The Girlfriend’s Guide to Joplin Trails

Ding.

 

My gaze shifted from my laptop screen over to my phone where a message illuminated my home screen: Looking forward to Happy Hour.

 

I smiled as I typed my response: Only two more hours!

 

Happy Hour was dangling in front of me like a carrot that Friday afternoon, driving me to finish up my work so that I could reward myself by meeting my friend Shanon for some quality time together.

 

The plan was for me to meet her after work. She’s a schoolteacher, so her work day ends in the late afternoon, giving us a head start on celebrating the weekend. So once my own kids got home from school and got settled, I bolted for the door.

 

“Don’t get too crazy,” cautioned my husband.

 

I laughed – kind of crazily, I might add.

 

The moment I got in the car, I rolled down the windows and cranked up the volume on the radio. The breeze swirled around me, removing any remnants of stress that had attached to me that week and forcing them out the window. Ah, sweet release.

 

I pulled next to Shanon’s car in the parking lot. She was standing behind it with her foot up on the bumper, tying the laces on her walking shoes. She was dressed in her yoga pants and t-shirt, ready to hit the trails.

 

Trails?

 

But I thought this was Happy Hour, you say.

 

It is. It’s our version of Happy Hour (well, one of them, anyway); it’s where we escape from work and from home and find solitude on the walking trails in Joplin. At this stage of our lives, this is our definition of happiness, and we were going to enjoy an hour of it that Friday afternoon.

 

girilfriend-trails-canopy

 

That day we were walking the Frisco Greenway Trail in the north part of the city. The Frisco Trail was a “rails-to-trails” project; a 3.5-mile portion of the former St. Louis-San Francisco (Frisco) Railroad, once important to the mining industry in the Joplin and Webb City areas, was converted into a hiking and biking trail in an effort to promote a healthier community.

 

What Shanon and I like about the Frisco Trail is that it’s conveniently located within the city, yet with the canopy of trees overhead, it feels like we are miles from civilization. We passed a few joggers and bikers, but the rest of the time we had the trail to ourselves, giving us the opportunity to catch up on each other’s lives without interruption – which is a rare thing for us these days.

 

girlfriend-trails-caterpillar

We turned off the crushed gravel portion of the trail onto the paved spur that follows Turkey Creek, giving us a peaceful view of the water on one side and the woods on the other. We walked until we realized that the sun had dipped past the horizon, then we begrudgingly turned back. Happy Hour was ending just when we felt like it was getting started!

 

But once you experience Happy Hour, you’re left craving more, so as Shanon and I walked back to our cars we discussed plans for our next one.

 

And with several trail systems in the Joplin area, we could even trail-hop if we wanted to. 

 

The following Joplin trails are great places to enjoy Happy Hour. So raise your water bottle and say “Cheers!”

 

Frisco Trail: There are three parking areas available along the Frisco Trail, one at each trail head: the south end (on East North Street between North School and North Division Streets); midway (on North Saint Louis Avenue, just south of Zora Street); and the north end (behind Crowder College at Ellis and 5th Streets in Webb City). Click here for coordinates for the trailheads from the Joplin Trail’s Coalition website.

 

Turkey Creek Trail: Just east of the Frisco Trail, this 1.5-mile paved trail is hilly in some spots, but its short distance makes it doable. For those who want more of a challenge, there are some single-track trails located off of the main trail, one of which follows the edge of a bluff. The parking lot for Turkey Creek Trail is located at North Florida Avenue and Newman Road.

 

Wildcat Park: Located just south of Joplin, this park has over 4 miles of walking trails, one that cuts through the desert-like chert glade, one that winds through the woods and along the banks of sparkling Shoal Creek, and one that climbs a hill and follows the the edge of a bluff, offering a bird’s eye view of the creek below. Wildcat Park is located at 201 Riviera Drive.

 

girlfriend-trails-wildcat-bluff

 

Walter Woods Conservation Area: Also south of Joplin, this conservation area is filled with towering oak and hickory trees, tranquil ponds and a bubbling, freshwater spring. The 1-mile trail system here is paved, and pets are welcome. Walter Woods is located at 5265 Eland Road.

 

girlfriend-trails-ww-pond

 

 

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

Finn’s

One Sunday last fall, my husband Travis and I found ourselves with some free time (what?) and without kids (thanks, Grandma), so we decided to celebrate by eating out.

 

“There’s a place I’ve been following on Facebook called Finn’s that looks intriguing,” I said. “Let’s try that.”

 

Always eager for a new experience (and also really, really hungry), we hopped into the car and followed the directions on the GPS, which led us to what appeared to be a former supermarket. We paused in front of the building, seeing signs for Precision Pilates and The Emerson, but not Finn’s. “The GPS says it’s supposed to be here,” I insisted, seemingly forgetting the multiple times that Google Maps had previously led me astray.

 

finns building

“Let’s check out what’s on the side of the building,” suggested Travis.

 

finns front entrance

We rounded the corner, and there it was: the entrance to Finn’s.

 

finns emersons room

Inside, there was a spacious dining room with crystal chandeliers to our left (which we learned is part of The Emerson Event Center), and a small room which operates as a restaurant and bar to our right (which is Finn’s).

 

finns doorway

With its stone fireplace, paneled walls, and substantial chairs made from rich wood and leather, the room feels like a library in a traditional English manor, and reminds me of an atmosphere often found in upscale restaurants in big cities.

 

finns dining room 2I felt like we’d driven all the way to Kansas City instead of just 10 minutes down 32nd Street!

 

Brunch

The crackling fire felt cozy and inviting on that chilly day, and we were glad that there was a table available right next to it so that we could enjoy its warmth. I’d been craving Eggs Benedict, so that’s what I ordered, crossing my fingers that Finn’s would deliver a satisfying version of my favorite brunch dish.

 

And they did.

 

finns eggs benedict

Served on a hearty split English muffin, the savory bourbon-glazed ham complimented the delicate poached egg and creamy Hollandaise sauce, and made my mouth so happy. The seasoned home fries that were served with the dish were addicting – and filling. I reached a point where I could eat no more, and took the remainder of my meal home to feast on later.

 

finns burger

Since we were eating around one o’clock, Travis was more in the mood for lunch, so he ordered the inventive Hangover Burger, a smash burger topped with pepper jack cheese, chorizo, a fried egg, and avocado. It delivered a mouthful of smoky, spicy flavors.

 

Other intriguing brunch menu items at Finn’s include Honey Chicken and Biscuits, Raspberry Cream Stuffed French Toast, and Clark’s Cheesecake Omelet. There are also a variety of salads, sandwiches, and tacos to satisfy any palate. And you can sip on a mimosa or a Bloody Mary to make your leisurely brunch experience complete.

 

Dinner

Once we discovered Finn’s, we couldn’t get enough of it. Within the next few weeks, we returned to Finn’s for brunch and lunch with friends and family, and then for dinner on our date night when we, once again, sat next to the crackling fire (so romantic!).

 

We started with drinks and appetizers. Travis ordered The Emerson, which is a Moscow Mule served with basil and cucumber.

 

finns emerson drink

I ordered The 32nd Street, which was made with bourbon, simple syrup, fresh blackberries, and mint.

 

finns 32nd street drink

I like how the drinks are named after people and places connected with the restaurant and Joplin. It’s a nice touch.

 

Travis ordered the shrimp cocktail, which came with a generous number of plump shrimp.

 

finns shrimp cocktail

I ordered bruschetta, which is a popular appetizer here, according to our server.

 

finns bruschetta

A departure from traditional tomato-topped appetizer served on French or Italian bread, Finn’s version features toasted flatbread triangles drizzled with a balsamic glaze and served with delicious herbed cream cheese.

 

finns bar people 2

While we were eating our appetizers, the seats at the bar filled up, and I overheard a man say that Finn’s was his favorite place in town to get drinks. I can understand why. Not only does it offer a relaxing place to enjoy cocktails, you can do so for half price during Happy Hour, which runs Monday through Thursday, 4 pm to 7 pm, and includes beer, house wine, well drinks, and appetizers.

 

Travis and I each ordered a glass of wine with dinner, and we joked about the circus-sized glasses that the wine was served in.

 

finns chris wine

However, we certainly didn’t mind the substantial amount of liquid those glasses could hold.

 

For his dinner entrée, Travis ordered the special of the day, which was a version Finn’s hand-cut tenderloin; it was truly fork tender.

 

finns beef

I took our server’s advice and ordered Clark’s Chop, an apple-brined French pork chop topped with a sweet and smoky bourbon glaze, and served with mashed potatoes and bacon bourbon green beans.

 

finns pork

I can’t remember when I’d last eaten a pork chop, as it isn’t typically a cut of meat that I prefer. But tasting Finn’s flavorful and tender (there’s that word again) chop has quite possibly converted me.

 

Finn’s also offers a variety of other menu options, including seafood dishes, salads (like caprese avocado – yum!), and soup (like house-made gumbo).

 

After that hearty meal, I needed to stand up and stretch (dining is such a challenging sport), so I got up and wandered around. I decided to check out the restrooms. You can tell a lot about a restaurant from its restrooms, and the ladies’ restroom at Finn’s is simply stunning.

 

finns bathrooms

Its elegance is fitting, since it is utilized not only by diners at Finn’s, but also by guests who attend special events (like wedding receptions) at The Emerson.

 

I returned to the table to discover a piece of chocolate cake waiting for me, and groaned.

 

finns chocolate cake

“I can’t take another bite,” I said, as I picked up my fork and took yet another bite. I mean, I had to at least try a bite of that scrumptiousness, right?

 

Just then, the restaurant owner Chef Mickel Clark, came to our table to see how we were enjoying our meal. It was nice to see him engaging with, and getting feedback from, his customers. He told us about some exciting things that he and his partner Chef Red Morris (the barbeque master) had been working on, such as expanding the hours at Finn’s to seven days a week, and introducing Clark’s Cuisine on the Scene, a traveling food truck that features a limited menu.

 

How do they do all of that plus operate Clark’s Cuisine, the catering business for The Emerson (as well as for off-site events)? These men have found many creative ways to showcase their culinary talent, and the Joplin community is lucky to benefit from their efforts.

 

A Few Things to Note

Featuring a combination of steakhouse items, comfort food, and Southern flair, Finn’s offers a unique, elevated dining experience in Joplin. Here are some things to know before you go:

 

Finn’s is located at 2707 E. 32nd Street. It sits back from the street, so you may drive past it the first time, but definitely turn back! It’s so worth the trip.

 

Finn’s is open daily; dinner only on Saturday, brunch only on Sunday, and both lunch and dinner served the rest of the week. Click here for reservations.

 

Finn’s offers outdoor dining! Enjoy your food on the patio in nice weather.

 

Follow Finn’s on Facebook for information on special events and live music (like Saxophone Saturday).

 

For information on booking The Emerson or for off-site catering, click here.

 

finns dog

This is Finn. Look for the photo of him near the bar at the restaurant.

 

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