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.

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.

 

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.