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.
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.
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.
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.
For an appetizer, I ordered Joplin’s Spiciest Shrimp Cocktail, made with plump jumbo shrimp and house-made spicy horseradish sauce.
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).
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.
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.
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.
To read more about my adventures in the area, visit JoplinMOLife.com.