Wilder’s Steakhouse

I begin to relax as I press my back into the solid wooden booth seat, enjoying the privacy provided by the booth’s towering heights and the restaurant’s dim lighting. From my clandestine spot, I can see a portion of the long, inviting bar, well-stocked with neat rows of alcohol bottles waiting to be mixed into classic cocktails like Sidecars or Singapore Slings.

 

wilders bar

 

The atmosphere reminds me of the kind of cool and sophisticated place where members of the Rat Pack once frequented. I picture them sitting at one of the tables up front, surrounded by friends for a night of celebration, or, conversely, ducking into one of the high-backed booths to enjoy a meal without the constant attention of adoring fans. As I sip the last drop of my martini, I swear I see Ol’ Blue Eyes himself appear in front of me.

 

wilders blue eyes

 

I snap to and realize that it’s actually my Blue Eyes, my husband Travis. This place has a way of tricking the mind, of making you think that you’ve traveled back in time to the golden age of restaurants, when dining out was more than just grabbing a quick bite to eat: it was an event.

 

This time-frozen place is Wilder’s Steakhouse, a casual, fine-dining establishment that has served diners in Joplin since 1929. Located on Main Street in the downtown district, Wilder’s continues its decades-old tradition of offering some of the best steaks in town. These days that includes hand-cut, hormone-free, and antibiotic-free cuts of Black Angus beef.

 

So, when Travis and I were recently craving some steak, we pointed the car toward Wilder’s. Street parking is available in front, but we opted to park in the lot behind the building. Entering through the rear brought us through a hallway peppered with vintage ads and menus, serving as a time tunnel connecting us from the modern world outside to the restaurant’s classic interior.

 

wilders vintage sign wall

wilders vintage sign

wilders vintage menu

 

After settling in with some cocktails, we ordered appetizers: Shrimp Cocktail for Travis (served with four plump jumbo shrimp),

 

wilders shrimp

 

and The Wilder’s Wedge for me because I wanted a crisp, fresh salad to balance out the upcoming hearty meal.

 

wilders wedge

But with an ample amount of lettuce, locally grown tomatoes, smoked Applewood bacon, and house-made bleu cheese dressing, I could have eaten The Wilder’s Wedge as a meal by itself.Through sheer will, I forced myself to stop so I could leave room for my entree.

 

Although Wilder’s is a steakhouse, the menu here is not limited to steak; you’ll find entrees to suit any appetite, such as Chilean Sea Bass, Pesto Roast Chicken, and Vegetarian Sauté. But that night we had come for the steak. Each steak entree comes with the choice of one side. Travis ordered Wilder’s Mignons: two juicy tenderloin medallions topped with rich Asiago cream sauce and some more of that tasty crumbled Applewood bacon, with a side of tender grilled asparagus.

 

wilders mignons

wilders asparagus

I ordered the fancy-sounding Filet Dupont, a melt-in-your-mouth, six-ounce center cut tenderloin topped with mushrooms, caramelized onions, and Gruyere –  flavors which complemented one another nicely.

 

wilders filet du pont

 

For my side, I ordered something based on the recommendation of my friends: Wilder’s Signature Truffled Macaroni & Cheese. I’m not a big mac-and-cheese fan, so I thought I’d just have a taste and bring the rest home to my kids. Well, the kids never even saw it because I ate every bite (except the one I let Travis taste).

 

wilders mac and cheese

This wasn’t your typical powdered Kraft mac-and-cheese; the pasta here was tossed with earthy truffle oil and topped with real cheese. This dish totally broadened my view of mac-and-cheese: it can be a gourmet item.

 

As we were settling up the bill, our server asked us if we’d seen the recently restored Wilder’s sign on top of the building. Installed in 1950, the neon hadn’t worked for the past 20 years, which was the length of time that I’ve lived in Joplin, so I’d never had the chance to see it illuminated. Naturally, I had to check it out.

 

wilders restored sign

All the sign’s arrows ARE working. I just happened to catch this one mid-flash.

 

While this street-level picture doesn’t do it justice (a drone would’ve captured a more impressive photo), seeing the kitschy sign with its flashing neon-orange arrows pointing to the Wilder’s name made me feel, once again, that I’d stepped back to a time when dining out wasn’t just a convenience, but a special occasion.

 

Wilder’s Steakhouse is located at 1216 South Main Street. To visit its website, click here, and to follow Wilder’s on Facebook, click here.

 

To read about my adventures in the area, visit JoplinMOLife.com.

I Am Joplin: George Michalopoulos

Noble columns and graceful stone statues resembling ancient Greek deities create elegant touches to the exterior of this building. Its appearance is unexpected – an oasis of stateliness in a sea of homogeneous commercial buildings.

 

george mythos 1

 

But while it may look like a palace, to one Joplin man, it’s simply home.

 

This home is Mythos, and its owner is George Michalopoulos, a man with boundless energy who spends the majority of his day at this restaurant. While he does have an actual house, along with a wife and two children, to go to at the end of the day, his passion for – and dedication to – his business has expanded his clan, creating a family of employees and customers who find comfort, celebration, and community within the walls of Mythos.

 

George-in-Training

Being a restaurateur is a far cry from George’s youthful dream of being an anesthesiologist, but the restaurant business is in his blood. His parents, Andrew and Vickie Michalopoulos, came from Greece to Missouri in the 1970s, and opened up restaurants. Eventually, they branched out into the full-service hotel industry and purchased the Ramada Inn (now LaQuinta Inn) in Joplin, where George oversaw the restaurant, bar, and guest rooms.

 

When it came time for George’s parents to sell the hotel, he had to figure out what he wanted to do next. With anesthesiology now off the table, he decided to honor his roots and his genuine enthusiasm for the restaurant industry by opening his own establishment. I know I’m not alone when I say that I’m extremely glad that he did.

 

George the Restaurateur

George opened Mythos in 2004 with the help of his wife Jaime, who also hails from a family of restaurateurs. But while everyone else in George’s family had operated steak houses and buffet restaurants, George and Jaime wanted to do something different, something upscale. Something Greek.

 

Over the years, the menu has evolved. Although it remains Greek-influenced with items like the Tour of Mythos (a sample platter of traditional Greek food including gyro meat, pita slices, and spanakopita – which is one of my favorite dishes here), the menu also includes other fare such as steaks (like the Blackberry Filet) and seafood (like the Vermouth Bass). “Joplin’s food tastes are growing,” says George. “The younger generation is seeing a lot more (TV) food shows and getting a lot more of a food education, which is allowing us to mature a lot more quickly than we used to.”

 

Plus, Mythos was using fresh ingredients before using locally sourced ingredients became trendy. “That’s a lot of the Mediterranean culture,” says George. “It was instilled in us as kids that you go to the garden to grab something fresh and it tastes so much better.”

 

george m

George at home, a.k.a. Mythos.

 

The scrumptious meals at Mythos are prepared by Chef Eugene Deal, who gets a special helper in the kitchen on Mondays. That’s when George dons his chef uniform and gets cooking. “It’s good for me to be in the kitchen because the employees see that, ‘Hey, this guy knows what he’s doing,’” says George. “I put orders in with them, I prep with them, I coach them, and I train them.” George believes that his presence in the kitchen has had a positive impact on the employee turnover rate at Mythos, which is low – a unique trait in the fickle restaurant industry. “I think it’s the fact that I’m in here working with them side-by-side, facing the same struggles that they face,” says George. “We’re problem-solving together.”

 

With his hands-on approach to managing the restaurant, it’s no surprise that he’s thrived as the sole owner/operator, despite the fact that he was only 30 when Mythos opened. Add in his incomparable customer recognition skills, which have earned the respect – and business – from customers over the years, and you have a solid recipe for success. He even recognizes people who come in once every year or two, much to their amazement. “I want to make sure that guests are happy and leave better than how they came in,” says George. “I try to make them feel at home.”

 

 

george mythos statue front

 

Practicing the Greek-influenced style of dining is another way that George and his employees make people feel at home at Mythos. “It’s not rushed. It’s very family-oriented. It’s sitting down. It’s talking. It’s enjoying. It’s not getting people in and out in 30 to 40 minutes, then getting the next table in.” While the servers do pick up the pace for the time-crunched lunch crowd, at dinner they move at the pace of the customers.

 

How was this leisurely European dining pace initially received by Joplin diners? “The first couple of years were an adjustment,” George admits. “Now people understand it. We had a table here last week with a 3:30 pm reservation and they were still here at 7 pm.”

 

George the Inventor

When George isn’t cooking or visiting with customers, he’s creating products and systems which make his business – and others in the industry – run more efficiently. Have you ever heard of the Dump Commander? (Go ahead and giggle like a 5th grader at the name – I did). Although it sounds funny, this product has had a serious impact on employees in the restaurant industry, winning the 2016 Kitchen Innovation Award at the National Restaurant Association.

 

What is the Dump Commander? George describes his invention as “a rechargeable unit that you take out to the dumpster, and instead of having to lift trash up over your head, you just hit a button and it dumps it for you.” You can read more about the Dump Commander here.

 

George the Dad

Being an inventor and restaurateur means long hours at Mythos, so George’s friends and family know that, in order to maximize their chances of seeing him, they should stop by the restaurant. Except in summer – that’s when Mythos closes for two weeks so that George can “devote 100%, 24/7” to his kids Andreas, 18, and Jasmine, 16, along with his wife Jaime.

 

George the Joplinite

After working in Joplin for more than two decades, George has come to appreciate living in this town, both for its “relaxed, lower pressure” lifestyle and for its family-friendly environment. “I like the fact that we know a lot of people even though it’s a fairly large-sized town.”

 

So where in Joplin does George take out-of-town visitors when they come to see him (besides Mythos, of course)? “I take our guests to a lot of the local restaurants,” says George. “When I worked in the hotel business, we would always direct guests to local restaurants because you can get a franchise anywhere in the country, but you pick the places that they don’t have in their hometowns and their cities. That way, they can experience something different and unique.”

 

George has been successful offering something different and unique at Mythos, and he does so with inexhaustible enthusiasm. “The time at the restaurant for me does not drag on,” says George. “I spend 12 to 16 hours a day here and I don’t feel like I’ve been here that long.” To George, Mythos isn’t just a workplace: “This is my home.”

 

Mythos is located at 1306 South Range Line Road. To visit its website here; to follow it on Facebook, click here; and if you’d like to read about my experience at Mythos, click here.

 

To read about my adventures in the area, visit JoplinMOLife.com.

Expanding Young Minds: Weekend Programs for Kids

Learning doesn’t have to stop at end of school week (although kids might want it to). Many places in the Joplin area offer weekend programs and activities that are so inventive and engaging that your kids will be having too much fun to realize that they’re actually learning something – on the weekend.

 

EXPLORE

 
George Washington Carver National Monument646 Carver Road, Diamond, MO

Known as the “Peanut Man” and the “Plant Doctor,” George Washington Carver grew up exploring nature around his home in Diamond, Missouri, where a national monument was later built in honor of his scientific and agricultural contributions to society, which include the discovery of over 300 uses of the peanut. On weekend lab demo days, kids can recreate some of Carver’s experiments, such as making milk out of peanuts (read more here). At the Agricultural School on Wheels program, they can learn about Carver’s Jesup Wagon which carried agricultural tools to area farmers. Other weekend programs here include Raptors of Prey, where kids (and adults) can learn about and see live raptors. For upcoming programs, click here.

 

gwc-beaker

Making peanut milk at Carver National Monument

 
Joplin Greenhouse & Garden Center, 2820 East 32nd Street, Joplin

Kids can have hands-on learning experiences at this garden center. They can plant seeds and transplant flowers and veggies to take home at the Little Seedlings in the Garden program, and learn about one of the most intriguing plants (and take one home) at the Kids Venus Flytrap Workshop. For upcoming programs, click here.

 

Joplin Public Library1901 E. 20th Street, Joplin

There’s something entertaining and educational for kids of all ages at the Joplin Public Library. Little ones, ages 1 to 5 years, are invited to the monthly Saturday Explore & Play program, where they will learn early literacy skills through play at exploration stations. Older kids and teens, in grades 6 to 12, are welcome to socialize and create at the Give it a Shot programs, where they can construct objects using different materials like Legos and littleBits electronic pieces (for building Droids). For upcoming programs, click here.

 

Southeast Kansas Nature Center3511 South Main Street, Galena, KS

Kansas! Why is something in Kansas on this list? Because this gem of a nature center is only 15 minutes from downtown Joplin. The center offers occasional weekend programs, like Bat Saturday, where kids can learn about these creatures through interactive displays, crafts, and activities. Afterward, take a walk on the trails outside and peek into Schermerhorn cave to see if you can spy any bats yourself. For upcoming programs, click here.

 

sek-jenn

Learning about snakes at the Southeast Kansas Nature Center

 
Wildcat Glades Conservation & Audubon Center201 Riviera Drive, Joplin

Kids love to visit this center to explore the interactive nature discovery area, and to pet the center’s beloved bunny Trevor. The center also offers a variety of nature programming geared toward different age groups. The Preschool Nature Connections series introduces children, ages 3 to 6, to topics like What Lives in the Water? and Jeepers, Spring Peepers. Other programs include Let’s Be Tree Heroes with Dr. Seuss and the Lorax (ages 4 to 10), and the annual Christmas Bird Count (ages 7 and up). For upcoming programs, click here.

 

CREATE

 
Crackpot Pottery & Art Studio3820 East 20th Street, Joplin

Kids ages 10 and up are welcome to participate in a 2-hour drop-in session at this pottery studio where they will receive personalized instruction. The session fee includes materials, plus firing and glazing of the pottery. For more information, click here.

 

Firehouse Pottery112 South Main Street, Joplin

Little ones can listen to a story, then paint a piece of pottery based on that story at Firehouse’s monthly Storytime Pottery program. Other children’s programs at Firehouse include the Superhero Event, the Trolls Pajama Party, and Kid-Parent Date Day. For upcoming programs, click here.

 

Firehouse-tile

Painting pottery at Firehouse

 
Phoenix Fired Art, 1603 South Main Street, Joplin

The Saturday Morning Drop-In Class at this pottery studio is geared toward kids ages 8 and older. The class runs from 9:30 am to noon, and no appointment is necessary. Clay, tools, firing, and instruction are included in the cost. For more information, click here.

 

phoenix-wheel-m

Making pottery at Phoenix Fired Art

 
RSVPaint, 223 Third Street, Joplin

This paint-and-sip studio is known for offering evening painting classes (and cocktails) to adults, but on Saturday afternoons, it closes the bar and welcomes children of all ages at the Family Paint class (they must have an adult with them, though). Depending on the nature of the class, there may be a minimum age requirement; for instance, the minimum age for the Wooden Sign Painting class is 8 years old. All classes are taught step-by-step, so no experience is necessary. For upcoming sessions, click here.

 

Spiva Center for the Arts223 West Third Street, Joplin

There are a variety of classes for kids to choose from at this art hub of the Four States. Saturday classes include Mini Makers (ages 3 to 5), and the Tween Workshop (ages 12 to 14). (The class for ages 6 to 11, Creation Station, is offered during the week on Tuesday afternoons). Other programs include Wand Making (ages 7 and older), and photography classes (divided into three age groups). For upcoming programs, click here.

 

So, the next weekend that you hear your kids say, “I’m bored,” you can refer to this list and find something constructive, educational, and fun to keep their growing minds stimulated.

 

To read more about my adventures in the area, visit JoplinMOLife.com

Get Creative: Weekend Fun Isn’t Just for Kids!

To me, the arrival of the weekend is like savoring a piece of rich, dark chocolate after a day of drinking green smoothies and eating salmon and vegetables. It’s a treat, a reward for all the hard work we adults do at our professional and parenting jobs during the week.

 

We celebrate our weekend time in a variety of ways. We watch movies, meet friends for dinner, go on trail runs or, conversely, sit on our bums and scroll through Facebook for hours. All of these ways to unwind from the workweek have merit, but we often find ourselves repeating the same activities over and over again.

 

Then we get in a rut. And somehow the weekend is just not that rewarding anymore.

 

That’s when it’s time to try something new, something that challenges us and enables us to discover skills and talents that we didn’t know we had. That’s when it’s time to learn.

 

There are many area organizations that offer weekend programs for adults in art, history, gardening, nature, yoga, and more. Look over this list and see if something stirs your soul to learn, create, and move.

 

 

LEARN

 
 
gwc-mortar

Making peanut milk in the lab at Carver

 
 

George Washington Carver National Monument, 646 Carver Road, Diamond, MO

Just a 20-minute drive south of Joplin, this national park celebrates the life of George Washington Carver, a former slave who became an accomplished scientist, teacher, and philanthropist. The visitor center here offers programs which honor Carver’s passion for nature and learning. Channel your inner scientist at a lab demonstration (I made peanut milk at the one I went to), attend a special program such as Wonders of the Night Sky or the Plant-Based Cooking Workshop, or listen and learn at special presentations such as Women in Carver’s Life or Encouraging the Next Generation. Click here for upcoming programs.

 

Joplin Greenhouse & Garden Center, 2820 East 32nd Street, Joplin

More than just a great place to buy healthy plants (it’s where I buy mine every spring!), Joplin Greenhouse is also a learning center, offering workshops such as Beginning Beekeeping and Hipster Houseplants. Click here for upcoming programs.

 

Wildcat Glades Conservation & Audubon Center, 201 Riviera Drive, Joplin

In addition to having some of the area’s most scenic hiking trails, Wildcat Glades has a visitor center which contains a nature discovery area and classrooms for special programming. Learn about local nature at Discover Winter Birds or Ozark Chinquapin: A Lost Treasure, or hone your nature photography skills at the Behind the Lens workshop. Click here for upcoming programs.

 

 

CREATE

 
 
rsvp-people-painting

Painting pet portraits at RSVPaint

 
 

Crackpot Pottery & Art Studio, 3820 East 20th Street, Joplin

This laid-back studio invites you to learn how to make pottery at your own leisure at the Saturday drop-in class (read about my experience here), or attend scheduled programs in a variety of mediums, like the Birdhouse Workshop, Watercolor Painting, or Jewelry-Making Basics. Click here for upcoming programs.

 

Firehouse Pottery, 112 South Main Street, Joplin

This paint-your-own pottery studio makes it easy to individualize a piece of art. Drop in during studio hours, select an unfinished piece of pottery and paint colors, then personalize your creation. The staff at Firehouse will guide you along the way. Bring your special someone for Friday night Date Night, or your BFF for Girls’ Night (which is on Tuesdays, but I’m including this so you can plan a weekday escape, too! Read about my experience here.) Click here for upcoming programs.

 

Joplin Greenhouse & Garden Center, 2820 East 32nd Street, Joplin

Yes, Joplin Greenhouse makes the list again! This time, it’s for hands-on workshops where you can create things like Fairy Gardens, Macramé Hangers, and Christmas Wreaths. Click here for upcoming programs.

 

Phoenix Fired Art, 1603 South Main Street, Joplin

This clay studio also offers a Saturday morning drop-in class for those who want to learn to make pottery (read about my experience here). For a unique learning and socializing event, come to the Friday Film, where a potluck meal is served, followed by a viewing of an arts-related documentary film, and then a discussion. Click here for upcoming programs.

 

RSVPaint, 223 Third Street, Joplin

Here’s another studio where you can create and socialize. Also, at RSVPaint you can imbibe in your favorite drink as you create (bring your own, or purchase one at the studio’s bar). RSVPaint offers a variety of class theme. I’ve been to one where my friends and I painted designs on wine glasses, one where I painted a portrait of my dog (click here to read about it), and a Date Night class where my husband and I each painted a panel that, when put next to the other, made a complete picture (read about it here). Click here (then scroll down) for upcoming classes.

 

Spiva Center for the Arts, 223 West Third Street, Joplin

Since 1947, Spiva has served as the art hub of the Four States, thanks to the many classes and programs its offers the community. Try Basic Drawing, Fun & Funky Upcycled Hats, Pysanky Egg Decorating, or the Fused Glass Tray class (read about my experience here). Click here for upcoming programs.

 

 

MOVE

 

 

soar open jump

Play on trampolines at Soar’s ExSOARcise class

 
4 States Yoga and Restoration Center, 2615 North Range Line Road, Joplin

In addition to a weekend Vinyasa Yoga class, 4 States Yoga offers Barre and Tai Chi classes, as well as special workshops, like Aerial Yoga and Self-Defense. Click here for classes and programs.

 

Downtown Yoga, 501 South Wall Avenue, Joplin

If you’re feeling the need to de-stress after a hectic week, try one of the weekend classes at Downtown Yoga, such as Restorative Yoga, Hot Yoga, or Power Yoga (read about my experience here). Click here for classes and programs.

 

Soar Trampoline Park, 1502 South Madison Street, Webb City, MO

Get a cardio workout while jumping on trampolines! Soar’s 45-minute Saturday morning ExSOARcise class includes jumping and floor exercises, and is open to all experience levels. Click here for more information.

 

If you’re content with your current weekend plans, kudos to you. But if you ever find yourself in a rut, come back to this list. There’s sure to be something at one of these locations that will beckon you to learn, create, or move.

 

To read more about my adventures in the area, visit JoplinMOLife.com.

 

I Am Joplin: Melodee Colbert-Kean

Back in grade school, my friends and I formed a club called the Busy Bees. Our goal was to perform service projects in the community. While I do remember several afterschool club meetings held at my house, I don’t recall ever doing any community projects. While our intentions were good, we Bees weren’t really that busy.

 

A few decades later, I found the person who I think could have led our club to accomplish great things in the community. She’s Melodee Colbert-Kean, a Queen Bee buzzing with seemingly endless energy and a passion for service. While I can’t transport her back in time to mentor our club, I certainly appreciate all the things that she does for the place I now call home: Joplin.

 

melodee history

Melodee’s career highlights include serving as Joplin’s first African-American mayor, and as President of the National League of Cities. She has met President Obama and traveled the world as a representative of Joplin. With all of these accomplishments under her belt at only age 50, I’d assumed that she’d been interested in civil service most of her life.

 

I was wrong.

 

Serving in Joplin Government

Melodee’s foray into city government began in 2005, when City of Joplin Council Member Jim West held a meeting with members of the black community to see if anyone was interested in running for one of the open council seats. Melodee was convinced that some of the older citizens at the meeting would be interested, but no one volunteered. Recognizing the importance of the black community having a voice at the council, Melodee (somewhat reluctantly) answered the call.

 

Melodee has been the voice of her community since she was elected to the council in 2006, and her term will expire in 2020. It’s a position that she doesn’t take lightly. To prepare for council meetings, she reviews the meeting packet, talks to community members, and drives around the city to to educate herself about the issues to be discussed. “It’s very involved because you’re representing the people,” she says. “You have to be connected to the community.”

 

When citizens approach Melodee with issues, the first thing she asks them is if they are registered voters. To Melodee, this is necessary because “if you’re not voting, we really don’t have a lot of things we can do.” The second thing she asks is for them to provide at least one solution. “It makes people stop and think because it’s easy to complain,” says Melodee. “But, how about a serious solution? Your everyday citizens have some of the best ideas.”

 

When Melodee was elected Mayor of Joplin in 2012, she served as a conduit between Joplin and the rest of the country – and world – during the crucial post-tornado recovery period. Oh, and she happened to do this while raising her youngest daughter Alissa (who’s 11 now), proving once again that she’s a Queen Bee.

 

During this time, Melodee was also highly involved with the National League of Cities, an organization representing 19,000 cities whose leaders strive to make a difference in the places where they live. She served on various committees in the league, ran for a board position, then was encouraged to run for an officer’s seat, which she won. She progressed from Second Vice President, to Vice President, then finally to President in 2015.

 

Through her civil service, Melodee has been able to travel around the world, representing Joplin and offering others the insight she gained from leading our city in the aftermath of a crisis. Through these journeys, she’s learned a lot herself. Her most memorable trip was to Dubai, United Arab Emirates. “If you get a chance to visit a culture outside of your own, my goodness! The wealth of knowledge, information, and appreciation you have for people outside of yourself is amazing!”

 

Serving Comfort

While Melodee recognizes the value of visiting other countries and cultures, she understands and honors the importance of the people and traditions of her hometown of Joplin. So much so, that she’s opened a restaurant that serves the kind of food that she grew up with. It’s called ME’s Place (named after her: Melodee Elaine), and it’s a labor of love that she shares with her husband William. “We’re the true mom-and-pop.”

 

melodee mes

ME’s Place is located on Broadway Street, which is off the beaten path as far as the Joplin dining scene goes. But this was a deliberate choice; this was the neighborhood in which Melodee went to school as a child. “To me, it was more of a sense of giving back to the community by opening a business on Broadway,” says Melodee. “Not only was it the original Route 66, but it used to be thriving with businesses, and the majority of them were black businesses because this was the original East Town – the only area that black people could live in at that time. It meant a lot to me to open it here.”

 

Melodee’s passion for preserving the history of Joplin’s East Town is reflected in a small room at ME’s Place, where poster boards covered with newspaper clippings and photos of important figures in the neighborhoods history are displayed.

 

The food served at ME’s Place also reflects the heritage of this Joplin neighborhood, along with a bit of flavor from Louisville, Kentucky, where William is from. His specialty is fork-tender smothered pork chops, which are served on Fridays. He also makes Southern-fried catfish, meatloaf, and sweet tea. “People rave over that tea,” says Melodee.

 

Chicken and dumplings, as well as peach cobbler, are Melodee’s signature dishes. This is the place to come when you want comfort, to taste something like what Grandma used to make. The food here “brings people back,” says Melodee. “You center them back on family, on good feelings. To be able to do that is amazing.”

 

Serving the Community

Believe it or not, but the aforementioned gazillion things that Melodee does aren’t the only ways she serves the community. She’s also been on the boards of several Joplin organizations, including Joplin Metro Credit Union, George Washington Carver National Monument, and Missouri Southern State University. Her experience on these boards has helped her hone her listening skills. “I learned how to be quiet,” she says. I learned that it’s okay to disagree, but be respectful.”

 

She also felt inspired to establish a business called Prayerful Portions. The name came to her in the middle of the night, long before she figured out what she was going to do with it. Eventually this business came to be an umbrella under which she and other members of her family (including her tech guru son) consult with people and small businesses to help them figure out what they are trying to do and, more importantly, why they want to do it.

 

Serving Her Family

It’s obvious that Melodee is passionate about her service to her community, but there’s an unmistakable light that sparkles in her eyes when she talks about the family that she’s created with her husband William, “an all-around good guy,” according to Melodee. The Colbert-Kean clan consists of Melodee’s two adult children, Tyler (a Marine sergeant stationed in Okinawa, Japan), and Typhanee (an educator in Nashville, Tennessee); William’s daughter Amber (a medical student in Tennessee); and the couple’s daughter Alissa (a middle schooler).

 

Serving Her Soul

Melodee and I talked at length about the things that she does to serve the community, but I had one lingering question: What does she do to serve her own soul?

 

Ideally, she likes to visit the beach to unwind, but when she can’t get there, she relaxes by reading, doing puzzles, spending time with her family, and listening to music. “Music is my center. It brings me back to focus, or transports me off somewhere.”

 

In fact, Melodee is so passionate about music that she even DJs at parties, weddings, and other events. “My mom did right when she named me Melodee,” she laughs.

 

Serving the Hive

Now that you have learned about Melodee’s many contributions to the Joplin community, can you see why I think she would have made a great mentor for my club, the Busy Bees? She’s a woman who gets things done and who inspires others to make their community a better place. Like she says,”If you’re going to be someplace, why not make the best of it?”

 

Well put, Queen Bee.

 

ME’s Place is located at 1203 Broadway Street. Click here to follow it on Facebook; click here to read about my experience there.

 

To read about my adventures in the area, visit JoplinMOLife.com.

Soar Trampoline Park

Her eyes are fierce and focused as she aims for the netted enclosure. She steps inside and stares fixedly at the padded mechanical arm making its way toward her, facing it like a warrior. Seconds before it reaches her, she bends her legs and gains air from the trampoline below, sending her soaring above the unyielding arm. A triumphant grin spreads across her face.

 

She faced the machine and won.

 

soar wipeout jumping

This machine is called Wipeout, and it’s my daughter’s favorite attraction at Soar Trampoline Park. At least for now, that is. Maybe next time it will be dodgeball, or the ninja area (coming soon). After all, there are many activities to entertain both kids at adults at this trampoline park – the only one of its kind in the Joplin area.

 

soar exterior (1)

Soar is housed in a large grey building tucked behind a strip mall in Webb City, just north of Joplin. It’s the brainchild of Leigh and Danny Schroer, who moved to the area from Louisiana. There, their kids spent a lot of time jumping at the local trampoline parks, and never grew tired of them. Seeing the opportunity to bring a trampoline park to Joplin (Danny’s hometown), they opened the 26,000-square-foot facility in March 2017.

 

It’s been a hit with the community, especially on the weekends when around 800 jumpers check in to catch some air. My kids have been to the park many times, and my youngest recently had her birthday party here.

 

soar sign (1)

So, what does a typical visit to Soar look like?

 

Check In

All jumpers must check in at the front desk and complete a waiver (this can also be done online ahead of time). Jumping sessions can be purchased in 30-minute increments, either on site or online. Also, all jumpers must purchase Soar socks (which you can bring back to use for future visits, like we’ve done).

 

Activities

After you check in, you’re free to soar!

 

soar open jump

Try out some tricks in the open jump area, where there are 40 trampolines to choose from.

 

soar wipeout

Or test your timing in my daughter’s beloved Wipeout area.

 

soar basketball

Have you always dreamed of making a slam dunk? The trampolines in the basketball area can propel you to make that dream a reality.

 

If you come with a group of friends, have some team fun in the dodgeball area, the most popular attraction at Soar. At some point, you may need a break from jumping. That’s when you can dive into Soar’s foam pit!

 

Coming soon to Soar is a ninja course which will include a foam pit, fidget ladders, and six obstacles.

 

Parents, you can rest assured knowing that there are employees walking around and watching the jumpers at all times. During busy times, a court monitor is stationed at each activity, too.

 

soar toddler area

If you have little ones and you don’t want them jumping with the big kids, don’t worry. There’s a designated toddler area for kids under age five where they can jump, and also play in a foam pit.

 

Other Stuff About Soar

If your exercise routine has grown stale, try an ExSOARcise class! Each class is 45 minutes long, and the first one is free.

 

The park also sets aside time for jumpers with special needs. Contact Soar for more info.

 

Jumping isn’t just for kids. Many area professional groups book times at Soar for team-building exercises. The park is available for private parties on Mondays and Tuesdays.

 

Birthday Parties

There is a party coordinator (aka a birthday party fairy) assigned to each party to ensure that things run smoothly.

 

soar birthday tables

You can opt for a birthday table in the midst of the action if you want to watch your kids jump, or you can choose a private room in the back of the building. We booked a private room for my daughter’s birthday, and it was nice having a quiet place for kids to rest (and hydrate), and for the adults to talk.

 

The kids jumped for the first hour, then they returned to the room for pizza (included in the package). We then opened gifts and ate cake (which I brought in) for the second hour of the party.

 

If you’re interested in booking a party at Soar, click here.

 

I’m glad the Schroers brought this park to the Joplin area, giving kids and adults a chance to work off some energy, challenge themselves, and feel the exhilaration that comes with being able to soar.

 

 

Soar Trampoline Park is located at 1502 S. Madison Street in Webb City. Click here for Soar’s website, and click here to follow Soar on Facebook.

 

To read more about my adventures in the area, visit JoplinMOLife.com.

Sakura Sushi & Grill

The main road running east to west across the south side of Joplin is officially known by a number: 32nd Street. But, with the influx of popular sushi restaurants dotted along this thoroughfare, it might as well be called Sushi Street.

 

Anchored on the east side is Ichiban Sushi, with Han the Sushi Man located about midway, and the newest addition, Sakura Sushi & Grill, serving the west end.

 

For a city in the Ozarks, that’s pretty amazing.

 

sakura facade

Today I’d like to introduce you to the newest kid on Sushi Street: Sakura Sushi & Grill. Located in a strip mall just west of the Freeman Hospital complex, Sakura’s regular patrons include medical professionals and residents from the surrounding neighborhoods.

 

sakura bar

Inside, there’s a dining area with tables and booths, as well as a bar area (one of the waitresses here makes the best Lemon Drop Martini I’ve ever sipped).

 

I recently met my friend Carrie here for lunch, and ordered some hot tea.

 

sakura tea

For those of you looking for something stronger, Sakura serves sake, too (you can even order it cold, which sounds like an interesting drink on a hot summer day).

 

For an appetizer, we ordered edamame, a dish made from steamed young soybeans still in their pods.

 

sakura edamame

Sprinkled with salt, edamame becomes a highly addictive treat. Plus, it’s kind fun to pop the beans out of the pods, too.

 

I noticed that several people in the restaurant had ordered bento boxes for lunch. Here’s an example of one from Sakura’s menu.

 

sakura bento box

 

Bento boxes include a choice of one or two sushi rolls or stir-fried dishes, miso soup, a house salad, steamed rice, and edamame. It’s a lot a food for a reasonable price. Sakura offers dinner bento boxes, as well.

 

For my entree, I ordered the Green Goddess roll, which is a baked sushi roll that marries flavors from Japan and Mexico.

 

sakura green goddess

It’s filled with tempura shrimp, then topped with guacamole and tempura flakes. It sounds unusual, but it’s delicious!

 

Carrie, who is vegan, ordered the Vegetable Roll for her entrée. It was made with fresh cucumbers, avocados, and crunchy Japanese pickles.

 

sakura veggie roll

Look at that pretty roll.

 

At Sakura, there’s a variety of sushi rolls, either fresh or baked, to choose from. And for you purists out there who want to ditch the seaweed and other accompaniments that come in sushi rolls, there are many sashimi and nigiri options. Sashimi consists solely of pieces of fish or seafood, and nigiri is the same except the pieces of fish or seafood are served atop small mounds of rice.

 

But you don’t have to be a seafood lover to enjoy a meal at Sakura. Landlubbers can try entrees like Orange Chicken, BBQ Short Ribs, or Beef Teriyaki (Tofu Teriyaki, if you’re a vegetarian). And if you don’t have time to dine in at Sakura, you can order your food to go.

 

sakura logo

 

You’ll find first-rate, flavorful food and attentive service at Sakura. With the addition of this restaurant – the third quality sushi spot on this road – people might just start believing that 32nd Street (aka Sushi Street) leads directly to the ocean.

 

Sakura Sushi & Grill is located at 1802 W. 32nd Street, Suite K. Click here to follow Sakura on Facebook.

 

To read more about my adventures in the area, visit JoplinMOLife.com.

M&M Bistro

You know the feeling you get when the underdog that you’ve been rooting for wins the race? That’s the same feeling I get when I step inside M&M’s Bistro’s new – and more spacious – locale on Main Street in downtown Joplin.

 

The original restaurant was opened in April 2013 by the Alvandi family: Mehrdad, his wife Minoo (the chef), and their son Sia. Over the years, the Alvandis have built a loyal following, and that’s no small feat for a family-run business. Local mom-and-pop restaurants are typically underdogs in the fickle restaurant industry where they’re competing with national chains.

 

But with high-quality Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisine, along with pleasant service, M&M Bistro has proven it has staying power in the Joplin market.

 

My husband Travis and I often come to M&M Bistro for lunch during the week, but our most recent visit was the first time we’d been to the restaurant’s new location.

 

mm bistro back

We had two options for parking: along Main Street in front of the building, or in the public lot at the rear of the building. We chose the lot.

 

mm bistro interior

Inside, the first thing I noticed was the festive twinkle lights and cozy atmosphere. Mehrdad, the owner, greeted us with a soft smile and led us to our table. On our way there, we passed the restaurant’s bar area.

 

mm bistro bar

Yes, M&M Bistro now has a liquor license!

 

Since it was a chilly day out, we ordered hot tea. The teapot and cup were presented on a dainty scalloped white platter with gold trim.

 

mm bistro teapot and cup

The teacup itself was served in a copper and glass cup, and was unlike anything I’d seen before.

 

mm bistro tea

We ordered dolmades as an appetizer: tender grape leaves stuffed with a mixture of rice, toasted pine nuts, and spices. The creamy Florentine sauce served on top contrasted nicely with the subtle tang of the grape leaves.

 

mm bistro dolmades

My entree came with a Mediterranean salad, and it was one of the freshest and crispiest salads I’ve ever eaten in a restaurant. The vegetables tasted like they’d just been plucked from the garden – even though it was the middle of winter.

 

mm bistro salad

The salad was crowned with a hearty scoop of crunchy tabbouleh, a bulgur salad mixed with parsley, mint, onion, tomatoes, and seasoned with salt, olive oil, and lemon juice.

 

Travis ordered the Mediterranean platter as his entree.

 

mm bistro gyro platter

The base of the platter included everything that was in my salad, plus slices of tender and savory gyro meat, cool and refreshing Tzatziki sauce, homemade hummus, warm pieces of pita, and sliced, seasoned potatoes.

 

The Mediterranean platter is what I usually order, but I thought I’d try something new in honor of M&M Bistro’s new location. I took Mehrdad’s suggestion and ordered spanakopita. I’ve always thought of this traditional Greek dish as a finger food; the kinds I’ve bought in the freezer section at the grocery store are always presented as such, but the one I had at M&M Bistro was different.

 

mm bistro spanikopita

Here, the phyllo dough pastry was stuffed with spinach, mushrooms, and cheese, then topped with a creamy Florentine sauce. Hearty and dense, it was definitely fork food.

 

While dessert was the furthest thing from my mind, I’d heard that the baklava here was outstanding and I wanted to give it a try, so I ordered it to go. Honestly, I hadn’t had baklava in years and, from what I remembered, I thought it was just okay.

 

mm bistro baklava

Well, that was before I tasted M&M Bistro’s version. The combination of mixed nuts, brown sugar, cardamom, and cinnamon made it taste somewhat like a snickerdoodle cookie but with a different texture, thanks to layers of flaky phyllo dough. I guess I’ll be ordering this every time I go now.

 

Another thing that I wanted to mention about M&M Bistro was the use of this symbol throughout the restaurant.

 

mm bistro faravahar

It reads: “Good thoughts, good words, good deeds. There is but one path in the world – the path of honesty.”

 

This symbol also appears in the logo for M&M Bistro, so I asked Mehrdad about its meaning. He explained that it was the Faravahar figure, a common symbol in his country of origin: Iran. And what does the M&M in the logo stand for? Mehrdad and Minoo.

 

Knowing the meaning behind M&M Bistro’s logo adds yet another layer of appreciation for this family-run business. Not only do the Alvandis offer a taste of their country through their food, but they proudly display symbols of their culture throughout the restaurant, offering those of us who have never been to their homeland a glimpse into the world outside of the Ozarks.

 

Authenticity, pleasant service, fresh food, and pride in family, culture, and business are the qualities that make the Alvandi’s M&M Bistro one of the top dogs in the Joplin dining scene.

 

M&M Bistro is located at 612 S. Main Street. Click here to visit its website, and click here to follow M&M Bistro on Facebook.

 

To read more about my adventures in the area, visit JoplinMOLife.com.

What to Do in Joplin After 5 p.m.

Did you know that the population of Joplin swells to 250,000 during the day? Our city streets hum with cars carrying people from all over the region to their jobs, to our restaurants, and to our stores. Joplin is the hub of the Four States during the day, but what happens after 5 p.m.?

 

A lot.

 

There are happy hours, live music, comedy, open mics, karaoke, painting, and even a hookah lounge to tempt residents, visitors, and commuters to linger in Joplin long after the sun goes down.

 

Get Happy

 
Known for its happy hour and casual fine dining, Club 609 is the place where professionals flock to after work. A staple in downtown since 1990, Club 609 has established itself as an urban gathering place. Unwind with a Key Lime Martini (or two – during happy hour) and try the flavorful Chicken Bijan for dinner. 609 S. Main Street

 

609-martini

Key Lime Martinis at Club 609

 
Appreciate the art of the cocktail at Infuxn Vodka Bar. New concoctions are featured each week at this upscale lounge. With its ultra-cool, Vegas-like vibe, you’ll want to stay past happy hour, so order a few items from the small plates menu and you’ve got yourself dinner (dessert, too, if you’d like). My favorites here include the Last Summer cocktail and the Crab Stuffed Mushrooms. 530 S. Main Street

 

infuxn-lounge

Hear it Live

 

Sure, you can hear music anytime you want thanks to the magic of cell phones, but there’s something special about listening to it live. Here are some places in Joplin where you can do just that, plus venues where you can sing your own songs along with a karaoke machine.

 

Open Thursday through Saturday nights, JB’s Downtown offers live music every weekend. Check the calendar for karaoke and improv nights, too. Order the Chicken Bacon Ranch pizza to share with friends. 112 S. Main Street

 

siblings-ladies

Siblings Improv performs at JB’s Downtown

 

More live music can be heard downtown at Blackthorn Pizza & Pub. In addition to live music performances, there are comedy and trivia nights at this Irish pub. Grab a beer on tap, sit back, and be entertained. 510 S. Joplin Avenue

 

Me-Like-Bees-full-band-

Me Like Bees performs at Blackthorn

 

There’s nothing like listening to music while sitting outside on a patio on a warm summer night. Add some juicy burgers and beer on tap, and you’ve got the ultimate setup at Tropicana Bar & Grill. Try the Buddha Gouda burger here: it’s life-changing. 2402 S. Main Street

 

tropicana-day

Two stories of outdoor dining await you at Tropicana

 
tropicana-buddha

The Buddha Gouda at Tropicana

 
Where do you go when the live music has ended but you still want to have fun? Whiskey Dick’s, of course. The friendly, relaxed atmosphere here welcomes a mix of age groups, with everyone being united by one thing: karaoke. Whether you’re belting out your favorite songs next to your buddies on stage, or sitting in the audience and watching others channel their inner Beyonce or Jay Z, you’re bound to have a good time at this easygoing bar. 516 S. Joplin Avenue

 

Get Creative

 
Maybe you’ve had your share of live music and bars and are seeking a recreational outlet where you can express your creativity. Well, Joplin’s got something for you, too.

 

Gather a group of friends, or just your special someone, and go paint. You can even sip your favorite adult beverage while you color your canvas at RSVPaint. Bring your own refreshments or purchase some at the studio’s bar. Loosen up and let RSVPaint’s teachers guide you through the process. You’ll leave feeling relaxed and proud of your new artwork. Click here for RSVPaint’s schedule. 223 Third Street

 

rsvpaint-date-couple

 

Ladies, do you want a night out with your friends? Firehouse Pottery welcomes you every Tuesday night for Ladies’ Night. Here, you can choose a piece of pottery to decorate – a mug, plate, figurine – and add your own flair to it. You don’t have to be crafty to make something artistic here; the staff at Firehouse will demonstrate different painting techniques for you. 112 S. Main Street, Suite A

 

ladies-night-firehouse-amazement

 

Do Something Different

 
How about spending the evening at a hipster hangout? The back room at Joplin Avenue Coffee Company is a dedicated gathering place for open mic nights, poetry readings, and live music performances. Click here to see JACC’s upcoming schedule. 506 S. Joplin Avenue

 

coffee-bar

Bites & Pipes, Joplin’s only hookah lounge, offers a bit of everything: tasty American and Middle Eastern food (fried mac and cheese, falafel, kofta), alcoholic beverages, board games, a pool table, and hookahs. A hookah is a small water pipe used to smoke flavored tobacco. Bites & Pipes’ air filtration system is top notch, so even if you’re not a hookah smoker, you can still have fun hanging out with your friends – and making new ones – at this unique recreational spot. 110 N. Range Line Road

 

Now that you know what happens in Joplin after the sun goes down, stick around and be a part of it.

 

To read more about my adventures in the area, visit JoplinMOLife.com.

Habaneros Mexican Grill

If it weren’t for its eye-catching exterior, painted chili pepper red, you might not notice the boxy, ordinary-looking building on the corner of 7th Street and Florida Avenue. But the fiery facade beckons with a hint of what’s inside: a fiesta of fresh flavors.

 

habaneros exterior

Habaneros Mexican Grill has breathed new life into this plain building – a former fast food restaurant – by decorating the interior with vibrantly colored piñatas and painting the walls the color of sunshine. With upbeat Mexican music playing through the speakers and lively chatter among the customers, it feels like a south-of-the-border party inside.

 

habaneros interior

Plus, Habaneros – which is family-owned and operated – is listed as one of the “10 Best Taco Joints in Missouri.” After reading that, I decided to give it a try.

 

I met my friend Carrie at Habaneros for lunch. The hostess handed us a multi-page menu that included fajitas, quesadillas, enchiladas, burritos, tacos, tortas (sandwiches), salads, pasta (yes, even pasta), and the house specials. To say the menu was extensive would be an understatement.

 

habaneros carrie (1)

Carrie patiently waiting for chips and dip while I snap her photo.

 

We munched on chips dipped in fresh salsa and guacamole while we perused the menu. Overwhelmed by the many options, I asked our waitress for recommendations. I was torn between the popular carne asada tacos and El Volcanito, a flour tortilla filled with chicken or steak, and topped with a creamy cheese sauce. Intrigued by its description, I ordered El Volcanito with chicken.

 

habaneros volanito

The stuffed tortilla was presented vertically rather than horizontally, and with the cheese sauce “exploding” from the top, it did look like a little volcano. My entree came with rice and beans, which were tasty, but the stuffed tortilla was the star of the plate with its fragrant cilantro, crunchy onions, and tender chicken. The ingredients were fresh and authentic, a combination that I always look for – yet don’t often find – when eating at Mexican restaurants.

 

habaneros tostadas

Carrie, who is vegan, ordered corn tostadas topped with lettuce, tomatoes, beans, and guacamole. She was happy to find something so tasty that still satisfied her dietary needs.

 

During our meal, we watched several groups of people sit down for lunch, and others come in to pick up orders to go. The place was bustling.

 

However, no one was partaking of drinks at the bar, which was understandable considering it was lunchtime on a weekday. I imagine the bar stools are occupied at dinnertime with people sipping margaritas and Mexican beer.

 

The prices at Habaneros are very reasonable: our lunch entrees only cost $5-7 each. It’s rare to find authentic, fresh-tasting food at such great prices. That’s something worth celebrating.

 

So point me toward the piñata and bring on the fiesta!

 

Habaneros is located at 2526 E. 7th Street in Joplin; there is another location at 100 Lincoln Street in Carthage. Click here to visit Habaneros’ website.

 

To read more about my adventures in the area, visit JoplinMOLife.com.