Usually, campers are well-prepared to rough it by bringing easy-to-cook meals or planning to catch their supper.

My sister and I are not good campers, but we’re excellent glampers.

Camp Long Creek is the latest campground of Big Cedar Lodge situated south of Branson on Table Rock Lake. It has grills for cooking out and an affordable canteen for breakfast tacos or freezer pops.

For us, we ventured into the restaurants at Big Cedar Lodge and Top of the Rock for some proper dining.

Top of the Rock sits on a mountaintop serving as a hub for the most upscale dining and activities including golf and nature trails.

For a treat, we went with the most high-end of choices, the Osage Restaurant, at the peak of the mountain.

Go at sunset to catch the daily tradition of a bagpiper’s serenade followed by a blast from a Civil War replica cannon near the Chapel of the Ozarks. The bagpiper is an ode to Scotland as the birthplace of golf.

After toasting the sun’s descent, we went into the lush rotunda area that gives the most picturesque view. We started with the goat cheese fondue appetizer ($15).

Unlike traditional fondue, this had brown-sugar soaked apricots with honey and pistachios. A lavosh with pumpkin seeds made for a nice dipping tool. The swirl of sweet and spicy was a welcomed surprise.

A Caesar salad ($10) was serviceable but the house salad ($9) stood out for its marinated feta cheese, sugared almonds and thyme-oregano basil. Both were plentiful, almost too much when paired with the entree.

For the featured dish, my sister went with comfort food in the buttermilk fried chicken breast served with mashed potatoes with a garlic-thyme cream gravy and broccolini ($27). The chicken took up a little more than half a plate and coated to a crisp perfection. The potatoes were homemade with a texture leaving some hunks of potatoes in the mix.

My choice was the braised short ribs in a wine reduction with sides of vegetables and small potatoes ($36). The melt-in-your-mouth ribs had a roast-style preparation that combines well with the gravy-like reduction.

Though we weren’t that hungry the next morning, we powered through to the Truman Cafe and Custard on the Big Cedar Lodge campus for a biscuit of smoked bacon, egg and aged white cheddar ($8.95). The cheese choice gave it a savory punch.

A popular choice, going by others in the cafe, is the quiche ($6.95 for veggie or $7.95 for western style).

For lunch, we were treated to the Arnie’s Barn at Top of the Rock. It provides a Tex-Mex option and delights golfers with an interesting architectural history.

The restaurant is a 150-year-old barn relocated from the Pennsylvania backyard of golfing great Arnold Palmer. A team of Amish builders reconstructed the building into restaurant. Some of the wood is estimated to be about 250 years old.

Large windows peer out to the Arnold Palmer driving range, part of a 9-hole course. A player’s club is located in the same building.

The bacon guacamole ($11) hit the bull’s eye. Even though we are big fans of bacon, this starter includes roasted corn salsa and flakes of farmer’s cheese, also called queso fresco, putting it over the top. The battered cod tacos ($18) and another plate of ground beef and chorizo tacos ($15) were plentiful and full of taste. Ask for flour instead of the corn tortillas for a better hold on ingredients.

Lunches are served with an ear of roasted corn, a cumin-and-green pepper flavored rice and refried beans.

Topping off the trip, we went to the Buzzard Bar for dinner where the singing cowboy has entertained guests for about 28 years with lively cover tunes.

Food choices reflect the casual vibe with burgers, sandwiches, flatbreads and entrees of ribs, fish, steak or fried chicken. The prime rib French dip ($17) was piled high and served with a robust au jus, and mushroom burger ($17) lived up to expectations.

Looking around, the loaded tater tots ($9) and the barbecue nachos ($13.50) from the appetizer menu look like strong choices.

Before our sisters’ weekend officially ended, we grabbed a breakfast buffet ($18) at the Devil’s Pool restaurant.

It had everything a traditional Ozark buffet should have: country gravy, bacon, biscuits, grits, sausage, eggs, waffles, three kinds of syrup, whipped butter, potatoes and a made-to-order omelette station.

Healthier options of yogurt, fruit and oatmeal were there too. But sticking with the treat-yourself theme of a glamping weekend meant we could sample more of the strawberry jam than the strawberries.


Ginnie Graham


Twitter: @GinnieGraham