Rural Missouri - February 2020 - 15

Alan and Valerie
Porter bring fresh,
unique flavors to
southern Missouri
by Zach Smith | zsmith@ruralmissouri.coop

W

hen Alan and Valerie Porter returned to Alan's
stomping grounds in south-central Missouri, the plan was to build a log home with a
wraparound porch and take it easy. The slower
pace of life appealed to the couple, particularly Alan, after more than 13 years of cooking during the busy tourist
seasons in Fort Myers Beach, Florida. It didn't take long for
kitchen fever to strike the self-trained chef and the idea for
the Lil' Black River Cafe was born.
"I like to say, 'we're the only people who moved from Florida to Missouri just to buy ourselves a job,' " Valerie says.
The restaurant highlights many of the influences Alan
has picked up over decades of cooking different styles and
flavors of food. Diners of the former Casa Del Rio in Poplar
Bluff or La Mer Belle or The Carriage House Pub and Eatery
in Springfield have all tasted some of Alan's cooking in years
past. Tex-Mex, Italian, seafood and down-home country
favorites all find their way on to the Lil' Black River Cafe's
menu, and Alan's never afraid to try something new or honor
a diner's request.
"A lot of it is just playing around, but I don't have to play
too much with it - it usually works out." Alan says, when
asked where his culinary inspirations take him. "I'm here
to make people happy, so if it means adjusting something,
that's what we do."
After some searching, the husband-and-wife duo found
a building on the banks of the Little Black River in Grandin. Its cornerstone laid in 1887 and lacking plumbing and
electricity, the future restaurant needed more than a little
work before Alan could get busy creating. With the extensive
remodel behind them, the cafe opened on Mother's Day in
2014. The couple had no concerns about trying to operate a
restaurant 25 minutes from the nearest city - Poplar Bluff
- or the traffic on Highway 60.
"I knew, coming from the area, that people traveled for
good food," Alan says. "And I figured I could give people out
this way something that they're not accustomed to at a really good price."
As the sign out front says, the owners pride the cafe
on its hormone-free meats and homemade bread, sauces
and dressings. The marinara and barbecue sauces were
so frequently requested, the cafe had to start selling them
by the Mason jar. Equally popular are the French loaves
From top: Blackened Chicken Breast and Catfish Dinners - shown
here in Alan's signature cornflake and almond crust - are served with
fresh veggies and potatoes as sides. The fresh-made Spinach & Artichoke
Dip with chips is a popular appetizer.
FEBRUARY 2020 | RURALMISSOURI.COOP

15


http://www.RURALMISSOURI.COOP

Rural Missouri - February 2020

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Rural Missouri - February 2020

Contents
Rural Missouri - February 2020 - Cover1
Rural Missouri - February 2020 - Cover2
Rural Missouri - February 2020 - Contents
Rural Missouri - February 2020 - 4
Rural Missouri - February 2020 - 5
Rural Missouri - February 2020 - 6
Rural Missouri - February 2020 - 7
Rural Missouri - February 2020 - 8
Rural Missouri - February 2020 - 9
Rural Missouri - February 2020 - 10
Rural Missouri - February 2020 - 11
Rural Missouri - February 2020 - 12
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Rural Missouri - February 2020 - Cover3
Rural Missouri - February 2020 - Cover4
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