Food and the Missouri State Fair. They are two traditions that go hand-in-hand. For the last 40 years, one traditional fair food stop that entices many is The Pork Place.
With an original menu featuring a limited number of offerings, the restaurant has expanded both the menu and the services it provides its customers.
“Over the years, we have offered ‘limited time’ menu items that have eventually stayed on the menu due to popularity,” Diane Slater of the Missouri Pork Association said. “For instance, pulled pork used to be only offered on Senior Citizens day.
“It became so popular we added it to the everyday menu,” she continued. “We received customer input for wanting salads, so we began offering a larger salad with our sliced pork loin which was already on the menu as a sandwich. I’d say each item has its followers.”
Those followers include elected officials, many of Missouri’s governors, grandstand performers and guests from all areas of the state.
What began as an idea by the Missouri Pork Association and its Board of Directors including Debbie (Brand) Vickers, Eldon Kreisel, Dennis and Kathy Dohrman, Leroy Heatherington, Mark Duquette, Russ Cramer, Jerry Clevenger and Harvey Peterson quickly grew and expanded to meet the requests of their patrons.
According to Slater, the menu originally featured an 8-ounce pork chop, link sausage sandwiches, slaw, applesauce and drinks served under a tent on the fairgrounds.
“In 1987, MPA did away with the tent and built a permanent steel structure with a concrete floor and kitchen facilities,” Slater explained. “In 2009, that facility was replaced with an enclosed, air-conditioned building. As the facility evolved, the menu grew to include more items.”
While the Pork Place still has pork chops, they are now 10-12 ounces each. They also have pork loin, pork burgers, pulled pork, shredded barbecue pork, smoked ribs, loaded baked potatoes, pork loin salad, BLT sandwiches, and fries.
Although Slater could not provide an exact number of dinners sold during the 2018 Missouri State Fair, the restaurant sold more than 20,000 pounds of pork products.
According to Executive Director of the Missouri Pork Association Don Nikodim, much of the pork served at the Pork Place is raised and processed in-state. Pork products are sourced through Smithfield, JBS and Seaboard/Triumph.
A new feature for 2019 is the Pork Stop window where diners can walk up and order pork burgers or pork chops on a stick with chips and a drink for a quick meal.
During the fair, the Pork Place is offering a 40th Anniversary Special: the Top Chop Dinner for $11. The meal will be the featured menu item for $6 on Throwback Thursday, Aug. 15.
Guests can also find new pork recipes or enter for a chance to win one of 11 prize packages by completing a comment card.
While the restaurant is not open year-round, the facility is available to rent for receptions and special events during the off-season, according to Siron.
Off-season events are booked through the Missouri State Fair, with approval from the Pork Association. The association is the only group allowed to cook in the kitchen, due to liability issues, so catering is booked through the organization.
The Pork Place is open daily from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. during the fair and is located one block west of the Pepsi Grandstand.