Instant Karma

Instant Karma in downtown Joplin is known for its gourmet Black Angus hot dogs, such as The Tueben (topped with sauerkraut, swiss cheese and homemade Karma sauce) or the Chihuahua (topped with avocado and sour cream and wrapped with bacon).

 

So when my husband suggested that we eat lunch there I expected to order a hot dog.

 

But when I checked the Instant Karma Facebook page and saw the special of the day, all of my hot dog plans flew out the window. I knew I had to try the Cubano Burger. It consisted of a patty made from marinated ground pork, salami and ham which was topped with Swiss cheese and house-made pickles and then pressed on a panini press and was served with dijon aioli for dipping.

 

The Cubano Burger did not disappoint. It had a subtle sweet/spicy flavor and I loved the crunch of the added fresh pickles (made with fresh dill). I spread some of the garlic aioli on the burger, and while I didn’t notice that it added much to the overall flavor of the burger, it still tasted delicious.

 

instant karma sign

The burger special came with a choice of a side, and I chose the crispy shoestring french fries. Instant Karma is very generous with their portions, so I split my fries with my husband. The fries came with a choice of a dipping sauce; I chose the Good Karma Sauce (like Thousand Island dressing with a kick) and my husband chose the Chipotle Mayo (which had a nice spicy, smoky taste).

 

karma-blue-burgerMy husband ordered the Bacon & Bleu Grilled Cheese Burger, a new menu item.

 

The sharp taste of the bleu cheese paired well with the smoky bacon. My husband enjoyed it, but thought he would probably prefer it served with a bun rather than sandwich bread (hence, more burger-like than grilled-cheese-like).

 

We enjoyed our fresh-tasting gourmet lunch so much that we practically licked our plates clean. Getting up to leave, we felt so stuffed and sleepy that we joked  that we had eaten ourselves into an “Instant Coma.”

 

There is an extensive list of items on the menu at Instant Karma, including salads, pasta and vegetarian fare (including vegetarian hot dogs).

 

I’ll be sure to try a hot dog on our next trip to Instant Karma. Maybe a hot dog wouldn’t be so filling that I’d need a nap afterwards.

 

Instant Karma is located at 527 South Main Street. Click here to visit Instant Karma’s Facebook page.

 

*Since writing this post, Instant Karma has become a family favorite. Here are some highlights from our visits:

 

instant karma donut burger

Heavenly Donut Burger (my oldest daughter’s favorite)

 

instant karma bio

My favorite – The Bio Diesel, a veggie hot dog with homemade coleslaw 

 

instant karma family

Two of my favorite people 🙂

 

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

Uncorked@1201

Relaxing in the glow of a crackling fire while sipping a smooth cabernet is a great way to unwind after a hectic week.  And savoring a gourmet meal on top of that?

 

Well, that makes for an over-the-moon experience.

 

Last Friday, I was able to decompress in the laid back atmosphere at Joplin’s newest addition to the restaurant scene: Uncorked @ 1201.

 

Located in a bustling retail area on 32nd Street, Uncorked is an extension of the popular eatery Club 1201, which serves lunch during the week, brunch on Sundays, and offers monthly wine dinners. On Friday and Saturday nights, Club 1201 opens up the cozy, intimate portion of its complex called Uncorked.

 

Uncorked and Club 1201 are owned by local restaurateur Linda Williams, who has a knack for the business. She clearly knows what the people of Joplin want, as both Club 1201 and her downtown restaurant Club 609 (managed by her brother Steve) have been successful for years.

 

Both Club 1201 and Club 609 (named after their street addresses, in case you’re wondering) offer upscale casual food with an eclectic twist. Each restaurant is decorated with a unique theme that injects playfulness and personality into each dining experience: Club 1201 utilizes vintage door frames and architectural details for decoration, Uncorked’s current nautical themed interior will soon transform into a ski lodge feel for the winter, and Club 609’s walls often highlight the talent of local artists.

 

Keeping things fun and fresh, both with the décor and with the food, is what keeps people coming in. And once again, Williams has nailed it with the opening of Uncorked.

 

uncorked table

This is the type of place where you can unwind with friends or reconnect with loved ones. Cozy and intimate, there’s just a handful of dining tables and a few stools at the bar, and the restaurant can only seat about 25 people.

 

It’s an ideal space for a small private party; for larger events Club 1201 opens the adjoining restaurant space (they offer both on-site and off-site catering services).

 

Uncorked’s menu offers appetizers, salads and sandwiches, shareable plates (like tapas), as well as full entrees (each consisting of a meat dish served with a vegetable and a starch). There are gluten-free items and kid’s menu items, as well.

 

Three words printed at the bottom of the menu sum up the overall intention of the restaurant: share, uncorked, unwind.

 

Ever obedient, I shared some dishes with my husband, sipped some uncorked cabernet, and unwound.

 

uncorked hummus

The appetizers we sampled included the hummus, the banana rumaki and the fried asparagus. The hummus flavor changes each week. We sampled the roasted red pepper hummus (the week before it was pumpkin). It was served with wedges of crisp fried naan bread (an Indian flatbread).

 

uncorked banana

Uncorked’s unconventional take on traditional rumaki piqued my curiousity, so I had to try it. Here, smoky bacon was wrapped around sweet, ripe banana bites instead of the usual water chestnuts, and then drizzled with a saffron oil and ponzu reduction (ponzu is like a citrusy soy sauce, by the way – I had to Google it). The pairing of these ingredients results in a delectable sweet/savory dish that reminded me of eating pancakes and maple sausage together (think a gourmet McGriddle).

 

uncorked asparagus

 

We rounded out our appetizer selection with the fried asparagus. The bright green stalks were coated in crispy panko, and held together nicely when dipped in the accompanying truffle mayo.

 

When we asked which item was the most popular from the “Anchors” or tapas section, the answer was the bruschetta steak sliders. I’ll admit, I was not thrilled to eat a burger on our “date night” after a crazy week of fast-food meals eaten in the car while rushing kids from one activity to another. Still, they were popular for a reason and I wanted to find out why.

 

uncorked sliders

After my first bite, I knew.

 

These melt-in-your-mouth-tender steak burgers, topped with prosciutto, herb cheese and a balsamic reduction, were served in soft naan bread and tasted nothing like traditional hamburgers. The balsamic reduction’s touch of sweetness complemented the saltiness of the cheese and offered a hint of sweet/savory flavor. Can you tell that I’m obsessed with this dish?

 

As my husband and I fought over the last bite of the sliders, our entree arrived. We had ordered the Chicken Bijan, which consisted of feta, basil and prosciutto roulade medallions drizzled with balsamic glaze. Not only did it offer a lively treat for the taste buds, but it also provided a feast for the eyes with its artful presentation.

 

uncorked chicken

A gluten-free entree, Chicken Bijan was served with a hearty portion of fluffy mashed potatoes and tender Brussels sprouts – a vegetable that I love but rarely see served in Joplin restaurants.

 

So, what about that glass of wine in front of the fire that I was talking about at the beginning of the post? Well, my husband and I finally abandoned our forks, grabbed our wine glasses and waddled out to the patio.

 

uncorked patio

Ahh. This photo is from Club 1201’s Facebook page. It was too dark for us to get a good photo of the patio by the time we got there, thanks to the end of Daylight Savings Time.

 

It’s had to imagine that this relaxing outdoor gathering space, with its loungey South Beach feel, was recently a sterile concrete space. Now, plush cushioned seating lines the exterior of the building, beckoning patrons to unwind, have a relaxing conversation, and breathe in some fresh air.

 

I love that Uncorked offers this outdoor space. I often lament that there aren’t many al fresco dining spaces in Joplin, despite the generally mild climate here (well, at at least this Chicago girl thinks it’s mild).

 

uncorked fire

And when there is a chill in the air, like there was on the November night that we visited Uncorked, the heat from the patio’s stone fireplace provides a comforting warmth, and encourages lingering.

 

And we did just that.

 

 

Uncorked @ 1201 is located at 1201 E. 32nd Street. Click here to visit its website.

 

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

 

The Bruncheonette

A visit to The Bruncheonette brings to mind the saying “You can’t judge a book by its cover.”

 

Let’s break down this expression in relationship to The Bruncheonette, shall we?

 

brunch front

 

First, The Bruncheonette’s “cover,” its small brick facade, is rather nondescript. But don’t judge it just yet.

 

Second, The Bruncheonette’s “pages,” or its interior, is plain and tiny. But hold off a few more minutes before you form an opinion.

 

Trust me.

 

Because there’s one more component of a book to consider: its words. The arrangement of the words used to tell a story is what makes a book truly unique. And the “words” at The Bruncheonette are the delicious and inventive dishes that are served without fanfare.

 

Here, the “words” speak for themselves.

 

Sometimes these “words” appear in tantalizing photos on Facebook, which is how I was first introduced to the creations of The Bruncheonette. My curiosity was piqued after seeing several daily specials on my Facebook feed, like The Devil Wears Strata, filled with tart cranberries, white chocolate, cream cheese, cinnamon and topped with a drizzle of Lambrusco reduction; and the Anyung Crepe, which consisted of peanut butter, sriracha, and coconut milk crepes with cream cheese, bacon, cilantro, and green onion, topped with a spicy coconut sauce.

 

I knew I had to give this place a chance.

 

Owned by Sean and Chas Flanagan, The Bruncheonette serves breakfast, brunch, and lunch items, and closes its doors in the early afternoon (hours of operation are listed on its website).

 

brunch counter

Chas Flanagan taking orders at the counter

 

The menu is written on dry erase boards behind the front counter, which is where you go to place your order. Then you can find yourself a seat inside or outside in the patio, and then salivate while you wait for your meal.

 

At least that’s what I do.

 

I recently met my friends here for an early lunch, or in my case, brunch. Being a huge fan of Eggs Benedict, I ordered the Garden Benny, which is made with an English muffin topped with fresh asparagus, tomatoes, avocadoes, local micro greens (from the Webb City Farmers Market), poached eggs, and beet – yes, beet – Hollandaise. Holy yum!

 

brunch micro greens

Look at those super greens!

 

The Garden Benny is just one of several variations of Eggs Benedict on the menu at The Bruncheonette. In the past, I’ve ordered the Benny Harper, which comes with bacon, avocado, and tomato, and tastes like a BLT; the other two Bennies are Steak and Salmon.

 

My friends, Carrie and Donna, were both interested in lunch, so they each ordered the Farmhouse sandwich, which is made with asparagus, roasted red pepper, mushrooms, caramelized onions, and Gruyere on toasted Redings Mill bread (a local baker).

 

brunch farmhouse

The Farmhouse with cheese and a side of French fries.

 

All sandwiches come with a side of fries or carrot fries. Carrie, who is vegan, ordered the Farmhouse without cheese and with a side of carrot fries.

 

brunch carrot

Back off, Bugs Bunny! These are Carrie’s fries.

 

In addition to focusing on high-quality food, The Bruncheonette is passionate about utilizing local food sources as often as possible, like the micro greens in my dish and the bread in my friends’ sandwiches. There’s even a page on The Bruncheonette’s website labeled “Our Farmers,” which is dedicated to the local vendors that supply the restaurant with their farm-raised, home-grown, and homemade products.

 

So while the cover of this book may appear to be “Just Another Diner,” the words inside tell a different story: a humble farm-to-table restaurant where the chefs play with flavors and ingredients, creating memorable dishes that dance on your taste buds.

 

And that’s a book worth reading.

 

The Bruncheonette is located at 424 N. Main St.

 

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

 

Cupcakes by Liz

(Update 10/30/17: Liz has retired, and Cupcakes by Liz is now closed.)

 

Cupcakes by Liz reminds me of Candy Land.

 

Whenever I’m there, walking past the tiered displays and dessert cases filled with larger-than-life confectionery creations, I feel like I’m a gingerbread girl game piece meandering my way past the Peanut Brittle House, through the Gumdrop Mountains, and to the Candy Castle.

 

With its cupcakes, cookies, and cakes, this dessert boutique is more like Cupcake Land than Candy Land, but the whimsical and indulgent feeling is still the same. Plus, Cupcake Land’s owner and master baker, Liz Easton, is strikingly similar to Candy Land’s Queen Frostine; wherever Queen Frostine goes, her snowflake scepter spins a trail of sparkling sugar snowflakes.

 

cupcakes by liz queens choice

Queen Frostine’s sugary creations

 

I’ve had the pleasure of watching Cupcakes by Liz expand over the years; it used to be a weekends-only shop that served gourmet cupcakes, and now it’s open every day except Sunday and its menu has expanded to include other desserts, like Great Gran’s Bread Pudding, cookies, and a variety of sundaes.

 

cupcakes by liz cookies

 

Savory breakfast items are now also offered, such as quiche made with bacon, asparagus, and prosciutto, and Twisted Oinkers (bacon wrapped in puff pastry).

 

If you’ve already written off this place because you avoid gluten, don’t. Cupcakes by Liz offers some gluten-free cupcake flavors so you can indulge along with the rest of us.

 

Come, join us.

 

The unique and fanciful nature of this dessert boutique makes it a fun place to socialize and catch up with friends, which is something I did recently.

 

After exchanging hellos, we took our places in front of the counter in respectful silence as we searched for the perfect treat.
cupcakes by liz strawberry

Tip: Always allow at least ten minutes to let yourself decide what you want. I’m not exaggerating. It’s customary for people to stand in front of the display case, brows furrowed, lost in thought. This is a major decision.

 

Will it be the Banoffi, a moist banana cupcake filled with caramel and toffee, then topped with cream cheese frosting and toasted walnuts? How about the The Dirt Bomb, a chocolate cupcake topped with chocolate buttercream frosting, then rolled in dark chocolate cookie crumbs, and then topped with a chocolate candy rock?

 

The cupcake flavors rotate each week, which keeps the options fresh and new. Even so, I found that I had already tried most of the flavors that were in the case that day.

 

Don’t judge.

 

After all, I do have several kids and a husband so that means multiple cupcakes per visit, and if you do the math, it really doesn’t take too many visits with my crew to go through most of the flavors, even if they do rotate.

 

How’s that for rationalizing a sugar addiction?
So being a Cupcake’s by Liz expert already, I decided to taste something new. I tried the individual key lime pie, which was filled with a thick and tangy lime curd (I love me some curd) and topped with fluffy whipped cream.

 

 

cupcakes by liz trioKey Lime Pie, Pink Lady, and Butter Bomb

 

My friends chose a Pink Lady, a strawberry cupcake topped with pink raspberry buttercream frosting, and a Butter Bomb, which is a cupcake that tastes like a snickerdoodle but, instead of being frosted, is bathed in butter. It’s incredible.

 

What saved me from falling into an immediate sugar coma was my Cafe Breve, an espresso topped with steamed half-and-half (which tasted so creamy, I asked if the barista had used heavy whipping cream by accident, but was told that the process makes the half-and-half tastes as rich as cream).

 

cupcakes by liz coffee pour

 

I especially enjoyed the artwork on my drink. Even the drinks are masterpieces here.

 

cupcakes by liz coffee

 

The espresso bar serves coffee supplied by Onyx Coffee Lab. People from Joplin used to have to drive to northwest Arkansas to enjoy the coffee from this small batch roaster, but now we have it right here.

 

Great. Like I need another reason to come to Cupcakes by Liz.

 

Oh, Queen Frostine, you are very cunning.

 

Cupcakes by Liz is located at 2310 South Main Street.

 

 

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

 

Club 609

Regardless of whatever music is playing on the speakers, whenever I walk through the doors of Club 609, this is what I hear playing in my head:

 

Sometimes you want to go

Where everybody knows your name

And they’re always glad you came

 

If you were around in the ‘80s, then you’re probably singing the theme song to Cheers right along with me now, and if you’ve been to Club 609, then you’ve probably seen the similarities between this Joplin institution and the fictional Boston watering hole on TV.

 

Perched at the bar is Joplin’s equivalent of Norm, who greets old friends and new faces with a twinkle in his eyes and a smile in his voice.

 

If you are a first-time visitor, you’ll be welcomed here with a mix of curiosity and familiarity, kind of like the girlfriend that your brother brings home for Christmas after a semester away at college.

 

When you’re here, you’re family – whether or not you’re a local.

 

609 outside

 

The welcoming atmosphere here has made this my go-to place for celebrations, and since Club 609 opened in 1990, there have been many, many celebrations: birthdays, weddings, friendships. With a daily happy hour, great food, and playful decor, I always know that I’ll have a good time.

 

I recently met my friend Carrie here for dinner on a Friday evening. While we waited to order, I did some people-watching (this is a prime place for doing so). The bar stools were already packed with professionals unwinding from the work day (yes, Norm was there), and the tables were filling with families, couples, and groups of friends out for dinner.

 

I ordered a Key Lime Martini, which another friend had introduced me to years ago. Made with vanilla vodka, pineapple juice, and lime juice, it tastes like a tropical vacation.

 

609 martini

 

Make that two tropical vacations, thanks to happy hour.

 

While Carrie and I sipped our cocktails, a friend of hers from high school stopped by our table. While they chatted about old times, I checked out the art display on the walls; a new local artist is regularly featured here at Club 609, and it’s always blows my mind to see the high caliber of talent that lives here in southwest Missouri.

 

Then it was time to decide what to order, which is always challenging here because there are so many delicious items on the menu: appetizers, sandwiches, salads, pasta dishes, seafood entrees, beef entrees, and chicken entrees (like Chicken Bijan, which consists of roulades of chicken breast wrapped with bacon and stuffed with feta and basil, then finished with a balsamic glaze – it’s one of my favorite dishes here).

 

I chose to order another one of my favorite dishes, the Chicken Cordon Bleu sandwich. It’s made with a juicy grilled chicken breast, a slice of ham, and a six-cheese blend, all layered inside a piece of soft flatbread, then served with creamy Bechamel sauce for dipping (which I could bathe in because it’s that good).

 

club 609 cordon bleu

 

Sandwiches here come with a side of fries or homemade chips, but I chose to substitute a house salad instead because I was craving some greens.

 

club 609 house salad

 

And also because I wanted the tangy, crispy fried parmesan cheese that comes with the salads here.

 

Carrie ordered the Chargrilled Vegetable Salad, which was an ideal vegan option for her. Her salad base was a bed of tender baby spinach which was then piled high with grilled broccoli, carrots, portobello mushrooms, red onions, and toasted almonds.

 

club 609 chargrilled salad

 

The food here has been consistently good over the decades, and it’s nice to be able to enjoy it in Club 609’s smoke-free atmosphere.

 

While Carrie and I didn’t close down the place that Friday night (although I’ve done my share of doing so over the years), we left Club 609 relaxed and happy. It was a perfect choice for escaping from our everyday routines and enjoying a friendly atmosphere.

 

Wouldn’t you like to get away?

Sometimes you want to go…

 

Club 609 is located at 609 S. Main St.

 

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

 

Red Onion Cafe

When a restaurant has been in operation for longer than the length of time that I’ve lived in Joplin (which is now almost two decades), that says something.

 

In such a fickle industry, owning a successful restaurant since 1995 says, “We’ve figured out the magic formula! We’ve listened to you, our people, and we honor you by serving you the quality food that you want.”

 

Thanks, Red Onion Cafe, for making me feel appreciated as a citizen.

 

I appreciate you right back.

 

The casual, urban atmosphere at Red Onion makes it adaptable for any kind of dining experience, from a date night to a business lunch, a girlfriend getaway to a family meal (regarding that – a quick thank you to all of the Red Onion servers who patiently waited on my fidgety, sometimes boisterous, toddlers over the years).

 

Recently, I left my family at home and joined my friends for a rare girlfriend getaway dinner at Red Onion. Without the distractions of familial responsibilities, I was able to really see the restaurant for the gem that it is.

 

red onion front

 

First of all, Red Onion is located in a quaint historic brick building in the heart of downtown Joplin at 4th and Virginia Streets, just a block off of the iconic Route 66. Inside, the restaurant is open and airy, and offers a laid-back, neighborly feeling. If you’re a local, you will no doubt run into at least one person that you know here.

 

Once my friends and I were seated, we ordered our drinks and an appetizer. In addition to soft drinks, Red Onion serves fantastic raspberry tea and peach tea, as well as a selection of beer and wine.

 

For our appetizer, we ordered the Bruschetta Misto. Red Onion’s version includes grilled foccacia served with fresh, chopped tomatoes with garlic and basil, herbed cream cheese, and a marinated olive salad.

 

red onion misto

Bruschetta Misto

 

One of the most popular appetizers here is the Smoked Chicken Dip, a creamy, smoky, spicy creation that’s served with tortilla chips. This dip is known all around town. I’ve even been with my friend when she picked up an order of this dip, transferred it to a crystal serving platter, and brought it with her to serve at a holiday party. This dip is a perennial crowd-pleaser.

 

For our dinner entrees, Donna and I both ordered the Chicken Tuscany, which was made with grilled chicken, sun-dried tomatoes, artichokes, and wild mushrooms, and topped with a rich parmesan cream sauce. It was served with wild rice and butter fondue broccoli.

 

red onion tuscany

Chicken Tuscany

 

The tangy taste of the tomatoes and artichokes contrasted the smooth, rich flavor of the cream sauce, making my mouth very happy.

 

Erin ordered one of the daily specials, which was a tender steak (Red Onion’s steaks are cut daily in the kitchen) served with equally tender brussel sprouts, which Erin was excited to order since this often-underappreciated vegetable doesn’t regularly appear on menus.

 

red onion steak

The steak special of the day

 

Carrie, my vegan friend, ordered the Black Bean Veggie Burger (minus the cheese).

 

red onion bbb1

Black Bean Veggie Burger

 

Check out the pickle-tomato-and-onion smiley face on her bread. It’s a happy veggie burger!

 

Because I’ve eaten at Red Onion so many times over the years, I’ll tell you about a few more of my favorite items here. For lunch, I typically order the ROC Chicken Salad Sandwich, made with crunchy grapes, celery, and walnuts, and served on buttery grilled whole-grain bread.

 

I am in love with this rich, nutty bread. I’ve considered asking the management at Red Onion who their bread supplier is so that I can buy some to bring home. But then I realized that if I had the bread in my house, I would probably eat an entire loaf in one day so it’s probably best that I don’t know where I can buy it. Yes, these are my food-obsessed thoughts. You’ll understand once you’ve tasted this bread. Believe me.

 

Sometimes, I’ll order the salad version of this sandwich. It’s called the Chicken Walnut Salad and it also comes with a piece of that addictive toasted bread. I order the homemade sweet vinaigrette to top my salad.

 

One of the most popular dishes at Red Onion is David’s Fried Chicken Salad, which consists of mixed greens topped with coconut-breaded chicken, tomatoes, avocados, chopped egg, and cheese, and is served with a honey-mustard dressing.

 

Desserts are not to be forgotten at Red Onion. I’ve eaten enough desserts here through the years that I believe I have the right to claim myself as an expert.

 

You see, the Red Onion’s dessert selection has supported me through three pregnancies. During my second pregnancy, I ate a slice of the Caramel Fudge Pecan Cake about once a week. I noticed that it’s now listed as a best seller on Red Onion’s menu, and I think I maybe I had something to do with that.

 

red onion cake

Caramel Fudge Pecan Cake

 

Red Onion’s wide selection of high-quality menu items, coupled with its relaxed, welcoming dining room, makes it one the restaurants where I always know I’ll have a great experience.

 

Even with fidgety toddlers in tow.

 

Red Onion Cafe is located at 203 E. 4th St.
To read more about my adventures in the area, visit JoplinMOLife.com.