarian option. I’m not even getting a meat pie, but it’s too late now.
A few minutes later our order is passed down to us and we make our way into the bus. I insist we eat on the top floor, as I’ve never been on a double decker before. We clamor up the small twisting stairway and sit in the rear booth, next to a small AC/heating unit. The radio is playing, loud, which makes me very happy, because I’m a rock-out-in-the-car and sing-along kind of person. With this place being called London Calling I was expecting The Clash, but instead Adele is blasting through the speakers. By the time I’ve finished unwrapping my pie I decide Adele is appropriate music for the place. She is British after all, and I laugh hard every time I think of that time she went to Jamba Juice.
It’s a plastic-utensils-paper-napkins meal and each of our pies come wrapped in wax paper printed to look like newspaper with faux stories and a crossword puzzle. Don’s pie and mine are half moon crescents a little larger than my hand; the dough is crimped into a thick braid around the outer edge. Mom’s sausage roll is like a weird brat with puff pastry instead of your normal Wonderbread bun. We also have sides of crisps. (It’s sooo British of them, that means chips. Good old normal potato chips for me.) Mom and I got normal drinks iced tea or soda or something, but Don ordered a Shandy.
My Bombay Pie is full of roasted cauliflower, chickpeas, and potatoes in a blend of spices I’m not as familiar with—I know it reminds me of Indian food and decide to investigate further. With my plastic fork I pick through the innards, tasting each vegetable independently. I like the spice blend of coriander, turmeric, garam masala, garlic, and cayenne woven through the tomatoes that bind everything together. It’s rare for me to eat Indian food, and it’s the tender little chickpeas that make me think maybe I should give Indian food more of a college try in the future.
The pastry dough is consistent through all three of our dishes. It’s flaky and buttery, but it feels like there’s more crust than the filling ratio warrants. When I take another look at their menu I realize we should have ordered sides of gravy to dip the crusts in. That would have been a delicious combination and an excellent idea.
I really like Don’s Bangers & Mash pie, mostly for the mash. There’s the fact that I adore potatoes, but the mash is whipped so light and fluffy I could die. The banger is a sausage, just like the one in mom’s sausage roll, but Mom is a bit scared of hers. She’s worried her sausage is undercooked, and I agree it does look a little underdone. She gives the rest of hers to Don, and he eats it without complaint. He also didn’t die or get sick so the bangers must have been cooked just fine.
It’s a fast meal. We take our time afterwards to watch the rain fall and listen to Adele’s throaty voice while Don finishes his Shandy. Shandy means not beer beer. I’d have to try a whole one for myself before I could tell you if I liked it or not. I don’t like beer, and this definitely wasn’t straight up beer—but it wasn’t soda either. Final verdict by both Don and me: it was weird.
As we’re leaving the parking lot we notice the handful of other food trucks parked around a human foos ball court. For six dollars each, grown humans can partner up into teams to re-create the well-known arcade table. My guess is on a Saturday night when the weather is nice and all the trucks are open this is a fun way to spend the evening.
I left wanting to try a meat pie, and wishing Springfield was closer to Kansas City. Next time I know to call ahead and make sure they’re not out of everything, that way I can try what I really want which was the steak and cheddar pie. My guess is London Calling probably makes a killer one.