So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.
– F. Scott Fitzgerald.
At an intersection on a hill overlooking the Missouri River in Boonville, there is a confluence of the past, present and future sheathed in brick and glass. It’s as real as it is sturdy yet is filled with dreams, some on the drawing board and some already materialized.
At this confluence, Glenn’s Café is back—a welcome word to many Columbia area diners who have been unable to get the taste for Glenn’s out of their mouths since the downtown fixture closed in 2002.
Glenn’s is now located in the Hotel Frederick, a historic building in downtown Boonville that has gone through several incarnations since it opened in 1905 and is now going through another change.
Steve Cupp operated Glenn’s in Columbia from February 1985 until August 2002. He returned to mid-Missouri and, after the original developers for a restaurant in the Frederick dropped out, decided to open Glenn’s Café there.
The enthusiasm for the original establishment was key to Cupp’s decision to open Glenn’s Café instead of a different restaurant. Those familiar with Glenn’s cuisine won’t be disappointed at the new place.
“The front of the house is completely different,” Cupp said. “The back of the house is the same.”
The dining room seats more than 80 but is not crowded. A high ceiling and large windows with a view of the river give the feeling of openness. The bar, filled with comfortable chairs and tables, has the look of a private club.
“We still have the oyster bar,” Cupp said.
The back of the house is where some of the traditional Glenn’s favorites are prepared, including shrimp Creole, fried gulf oysters, gumbo, steak Frederick and chicken fried steak with cream gravy.
“It’s different than what people used to see,” he said. “Hopefully, we still have the same vibe.”
The setting is very different from the old Glenn’s in downtown Columbia. The Hotel Frederick, which is listed in the National Register of Historic Places, is in the midst of a $2.1 million restoration under developers Adam Jones and Bill Haw. The city of Boonville came up with $550,000 to assist in the project.
According to Jones, the Frederick will open 22 rooms on April 1, 2007, with 18 more rooms opening at a later date. The hotel also has retail space, which has already attracted one antique dealer and may soon garner a bicycle shop. The hotel lobby is completed, and Glenn’s Café is reached by walking through it.
“There are three reasons I think this can work,” Jones said. The first is the nearby Katy Trail, which attracts 300,000 visitors a year, he said.
“This is a world-class amenity right in front of my hotel,” he said.
Next is the “incredible richness of the historical culture” of mid-Missouri, he said.
The third reason is the presence of the Isle of Capri Casino, which Jones said has been supportive of his efforts.
Jones also cited the enthusiasm of the community for bringing back the Frederick.
“When we had our pre-construction open house, over 600 people showed up,” Jones said. “I just sat [across the street] and watched.”
The hotel, which in its last incarnation was a senior living center, has been carefully redone. Original light fixtures and woodwork shine. The marble floors look as if they were installed yesterday. The furnishings are unmistakably American, and Jones said that’s how he wants it.
“We don’t want to be European. We want to be classic Midwestern,” he said.
Classic is what they have so far: classic hotel, classic restaurant, classic American can-do optimism at a site overlooking the Missouri River, a place where the past and the present point toward a bright future. v
Glenn’s Café is open Monday through Saturday, with the bar opening at 4:30 p.m. and the dining room at 5 p.m. The Frederick is located at Main and High streets in Boonville, next to the bridge.