Biker Dad road trip: Home of the "Throwed Rolls" - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Biker Dad road trip: Home of the "Throwed Rolls"

(Source: WMC Action News 5) (Source: WMC Action News 5)
(Source: WMC Action News 5) (Source: WMC Action News 5)
(Source: WMC Action News 5) (Source: WMC Action News 5)
(Source: WMC Action News 5) (Source: WMC Action News 5)
Sikeston, MO (WMC) -

I recently got a chance to go on a road trip I've been planning quite some time. It was a ride home of sorts in more than one way.

Interstate 55 took my family and me back to our hometown, Sikeston, Missouri. It also took me more than 20 years back in time to a place that really hasn't changed much in decades (except moving a few blocks down the same road), to one of the first places I ever earned a paycheck. And I got paid for throwing food, specifically rolls. 

By now you've probably figured out I'm talking about Lambert's Cafe, home of the "throwed rolls." Most people from the Mid-South have heard of the legendary Southeast Missouri restaurant, just two hours up the interstate for those living in the Memphis area. It's also well worth the trip if you have to drive even a little farther.

Have you been living under a hot roll for the past 4 decades and haven't heard of Lambert's?  Here's a quick primer; Lambert's opened up in Sikeston in 1942. It was well established, but really just another spot on the restaurant map when in the 1970s, Norman Lambert took over and the dinner rolls took flight. Legend has it, Mr. Lambert just couldn't get the rolls to the customers fast enough.

"He used to hand them out in baskets," Manager Mike Church said. "A guy just said to Mr. Norm 'just throw me the thing.' So, Norm took it out of the basket. Another guy held his hand up. He threw one to him and next thing you know that's where we are today." Today, Church said, about 2,500 customers come through Lambert's each day. Sikeston, Missouri is a town of only about 16,000, to put that in perspective for you.

The 'throwed rolls' draw in customers from all over the country. Standing in line, I found Marsha Naylor, from Olive Branch, MS. "You gotta have some 'throwed rolls' every time you come this way. They give you too much food, it's too delicious. You just can't bypass it." Marsha couldn't wait to snag a few rolls. I caught her on her way out too, stuffed and headed back home to Olive Branch.

There aren't just the rolls either. Before your order arrives, you're are treated to fried okra, sorghum molasses, and apple butter. When your plate does arrive, already piled with food, servers come around and pile more fried potatoes, macaroni and tomatoes, and black-eyed peas on your plate, too. It really is way too much food, but that's part of the charm. 

As I alluded to earlier, Lambert's was one of my first jobs. Like I said, not much changes here. Mike Church was one of my managers way back in the early 90s, and I'm pretty sure I spotted a few of the waitresses I worked with way back then too. My favorite part of the job was the same thing everyone loves about Lambert's-- the rolls. After months of busing tables, passing around the extras and filling drinks, you may just get lucky enough to get "called up" to throw those throwed rolls. I was among those lucky bread pitchers in my day.

I spoke to current roll-tosser James Martinez. "It's more of a football throw, than a baseball throw," he explained. When I asked him which NFL quarterback he emulates, he said, "I'm more of a Peyton Manning than a Tom Brady. Peyton Manning is my favorite quarterback." But, just like in the big leagues there are incomplete passes. "I miss a lot," James admitted to me. "Five or six times a day." A few minutes later he proved his point by shattering a steaming roll against a wall above a customer's head, the shrapnel of the roll splitting between the fingers of the intended target.

"People get hit in the head," Taylor Hayes said. She's a customer from Lexington, TN waiting in line for her second trip to Lambert's alongside her mom and a friend.

And Lambert's is worth the wait in the line, but don't worry, they've go the system down and you'll be inside before you know it. And when you do sit down at the wooden bench tables, you'll step back a little in time just like I did. Not to sound like an Andy Griffith cliche, but you will find yourself in a simpler time, a bit old fashioned and a lot of fun. Take a moment to notice too, that your kids (and you for that matter) won't spend your dinner time staring at your smart phone. First, it's just too much fun. Second, if you aren't paying attention, you might just get whacked, "don't wave at your neighbor or you're going to catch a roll upside the head," Church said. "You better be ready."

Be ready to take home a belly aching with fullness and a mess of leftovers too. 

Lambert's also has locations on the Gulf Coast and in Southwest Missouri. You can find more info here

Be careful out there, and please follow me on social media.

Twitter: @WMChrisBest

Instagram: Biker_Dad_WMC

Chris Best is the Assistant News Director for WMC Action News 5. He's a husband and father of four, He's also a motorcycle enthusiast.

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