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.

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.

Couple’s Weekend in Joplin

My husband Travis’ birthday is in January. This year, it fell on a Thursday, a day when our schedule forced us to divide and conquer, driving one child to dance class and picking up another from basketball practice.

 

Not the most fun way to spend a birthday, but Travis didn’t complain. He’s such a trooper.

 

Did I mention that I’m his number one fan?

 

couple's fun

 

Miraculously, the weekend following his birthday we had no obligations with the kids. I don’t know how this happened, but from the moment I realized it, the wheels in my head started to spin. We had an entire weekend of free time, and I wanted to plan special activities that I thought Travis would like, things that he normally doesn’t get to do in a household of all females.

 

You know, guy things.

 

I came up with a jam-packed itinerary, and thanks to offers from the grandparents to watch the kids for us, we were ready to kick off Travis’ Epic Birthday Weekend.

 

 

Friday

Sunshine and unseasonably warm temperatures greeted us on this January morning. “Nice day,” Travis commented, looking longingly out the window of our home office.

 

I grabbed his shoes and placed them at his feet. “Put these on. We’ve got a tee-off time in 20 minutes,” I said.

 

He raised his eyebrows. “Really?” He looked at his computer screen, then out the window. Then he clicked the keyboard feverishly as he typed a message to his business partner, reached for his shoes and said, “Let’s go!”

 

All epic birthday weekends start off with playing hooky from work on Friday, right?

 

This one started off at Schifferdecker Golf Course. “It feels great to be outside,” said Travis, placing this ball on his tee. “Golfing was a great idea.”

 

“Aw, thanks,” I said. Then he swung his driver, whacking the ball and sending it straight down the fairway.

 

“Your turn,” he said, gesturing for me to tee off. I lined up my driver, took a deep breath, then swung. But the only thing that went flying through the air was a piece of turf. “I guess I’m a bit rusty,” I said tamping down the grass to fix the divot that I’d made in the ground.

 

Schiff-golf-map

Over the next couple of hours, my game didn’t improve, and on the eighth hole, Travis said, “Why don’t we stop after the next hole? I’m not feeling up to doing all 18 today.” 

 

I sighed in relief, grateful to him for granting me mercy.

 

We packed up our clubs and headed downtown for lunch at Instant Karma. Known for its gourmet hot dogs, inventive burgers, and wide selection of local and craft beers, this eclectic restaurant is a favorite lunch spot of ours. I ordered the vegetarian Bio Diesel, a meatless hot dog covered in homemade blue cheese slaw and Sriracha sauce.

 

instant karma bio

Travis polished off his Heavenly Donut, a juicy burger served with a glazed donut as a bun. “I’m ready for my nap now,” he said.

 

instant karma donut burger

 

“Let’s go home and rest up,” I told him. “You’ll need your ninja reflexes for laser tag this afternoon.”

 

A few hours later, we were refreshed and ready to do battle at Lazer Force. Placed on opposing teams, we mentally prepared for our game of indoor hide and seek with laser guns.

 

 

Lazer-labyrinth

The last time we’d played here, I scored over a hundred points more than Travis. Today, he beat me by 300 points. But that’s okay because he’s the birthday boy.

 

We emerged from the laser tag darkness and into the still-mild winter afternoon. “Let’s not let this gorgeous afternoon go to waste,” I said. “Let’s go to Tropicana.”

 

 

tropicana-day

Tropicana is a two-story bar and grill with outdoor seating and over 20 beers on tap. We sat on the patio and drank our beer until the sun disappeared behind the horizon and the air grew chilly.

 

We found a table inside near the warm fire and placed our dinner order: Fish tacos for Travis and the Buddha Gouda Burger (with Tropicana’s signature sauce) for me.

 

tropicana-buddha

 

While we waited for our food to arrive, we watched as a local band warmed up for a show. Tropicana often has live music on the weekends, and tonight happened to be one of those times.

 

It was great timing for us: dinner and entertainment. Today’s schedule had worked out well.

 

When the server brought us fresh drinks, I raised my glass. “Happy birthday, Travis.”

 

 

Saturday

With nowhere to be Saturday morning, we slept in. When we finally got up and dressed for the day, I told Travis that I needed to go to the mall to return a shirt.

 

Travis groaned. “I thought this was supposed to be a fun weekend.”

 

“It will be. I promise.”

 

I knew we’d be eating out the rest of the day so I got two breakfast bars out of the pantry for us to snack on during our drive to Northpark Mall. After we got out of the car at the mall, Travis looked at my empty hands and asked, “Where’s the shirt you need to return?”

 

“About that…” I began. By that time, we had made it to the entrance of Tilt Studio.

 

Then it hit him.

 

“You don’t have anything to return, do you?” he asked. “You just brought me here to challenge me at air hockey, didn’t you?” he asked.

 

I grinned sheepishly. “Come on!” I said, pulling on his arm. “It’ll be fun!”

 

He rolled his eyes. “You just can’t stand the fact that I beat you last time, can you?”

 

I hated to admit it, but the man was right.

 

tilt travis air hockey

 

We played two games of air hockey, each of us winning one.

 

Then came the tiebreaker.

 

Guess what?

 

I won.

 

And everything was right in the world again.

 

To prove that there were no hard feelings, I took Travis downtown to one of his favorite restaurants: Hackett’s Hot Wings.

 

hacketts wings

 

While I don’t care for chicken wings, I do love Hackett’s homemade sauce, so I ordered a salad with sauce-covered grilled chicken breast on top. It was like eating a boneless version of Hackett’s well-known wings.

 

Afterward, we wanted to get outdoors and enjoy yet another mild January day, so we drove a few blocks to the trailhead for the Frisco Trail to take a hike.

 

“Hey, let’s see if we can find a cache on the trail,” I suggested. Sometimes Travis and I like to combine our hikes with geocaching, which is like an outdoor scavenger hunt where you use GPS coordinates to find caches. There were several located on the Frisco Trail, and we ended up finding one close to the trail head.

 

Worn out from our day of play, we went home to rest for a few hours (this involved some Netflix binge watching, of course). Then we freshened up for our night out with friends.

 

We met two couples for dinner at Blackthorn Pizza & Pub, a cozy place to chill out with friends. Blackthorn offers a variety of beer on tap, and each of us ordered something different.

 

blackthorn beer on tap

And what tastes great with beer? Pizza. We ordered The Iconica, which was topped with blackened chicken, Italian sausage, bacon, garlic, and jalapenos. It was mildly spicy and very tasty.

 

blackthorn pizza

After an hour, I said, “Let’s head over to JB’s to get some good seats for the show.” We settled our bill, then walked a couple of blocks to JB’s Downtown Joplin to watch the dueling piano show.

 

The room was already crowded with people enjoying their pre-show drinks and conversation, but we were able to claim a table off to the side, which gave us a good view of both the pianos.

 

jbs-trio

Billy Joel’s crowd-pleasing “Piano Man” kicked off the show, with people joining in the chorus.

 

It was going to be a fun night.

 

A few songs into the show, I walked up to one of the piano players and requested a song.

 

“What did you request?” asked Travis when I came back to the table.

 

“You’ll see,” I said.

 

A few minutes later, one of the piano players leaned toward his microphone and asked, “Where’s Travis Smith?”

 

“Right here,” I said, pointing to my blindsighted husband.

 

“This song’s for you, man” said the piano player.

 

The familiar melody of the song “Happy Birthday” filled the room. I sang along, loud and proud, while Travis turned red and gave me the evil eye.

 

But secretly I knew he enjoyed the attention. At least, I hoped he did.

 

 

Sunday

After the late night out with our friends, we were moving rather slowly on Sunday morning. The rhythmic pounding of the rain on the roof didn’t exactly help motivate us get up, either. But once the grumbling from our stomachs started, we were dressed and out the door within ten minutes.

 

“The last meal of your birthday weekend,” I said wistfully, as we pulled up to the tiny brick building which houses The Bruncheonette. I had to admit that this weekend’s break from cooking was just as much a gift for me as eating out at his favorite restaurants was for Travis.

 

And eating at The Bruncheonette is always a treat. Serving breakfast, brunch, and lunch items, this restaurant combines locally sourced ingredients in wildly inventive ways. Today, both Travis and I ordered different variations of Eggs Benedict. Travis had the Cuban B, with tender pulled pork, ham, and gruyere, and I ordered the Garden Benny, topped with fresh asparagus, tomatoes, avocados, local micro greens beet Hollandaise.

 

 

holiday ex brunch

As I swirled the last bite of my poached egg in the creamy sauce, I looked out the window and saw people dashing from their cars to the door of The Bruncheonette with their coats over their heads, protecting themselves from the sudden torrential downpour. “We’ll have to take a raincheck on paintball today,” I said. Playing paintball had been our last activity in our birthday weekend schedule.

 

Travis pushed away his empty plate and leaned back in his chair. “That’s no big deal. I already had a great weekend,” he said.

 

“There’s just one bad thing about it though,” he added.

 

My heart dropped. “What?”

 

“I’m going to expect this much fun every birthday from now on,” he said playfully.

 

“Done,” I promised.

 

 

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