Caves are pretty cool to look at and walk through, but have you ever eaten in one? Folks in Lanagan, Mo., get to enjoy that experience all the time.
Chris Black and his wife, Teresa Ezell, own and operate The Cave Bar & Grill, originally the home of Truitt’s Cave.
Truitt’s Cave was discovered in 1929 and named after John Truitt, who was called the “Caveman of the Ozarks.” Truitt discovered and developed six caves in the area as show caves.
It was opened to the public in 1938 and reportedly used as a restaurant during the 1940s. It was also advertised as a “cave restaurant of yesteryear” and mentioned in “Ripley’s Believe It or Not” at some point in time.
According to showcaves.com it was later opened for free picnics then closed in 2000, sold to Debbie and Byron Stewart in 2002 and reopened. In 2004 it was closed again and put up for sale until it was purchased in 2011 by Black and his wife.
Before purchasing the cave, Black and Ezell lived very different lives in Indianapolis.
“I was a high school principal in Indianapolis and Chris was an IT specialist for the Department of Defense,” said Ezell.
Black moved to Lanagan first, and Ezell moved down in 2013.
“I noticed that the United States was in a financial crisis and I took all my leave I had saved up and came here,” said Black.
He had joined an online chatroom before coming to Lanagan and connected with several survivalists, one of whom already lived in Lanagan.
“A group of us guys came to Lanagan and I stayed with the guy who already lived here, and the cave presented itself as an opportunity to purchase, so I bought it within a few weeks of moving here,” said Black.
The cave was originally purchased to be turned into a bunker/safe haven if the time came for it.
“Ten of us were doing on-site work and as time passed, several people had to re-join society again and go back to their jobs,” said Black.
Black eventually realized he would have to either go back to work or quit his job after his leave was up.
“They were doing ‘early out’ for retirement in my department and one guy passed the opportunity up, and it then was offered to me and I took it and stayed here,” said Black.
With Black’s retirement money he decided to turn the cave into a restaurant.
The cave sits on 50 acres with a dilapidated house on the property. When Black first bought the cave he lived in it for a year-and-a-half before moving into the basement of the house.