Magpies Pie Company

One glance at the rows of enticing, artfully decorated sweets in the glass case and I know I’m a goner.

 

“You know, I blame you for my inevitable weight gain,” I say to the woman standing behind the counter. She’s Taylor Quezada, one of the owners of Magpies Pie Company, and she’s testing my willpower with her irresistible baked goods.

 

Naturally, my willpower crumbles, and I leave Magpies with an assortment of treats to sample.

 

Then it happens again the next week. Then the week after that.

 

Even though Magpies is only open on Thursdays and Fridays, I’ve somehow found a way to rearrange my schedule to make visiting there a regular occurrence since first discovering the shop in October. It’s like now that I know about it, I can’t not know.

 

Magpies opened in May 2018, and is located in a strip mall across from Joplin High School.

 

Charlee, Cindy, and Taylor

 

Here, Taylor, her sister Charlee Keeton, and their mother Cindy Wagner bake away the days, using tried-and-true family recipes to create sweets in the completely nut-free facility (Taylor and several of her family members have nut allergies). My daughter has a severe peanut allergy, and it’s reassuring to know that she can have anything on the menu here without being concerned about unexpected nuts or cross-contamination in any of the items.

 

In fact, one of Magpies most popular items is a nut-free version of pecan pie called Lost Pecan Pie. How can you bake a pecan pie without its most essential ingredient? The ladies at Magpies have figured out how.

 

Their Lost Pecan Pie, made with crunchy pretzels instead of pecans, presents a perfect combination of salty/sweet which everyone in my family agrees is actually tastier than traditional pecan pie.

 

Other popular pies here include Coconut Cream and Red Tart Cherry (which delivers a nice tang).

 

You can buy a whole pie, a mini pie, or a slice. Here’s a mini pumpkin pie, creatively topped with pastry shaped like a Magpie.

 

So, what’s with the magpies anyway? Taylor told me that when the family was talking about opening a pie shop, her husband had looked up the history of pie and learned about its association with the word magpie (click here for a quick, informative read about it). The word magpie struck a chord with the family; an idea for the bakery’s logo formed, and everything else fell into place.

 

Pies aren’t the only sweets you’ll find at Magpies. There are also homestyle cakes, “the kind that Grandma used to make,” according to Cindy. I’ve tried the popular Strawberry Cake…

 

…and the fall-favorite, the Pumpkin Roll, and found both to be fresh and moist.

 

Other must-tries here are the cheesecake bites, which come in creative flavors like S’mores, Hot Chocolate, Carrot Cake, and Creme Brulee, just to name a few.

 

 

You can play some serious mind-games with your willpower to convince yourself that, because these are bite-sized, the calories in them don’t really count.

 

Right?

 

Please tell me that the calories really don’t count…

 

Other treats here include monstrous cinnamon rolls, brownies, and cookies, like Swig Cookies, which are rich, buttery cookies topped with creamy frosting.

 

Magpies also takes special orders and offers catering services. Click here for more info.

 

Well, I’ve got to run now.

 

Literally.

 

I’ve got some calories to burn off.

 

 

Magpies Pie Company is located at 801 E. 20th St., Suite 5. Click here to visit its website, and here to see the weekly specials on its Facebook page.

 

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

Social BTB

It’s Friday night, and the first floor of Joplin’s historic Gryphon building is buzzing with activity. Groups of friends and families gather at tables and booths, catching up on each other’s day over a shared meal.

 

This concept, this idea of a gathering place, is a simple one. But it works.

 

social btb gryphon

This gathering place is called Social BTB. Although I consistently – and mistakenly – call it Social TBT (because I’ve been so deeply programmed by Throwback Thursday posts on social media), the BTB here standing for Burgers, Tenders, and Beer, the three things that this restaurant specializes in. Just like the concept, the menu is also simple. And it works.

 

social btb logo

It works because the wizard behind Social BTB is none other than successful local restaurateur George Michalopoulos. George introduced Joplin to his Mediterranean-inspired recipes when he opened Mythos in 2004, a restaurant which continues to be a favorite among local diners as well as visitors.  When I heard that George was opening a new restaurant, I knew I had to try it, and I knew it would be good.

 

And it was.

 

 

Ordering

The first thing you’ll see when you walk into Social BTB is the menu counter. Actually, you’ll probably zero in on your favorite sports teams playing on one of the 16 flat screen TVs hanging in the restaurant, but walk past those and proceed to the menu counter to place your food order. I promise there will be time to watch the games once you’re seated.

 

social btb menu

The menu features burgers, chicken tenders, salads, and sandwiches (including vegetarian options like the Grilled Cheese, and the Veggie, a black bean chipotle patty. There aren’t a gazillion choices on the menu, and that’s refreshing. Again, simple is what works here.

 

social btb interior

Once you place your food and soft drink order, you’ll get a number to take with you to a table or booth of your choice in the dining room. At your booth or table, you’ll notice this magical button.

 

social btb buzz bar

If you’d like something stronger than a soft drink, all you do is press this button, and someone will appear at your table to take your order.

 

In addition to a fully stocked bar, Social BTB offers over 30 types of bottled beers and over a dozen beers on tap.

 

social btb beer

I opted for this refreshing Hefeweizen from KC while my husband Travis chose a draft beer.

 

 

The Food

Sticking with the BTB theme, Travis ordered a burger and I ordered tenders. We also ordered the house-made Onion Strings. I could have eaten those tasty seasoned strings all by themselves!

 

The Onion Strings arrived with Travis’ dinner. He’d also ordered a side of House Fries with his burger (which he’d customized to his liking). The beef patties here are fresh, not frozen, which makes for juicy burgers.

 

social btb burger

I ordered the BTB (3pc) Plate (you can also choose a 4- or a 5-piece plate), which comes with hand-breaded tenders, garlic house toast, and one dipping sauce.

 

social btb tenders meal

Because I like to try different flavors, I added two more sauces for a small charge, which allowed me to sample the Bleu cheese, garlic Parmesan, and BTB house (a sweet-and-sour Polynesian-type sauce). There are about five more sauces that I want to try the next time I order tenders here.

 

Let me take a moment and focus on the tenders.

 

social btb tenders

These babies are huge and plump and perfectly seasoned. They filled me up so much that I only had room to try a couple of the yummy Sweet Potato Fries I’d ordered as a side before boxing them up to bring home. (Social BTB also offers Salt & Vinegar Fries, which I want to try next time).

 

 

The Gathering Place

After eating, Travis and I walked around to see the rest of Social BTB, which is more like a complex than a restaurant. In addition to the dining room, where we’d eaten, there’s also a bar…

 

social btb bar

…and a couch lounge.

 

social btb lounge 1

 

social btb lounge 2

The couch lounge is a great place to watch football games with friends. Visit on Wristband Sunday when you can buy a wristband for $3, choose a team, and every time that team scores, you get a free bar favor.

 

Throughout Social TBT, you’ll find murals of animals with cheeky sayings painted above them. For example, take this animal exchange (which reminds me of the Chick-fil-A cow/chicken rivalry):

 

social btb cow

 

social btb chicken

Another feature that Social TBT offers is outdoor seating.

 

social btb outdoor view

I love eating outdoors whenever possible, and I’m always searching for restaurants that have this option.

 

social btb outdoor seating

Not only can you eat outside, but you can also play games! Spend a balmy summer night hanging out on the patio with friends or family (or both) while playing corn hole, jumbo Jenga, jumbo cup pong, or outdoor bowling.

 

social btb corn hole

Afterwards, treat yourself to some ice cream at Caroline’s, located just down the hall from Social BTB, on the Main Street side of the Gryphon Building.

 

Open seven days a week, Social BTB offers good food, plentiful drinks, and a casual space where people of all ages can gather together to socialize.

 

 

Social BTB is located at 1027 South Main Street, inside the Gryphon Building. Click here to visit its website, and here to see its Facebook page.

 

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

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.

Caroline’s

Pirate’s Plunder.

 

Superman.

 

Tizzy Lizzy.

 

These sound like names of amusement park rides that would make your belly flop.

 

But last week, these names carried a different meaning for us. These are the names of ice creams and sweet treats at Caroline’s, and they made our bellies full, not flop.

 

My daughters and I kicked off the first week of summer break by engaging in our yearly ritual of celebrating the no-school season by going out for ice cream. This year, my girls picked Caroline’s, an ice cream, candy, and coffee shop in Joplin’s downtown district.

 

sweet carolines facade2

Located on the main floor of the historic Gryphon building, this ice cream parlor opened in June 2014. Owner Michael Joseph named it after his daughter, Caroline (the shop was initially called Sweet Caroline’s but is now simply Caroline’s – although it is still sweet).

 

sweet carolines counter1

The focus of Caroline’s is to offer an old-fashioned parlor experience, and to do so they serve Ice Cream Club ice cream, a premium parlor ice cream from Florida. There are 32 Ice Cream Club flavors that rotate at Caroline’s.

 

My youngest daughter was immediately attracted to the vibrant red, yellow, and blue flavor called Superman (which actually has a vanilla flavor).

 

sweet carolines superman1

While I was busy ordering for my other girls, she went to town on her cone, and the next time I saw her she looked like this.

 

sweet carolines superman2

My oldest daughter created an eclectic combination of triple-rich Captain’s Chocolate and Rainbow Sherbet, which is swirled with fruity orange, raspberry, and lime flavors.

 

sweet carolines choc sherbet

My middle daughter – the chocolate addict of the bunch – chose a scoop of Pirate’s Plunder, a chocolate ice cream with chocolate-covered pecans and mini caramel cups swirled together with thick caramel. She topped that off with a scoop of Stellar Coffee (the only kind of coffee I allow her to have), which is a coffee ice cream that contains mini dark chocolate-covered coffee cups and a rich fudge.

 

sweet carolines plunder coffee

I didn’t hear from her for quite a while as she worked her way through her iced confectionery tower. Meanwhile, I ordered an espresso to give me the energy to keep up with my kids (and their impending sugar highs) for the rest of the day.

 

Caroline’s serves Onyx Coffee, a gourmet roaster located in northwest Arkansas.

 

carolines onyx

The 3 bags on the left have black Onyx logos on them, which apparently don’t photograph well…

 

If you like adding milk to your coffee, Caroline’s offers a variety of options; traditional dairy products like milk, half-and-half, and heavy whipping cream; coconut milk, almond milk, and soy milk.

 

While my espresso was brewing, I browsed through the candy case to find some treats to bring home to my husband (I’m kidding – they were for my private stash). I chose a dark chocolate sea salt caramel, a RumChata truffle, Kahlua truffle, and some candy bark called Tizzy Lizzy.

 

sweet carolines chocolate

If chocolate isn’t your thing (well, I guess we can’t be friends, then), there are many other types of candy to choose from, like fudge…

…gummies…

 

…Jelly Belly candies…

 

…and a variety of confections that you can mix and match.

 

And if sugar isn’t your thing because of dietary restrictions, no worries. Caroline’s has something for you, too.

 

carolines keto

Each week, local baker Desserts First supplies the shop with a variety of keto-friendly treats that taste so good, you’ll feel like you’re eating the real sugar-and-carb-loaded things. Do yourself a favor and try the lemon cupcake – your taste buds will be wowed.

 

sweet carolines painting

Caroline’s also offers birthday parties in the shop, and provides off-site catering. Plus, it’s open daily, so my ice cream, coffee, chocolate, and candy cravings can be satisfied seven days a week.

 

Sweet.

 

 

Caroline’s is located at 1027 South Main Street in downtown Joplin. Click here to visit its website.

 

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.

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.

Joplin Avenue Coffee Company

Friends was a popular TV show when I was in college, and I’ve always wanted to hang out with my own friends at a place as cool as Central Perk.

 

I recently found that place, and it’s called Joplin Avenue Coffee Company.

 

The second I stepped inside this coffee shop, I felt hip. The interior is an eclectic mix of local art, festive twinkling lights, and whimsical vintage items (like coffee pots and a retro TV – you know, the kind where you have to change the channel manually).

 

coffee jac front

The place was abuzz with activity, yet it was still quiet inside. People were either working on their laptops or talking to each other in hushed tones.

 

JACC’s extensive menu is written in colored chalk on a board behind the counter; there’s a variety of latte drinks with playful names like the Lucky Leprechaun, as well as non-espresso drinks (great treats for kids), smoothies, teas, and regular old joe.

 

coffee menu

I ordered the Marilyn, one of JACC’s most popular lattes. The combination of white mocha and sweet caramel went down smoothly, and instantly warmed me up. I also enjoyed crunching on the chocolate-covered espresso bean that was served with my drink – what a fun treat with my coffee.

 

I ordered a chai tea latte for my husband (he doesn’t drink coffee – weird, right?), and it had a nice balance of cream and spice.

 

After fueling up at the counter, JACC customers can find a spot to plug in and enjoy free wi-fi. There are tables in the sunny front room, plus this single table in this incredible nook.

 

coffee nook

There’s also a large room in the back that has lounge seating (perfect for conversing), and high tables near electrical outlets (perfect for studying and working).

 

coffee wifi

The focal point in the back room is this bar – a curious site in a coffee shop.

 

coffee bar

Apparently, this back room is used when JACC hosts private parties and concerts (click here to see what’s happening on JACC’s Facebook page).

 

With its hip, relaxed atmosphere and steady flow of regular customers, JACC is Joplin’s Central Perk.

 

 

Joplin Avenue Coffee Company is located at 506 S. Joplin Avenue. Click here to see its Facebook page.

 

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

Crabby’s Seafood Bar & Grill

It’s laughable, really.

 

To think that you could have one of the finest seafood meals you’ve ever tasted inside a plain building next to a Sav-A-Lot grocery store, which is located in a landlocked town that’s situated over 1,000 miles from both the West Coast and the East Coast seems, well, preposterous.

 

But don’t let the absurdity of this idea keep you from seeing for yourself, because if you did, you’d miss out on dining at one of the best restaurants in Joplin.

 

And that’s no laughing matter.

 

Like a beacon in a sea of meat-and-potato cuisine, Crabby’s Seafood Bar & Grill beckons those who yearn for the taste of fresh seafood in Ozarks. It’s one of the restaurants where I take people who are visiting Joplin because I want to impress them. After all, just because our city is small doesn’t mean it doesn’t have gourmet restaurants.

 

At the helm of Crabby’s is owner Chef Damien Tiregol, who received the honor of Chef of the Year in 2017 from Feast Magazine, a publication that covers the culinary scene in Missouri and southern Illinois. I’m glad to see that Chef Damien’s creativity and talent are being recognized by someone other than his loyal patrons because he’s an incredibly skilled chef.

 

My husband Travis and I recently dined at Crabby’s, and I’m still thinking about the meal (which is making my stomach growl as I’m typing this). Actually, it’s not just the meal that was memorable – it was the experience.

 

crabbys exterior (1)

The restaurant’s simple, windowless exterior belies the sophisticated urban atmosphere inside.

 

crabbys interior

The small, softly lit dining area is separated by a full-service bar, which you can sit at if you need to wait for a table (reservations are recommended during the weekend).

 

crabbys artwork

The work of a local artist Josie Mai currently adorns the walls, creating a unique wallscape which changes regularly to feature different artists (the pieces are for sale, too). The feeling inside is cozy, but still busy enough to make you feel like you are out and about in a big city.

 

For an appetizer, we ordered the Jumbo Lump Crab Cakes.

 

crabbys crab cakes

This signature Crabby’s dish was served with a smoky roasted red pepper ragout, and the refreshing sauvignon blanc I was drinking provided a nice contrast to the dish. Crabby’s drink menu offers a variety of wines to pair with your meal, as well as cocktails to sip on while you socialize (the Raspberry Lemon Drop Martini is my favorite).

 

Our entrees came with the choice of soup or salad.

 

crabbys salad

I normally choose the House Salad with Crabby’s light and refreshing Honey-Lavender Vinaigrette, but since the Butternut Squash Bisque had just returned to the menu for the fall season, I felt conflicted. In the end, I made the right decision: I chose the salad with a cup of the bisque.

 

crabbys butternut

The creamy bisque was slightly spiced, and lightly sweetened with a touch of brown sugar and molasses. This dish says, “Welcome, Fall,” and is a treat that I look forward to each year.

 

Travis chose an item that’s on the menu year-round: Seafood Chowder. The hearty chowder’s richness was accented by a dash of spice and smoky bacon.

 

Steak, pork, chicken, and duck dishes are alternative entrée options for those who want to order something besides seafood. However, Travis and I ordered seafood dishes because when in Rome…

 

crabbys sea bass

I ordered the melt-in-your-mouth Pan Seared Chilean Sea Bass, which was topped with mirin sauce and served on a bed of wasabi mashed potatoes, along with grilled asparagus. The combination of Asian-inspired flavors in this artfully plated dish make it a popular menu item.

 

crabbys shrimp

Travis ordered the Grilled Scallops and Jumbo Shrimp, a Cajun-influenced dish served with smoked Gouda grits and bits of spicy andouille sausage. This is another one of my favorite dishes here, as it reminds me of the food I enjoyed when I lived in New Orleans.

 

You would think that we’d be stuffed to the gills by this point – and you’d be correct. But I felt that it was my duty to order dessert so that I could do a thorough job of describing the Crabby’s experience to those of you reading this. What a sacrifice, right?

 

We ordered the Signature Bread Pudding and the Creme Brulee, which were both delicious in their own ways. The hearty bread pudding was buttery and boozy, and a favorite of Crabby’s customers.

 

crabbys bread pudding

The fruit-topped Creme Brulee made an elegant dessert, with its dense custard contrasting nicely with the layer of crisp, caramelized sugar.

 

crabbys creme brulee

Crabby’s is a restaurant to visit when you want more than a meal. It’s where you come when you want an experience. And tasting Chef Damien’s creative fresh seafood dishes in landlocked Joplin, Missouri, makes that experience one of a kind.

 

Crabby’s serves lunch and dinner, plus Sunday brunch. It is located at 815 West 7th Street in Joplin. Click here to visit its website, and here to see its Facebook page.

 

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

The Eagle Drive-In

With its sleek black-and-red trim, mirrored windows, and retro sign, The Eagle Drive-In looks like a typical American burger joint from the 1950s. In fact, burgers are served here – they’re just not the kind you expect at a typical drive-in.

 

eagle facade

Take the Salted Caramel Bacon Burger or the Buffalo Bill Burger (a bison burger topped with a blueberry barbecue sauce): it’s like Julia Child waltzed into a Wendy’s and fused its basic menu with her epicurean sophistication. It’s an unlikely scenario to imagine, but it does exist right here in Joplin.

 

Except in Joplin, Jason Miller is our Julia Child. A hometown boy and New York-trained chef, Miller is the owner of The Eagle Drive-In, as well as Instant Karma, a restaurant in downtown Joplin where gourmet hot dogs are the stars. Miller brings ingenuity and worldliness to the menus at both restaurants, and his novel dishes have created a loyal and wide following among area diners.

 

My friend Carrie and I are two of those loyal diners, and we recently met for lunch at The Eagle Drive-In. While the restaurant no longer functions as a drive-in, it retains its nostalgic charm – and size. So if you arrive during the busy lunch or dinner rush, be prepared to wait, as there are only about 10 tables inside. But I promise that your patience will pay off.

 

eagle interior

On the day Carrie and I visited, I ordered a water to drink (it was a work day for me), but The Eagle Drive-In’s Jalapeno Margarita occupied my mind.

 

eagle jalapeno margarita

This spicy, refreshing drink has made my eyes water each time I’ve ordered it, but I don’t let that little inconvenience stop me from sipping this tasty libation. Other adult beverage options here include 10 beers on tap (which change regularly), Bloody Marys (regular and spicy), as well as a full bar.

 

eagle tap

For an appetizer, I ordered Joplin’s Spiciest Shrimp Cocktail, made with plump jumbo shrimp and house-made spicy horseradish sauce.

 

eagle shrimp

The shrimp were so huge that I only ate two and took the rest home for my incredibly appreciative husband Travis. More adventurous eaters can choose from appetizers like mussels, bone marrow, calamari, and chicken-fried escargot.

 

For my entree, I ordered the classic Eagle Burger, a ⅓-pound beef patty topped with Cheddar and Swiss cheeses, mixed greens, tomato, onion, pickle, and – here’s the twist – a fried quail egg and Eagle sauce (a creamy red sauce with a touch of smoke and spice).

 

eagle burger

A fluffy brioche bun added another story to this architectural creation, and I felt sorry for Carrie who had to watch me try to stuff this monstrous burger into my mouth.

 

Then again, Carrie had a similar challenge with the huge Falafel Sub, which is a great menu option for vegetarians; it’s also easily modified for vegans, like Carrie, by omitting the feta and tzatziki sauce.

 

eagle falafel

The Eagle Drive-In also offers other unique burgers made from lamb, elk, or salmon, as well as a variety of sandwiches, salads, and main entrees like Ahi tuna and beef tips. You can also abandon the menu and go with the flow by ordering the chef’s creation of the day.

 

If you order a burger or a sandwich, you get to choose one side dish, and both Carrie and I picked the hand-cut fries which come with the choice of two dipping sauces. With over a dozen sauces to choose from, this was a difficult decision, but I finally went with the Curry Aioli (subtle and creamy) and the Wasabi Aioli (lively, yet not overpowering).

 

If the temperatures outside had been warmer, we would have eaten at one of The Eagle Drive-In’s picnic tables. I like seeing Joplin restaurants adding outdoor dining spaces. We have a pretty nice climate here (compared to Chicago, where I grew up), and I always look for places where I can be outside while I eat.

 

eagle sign

The Eagle Drive-In may look like a typical retro drive-in, but it will surprise you with its creative gourmet menu items. It just might become your new regular hangout.

 

The Eagle Drive-In is located at 4224 Hearnes Boulevard in Joplin. Click here to visit its website, and click here to find out what the daily special is on its Facebook page.

 

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