Frosted Cakerie

In this age of 24/7 accessibility, we feel impatient if we can’t get something right away. But there’s a lot to be said about learning to wait. There’s a buildup of excitement and anticipation, and when we finally do get the thing that we were longing for, we appreciate it more.

 

That’s how I feel about the baked treats from Frosted Cakerie. When I take a bite of one of the cupcakes, cookies, or other sweets from this bakery, I savor it just a bit more because I know that these goodies are only available to the public once a week on Walk-In Wednesdays.

 

 

During the rest of the week, Kristen Scheafer, owner of the bakery, tantalizes us with Instagram photos of the yumminess to come the following Wednesday; that is, when she’s not busy creating custom cakes for clients (which are the mainstay of her business). Her modern cakes, with creative designs and unique color palettes, are works of art – and they taste amazing, too! This winning combination is what has made Frosted successful since opening in 2016.

 

 

I visited Frosted on a recent Walk-In Wednesday. It shares a space with Bearded Lady Roasters, which roasts and serves some of the best coffee in Joplin. Pairing a coffee shop with a bakery is a brilliant move.

 

 

On the day I popped in, Bearded Lady Roasters was celebrating its first birthday (at that location), and Frosted was celebrating its fourth birthday (for which Kristen made these adorable cannoli).

 

 

There was a party going on in the display case, too, with sprinkles adding extra flair to the baked goods.

 

 

The offerings at Frosted change weekly, and sometimes there are even vegan and gluten-free options to try.

 

I decided to pick out a variety of things to bring home for me and my family to share, including the prettiest lemon doughnut I’ve ever seen.

 

 

I also chose a Pink Champagne cupcake (one of Frosted’s most popular flavors). The cake was a pretty blush color, and the delicious champagne buttercream was topped with a dusting of glitter and sprinkles.

 

 

I also brought home one of the popular – and gigantic – lemon cookies. I loved the shortbread-like consistency, and the nice balance of sweetness and tartness.

 

 

My kids devoured the Cinnamon Oatmeal Cookie Sandwich first. This sinful creation consisted of two cookies held together with a layer of buttercream frosting.

 

 

We loved our goodies so much that I came back two days later, on a Friday, to take advantage of Frosted’s Valentine’s Day Pop-Up Shop. I snagged one of the Red Velvet cupcakes to share with my husband that night.

 

The moist, red cake was topped with heavenly Milk & Honey cream cheese frosting made with locally sourced milk from Edgewood Creamery.

 

 

Other local products are available to purchase in the Frosted/Bearded Lady Roasters shared space, including coffee, honey, and pottery, like this cake stand – which would be perfect for displaying lovely Frosted treats.

 

 

But, be warned. Those irresistible sweets will disappear quickly, leaving you staring at a cake stand covered in crumbs.

 

But at least it’s a pretty cake stand.

 

 

 

Visit Frosted Cakerie on Walk-In Wednesdays at 218 South Main Street. Click here to view Frosted’s website, or follow Frosted on Facebook and Instagram.

 

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

Bearded Lady Roasters

It’s a pretty special thing to watch a business grow, to see an idea emerge into reality, then expand and thrive as people recognize its worth in their world.

 

I’ve seen this with Bearded Lady Roasters. Owned by Adam Francis, a man who is skilled in the art of roasting coffee beans, Bearded Lady Roasters’ products were first introduced to me, and many other Joplinites, at a Third Thursday celebration a few years ago. Third Thursday is a downtown event featuring art, music, and food. Local vendors can rent booths to showcase their goods, and that’s when I first tasted the good-tasting goods of Bearded Lady Roasters.

 

 

A couple years later, I was having a coffee at The Coffee Shop at Joplin Greenhouse, a shop which utilizes and promotes local vendors. I was blown away by the robust flavor of the cortado I ordered, and I asked what brand of coffee was used in my drink.

 

It was Bearded Lady Roasters.

 

Then, in 2019, it happened. Bearded Lady Roasters opened a brick-and-mortar store on Main Street in downtown Joplin.

 

 

Finally, an abstract idea had become a physical reality.

 

Bearded Lady Roasters’ coffee shop gives off a chill vibe with its simple and stylish interior.

 

 

With a mix of lounge seating for socializing, tables and chairs for enjoying a bite to eat before the work day, and a row of seating along one wall (with ample outlets available) that’s perfect for students and mobile workers like me, Bearded Lady Roasters offers an environment that welcomes a variety of patrons.

 

 

There are even seats at the coffee bar itself where you can get a close-up view of Adam working his craft.

 

 

His single batch brews are legendary among coffee connoisseurs. On the day I visited, he was featuring Ethiopia Golocha (with notes of blueberry, honey, lavender, and chocolate), and Colombia El Tigre (with notes of dark chocolate, cherry, and lemon.

 

The day I was there also happened to be the celebration of one year of being in business at this location, so the featured drink was the Birthday Cake Latte, which I had to try because you can’t go to a birthday party without having some cake – or in this case, its liquid equivalent.

 

The latte had the same robust flavor that I’ve come to expect with Bearded Lady Roasters. Plus, it had sprinkles. A party in a cup!

 

 

Bearded Lady Roasters shares a space with Frosted Cakerie, a bakery which focuses primarily on making custom cakes, but on Wednesdays Frosted fills its display case with cookies, cupcakes, and other baked goodies to sell to the public. Frosted also supplies a selection of baked goods to Bearded Lady Roasters each day.

 

Lemon Poppyseed Muffins, Blueberry Streusel Muffins, White Chocolate Raspberry Scones, London Fog Scones, and Cinnamon Knots were available at Bearded Lady Roasters on the day that I went.

 

 

There was also a savory Bacon, Spinach, and Cheese Muffin, which I ordered to have for breakfast, along with my latte.

 

 

You can order traditional espresso drinks at Bearded Lady Roasters, or you can try one of their seasonal flavored coffee drinks. This winter’s flavors included The Log Cabin, made with espresso, maple syrup, and cocoa, and Winter Tonic, made with espresso, and elderberry and juniper tonic.

 

 

Bearded Lady Roasters also serves tea. Try one of the tea lattes, or the iced green or berry hibiscus teas.

 

When the weather is warmer, sample the refreshing seasonal lavender lemonade. It’s my daughter’s favorite summertime drink.

 

If you find yourself getting hooked on Bearded Lady Roasters’ coffee (and it’s likely that you will) but you can’t make it to the shop for your daily cup, you can buy some bags of coffee and bring them home, like the popular Espresso and Honduras varieties.

 

 

 

While you’re picking up some beans to bring home, check out the other local goods for sale at the shop, including coffee-brewing supplies, a variety of teas, local pottery,

 

 

and honey from Alchemist Haven (perfect for sweetening a cup of tea).

 

 

I’m glad I happened to be at Bearded Lady Roasters on the one-year anniversary at its current location. Seeing the coffee shop filled with patrons showed how much the community supports Adam and his mission to bring well-crafted coffee to Joplin.

 

We appreciate you, Adam, and your thriving business!

 

 

Bearded Lady Roasters is located at 218 South Main Street. To see its Facebook page, click here; to see its Instagram page, click here.

 

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

Hackett Hot Wings

My husband Travis is not a picky eater. But when it comes to wings, he will only eat at Hackett Hot Wings.

 

He’s not the only one, either. Hackett’s has built a loyal following ever since Floyd and Jacqueline Hackett opened the restaurant in Joplin’s East Town in 2003, featuring hot wings inspired by the flavors of their home town of Memphis.

 

 

The restaurant quickly outgrew its space and moved downtown in 2008. Being on busy Main Street brought even more customers – and more fans.

 

In 2011, Hackett’s earned the top spot in 417 Magazine’s “5 Best Chicken Wings” article.

 

That’s the top spot in the region, not just in the city of Joplin.

 

And that’s impressive.

 

I recently joined Travis on a trip to Hackett’s during one of his hot-wing cravings. Personally, I prefer boneless white meat, like chicken breast, over wings, but guess what? Hackett’s accommodates people like me, too! You can order boneless chicken chunks or tenders prepared in the same way that you’d order chicken wings. So even if you don’t like wings, you can still experience the unique flavors of Hackett’s.

 

Although there’s parking available along Main Street, we parked in the lot behind the building and entered through the restaurant’s rear entrance. Since it was just me and Travis, we opted to sit in the sports room.

 

Had our kids been with us, we probably would have eaten in one of the two other dining rooms so they wouldn’t be distracted by all of the TV monitors and could actually focus on having a conversation with us.

 

 

But those TV monitors in the sports room sure come in handy during game days.

 

 

From nearly every vantage point, you can see a monitor, allowing you to keep up with your favorite team while visiting with your friends.

 

Travis and I each ordered a beer on tap to sip on while we looked through the menu. Hackett’s is a great place to visit for Happy Hour, as it offers a variety of draft and bottled beers, as well as cocktails and 14 signature drinks, including spiked lemonade (the non-alcoholic lemonade is tasty, too).

 

For an appetizer, we ordered the Fried Green Beans (you can order them prepared regular or spicy, and we ordered the spicy version). My daughter raves about these, so the plan was to taste a few and bring the rest home to her.

 

Things didn’t go according to plan.

 

 

Those fiery green beans dipped into the cool, creamy ranch dressing were so addicting that, by the time we took a break from stuffing ourselves, there were only three beans left; we figured that was too paltry a number to bring home, so we finished them off instead.

 

That decision did not earn us any points for Parents of the Year.

 

Yet we forged ahead and ordered our entrees. Travis ordered a combination of wings with the Season dry rub, and the Medium sauce, served with a side of crunchy carrots and celery tossed in flavorful spices.

 

 

There really are so many wing-eating options at Hackett’s. Do you like your wings dry? Wet? Mild? Hot? You can tailor your wing experience to your taste with Hackett’s five dry rub options (including the popular Lemon Pepper), and eight sauce options (the Hot & Honey is a favorite). If you find one you like, let Hackett’s know by voting for it here. If you’re out of town and hankering for a taste of Hackett’s you can shop online and have your favorite rub or sauce delivered to your door.

 

As for me, I wanted to capture the subtle fire of Hackett’s Medium sauce without ordering wings, so I opted for the chicken tender salad and I asked that the (enormous) tenders be tossed with the wing sauce.

 

 

Everyone’s happy, everyone wins.

 

And I mean everyone. If you’re not in the mood or chicken wings or tenders, order a burger, or the catfish dinner or pulled-pork dinner with a side of hushpuppies for a truly Southern experience.

 

While Hackett’s has a little something for everyone, for wing-lovers, Hackett’s has it all.

 

Hands down.

 

Hackett Hot Wings is located at 520 South Main in Joplin. Click here to visit its website, and click here to follow it on Facebook.

 

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

The Pie Safe

Taking a bite of homemade pie is like taking a trip home. One taste of tender, flaky pie crust makes us think of our sweet, apron-clad grandma bustling about in her kitchen, pressing dough into a pan with her gently weathered hands, infusing love into her baked creations.

 

Pie has inhabited a special place at the American table, and at our family gatherings, for so long that it’s become more than a mere dessert item; it’s become a feeling.

 

There’s a bakery in Joplin that captures the essence of all that pies have to offer: the delicate crust, the sweet fillings, the warm comfort that you feel with each bite. This is The Pie Safe.

 

 

The modern exterior of this pie shop belies its vintage decor, with its faux, pressed-tin ceiling, crystal chandelier, tasseled drapes, and paintings with gilded frames.

 

 

It feels like stepping into grandma’s house, the perfect setting in which to enjoy a slice of pie and a cup of tea.

 

 

The Pies

The display case at The Pie Safe is stocked with a variety of 4-inch mini pies, an ideal size for sampling. On my first visit there, I selected four pies to bring home to share with my family: (clockwise, from the left) Pumpkin, Signature Blackberry, White Chocolate with Mountain Rose Apples (a seasonal pie topped with slices of an apple variety that has rose-colored flesh), and Vivian’s Pecan.

 

On a separate occasion, I brought home the Christmas Key Lime mini pie, with infused candied cranberries and Chantilly cream,

 

and the Good Cherry mini pie, because my daughter loves cherry pie.

 

 

Which one did I like the best? Geez, that’s like asking which one of my children is my favorite. Their unique qualities make them difficult to compare to one another, but they are all wonderful in their own ways (both the pies, and my kids).

 

But one thing is for sure: The crust on these babies is second to none (the pies, not my kids…I hope). Its buttery flakiness provides a solid foundation for the variety of delectable flavors that The Pie Safe offers.

 

Tasty Teas

The Victorian-inspired theme inside The Pie Safe makes it a nice spot to have a spot…of tea. The Pie Safe serves loose leaf teas from Savoy Tea Co. of Fayetteville, Arkansas, which sells fine teas from all over the world. You can even buy some in a charming decorative tin to take home with you.

 

 

When my husband, Travis, and I recently stopped by The Pie Safe, we ordered the tea flavors of the day; he ordered a cup of Savoy’s spicy Cinnamon Orange tea, which was served hot, while I ordered the yummy iced Caramel Buttercup tea, which I got from this beverage dispenser in this ornate niche.

 

 

Lunch

You might think that, with all this pie and tea talk, that dessert is the only thing that’s served at The Pie Safe. But you would be wrong. This is a popular meeting place for lunch, too.

 

You can choose from chicken salad on a croissant or, if you are watching carbs, you can order it served the keto way – over romaine lettuce. In fact, there are many keto options on the menu here, both for lunch and for dessert.

 

But if you’re not watching carbs, try one of The Pie Safe’s rotating sandwich flavors, like the mouthwatering Turkey Panini, with homemade cranberry sauce (made with orange and pecans), Brie, spinach, and garlic aioli. Or, if you can’t resist eating at The Pie Safe without consuming something containing a scrumptious crust, try the Chicken Pot Pie, a 5-inch pie stuffed with chicken, celery, and carrots.

 

 

Or try the savory quiche, filled with artichokes, spinach, bacon, and cheddar.

 

 

It was so tasty, even my non-quiche-loving husband liked it.

 

Parties and Catering

If you are interested in having a tea party at The Pie Safe, complete with a real tea serving set, contact the shop for more details. If you’re planning a party at your own home and want to serve some goodies from The Pie Safe, then take a look at the special-order menu, which includes whole pies, 3-inch event pies, hand pies, blossoms, and cream puffs. Follow the Pie Safe on Facebook to find out when special treats become available, like the to-die-for sugarplums filled with buttercream.

 

 

Hours

Currently, The Pie Safe is open every week, Wednesday through Friday; occasionally it will be open on a Saturday, so check out its current posts on Facebook, or call before you go.

 

When you’re craving the comfort of an American pie, stop by The Pie Safe.

 

It’s the next best thing to your grandma’s kitchen.

 

 

The Pie Safe is located at 2129 South Main Street. Click here to follow it on Facebook. 

 

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

 

 

Zinc Coffee

I’m a sucker for windows. I crave natural light. Anywhere I go, I immediately seek out a spot near a window.

 

I especially need to be near one when writing. Being able to peer at the ever-shifting clouds, watch the movement of the wind through the trees, or follow the graceful flight of a flock of birds helps to spark a thought or two whenever I experience writer’s block.

 

 

So does coffee. Not just any coffee. Watery brown liquid mixed from powder will not do. I need the strong stuff, an elixir that is carefully crafted and not haphazardly mixed.

 

And when I drink delicious coffee while bathed in natural light, my soul sings.

 

Zinc Coffee is one place where I can capture this feeling.

 

 

The garage doors of this former service station have been converted into windows that reach from the ceiling to about a foot above the floor, allowing natural light to dance over the simple elements of the interior: the rough concrete floor, the warm, honey-colored wooden tables and chairs, and the crisp, white brick walls.

 

 

The effect is an environment that appears clean, bright, and cheerful, even on the gloomiest of days; a perfect spot in which to enjoy a thoughtfully crafted beverage.

 

 

The Drinks

 

Like the decor, the drink menu here is simple. The focus here is on the quality of the coffee itself, and Zinc uses beans from Onyx Coffee Lab, a Arkansas roaster, and Archetype Coffee, based in Omaha.

 

 

In addition to espressos and lattes, Zinc offers drip coffee and pour-overs. Pour-overs are individually made by pouring hot water over ground coffee in filter-lined cups. Pour-overs bring out the subtle flavors of the coffee, making them a great option for coffee connoisseurs with highly discerning palates.

 

I’d never tried a pour-over before, so I ordered the Ethiopia Bishan Fugu at Zinc which, according to the pour-over menu, presents subtle notes of lime, Concord grape, kombucha, and dark chocolate.

 

I was able to identify the taste of dark chocolate (I can recognize chocolate in anything), but that was the only flavor my unskilled taste buds could distinguish. I guess I’m used to my coffee flavors shouting at me rather than being delicate.

 

I found the robust quality that I crave in Zinc’s Lavender Latte, which was accented with a touch of herbal sweetness.

 

 

My husband Travis tried one of Zinc’s creative seasonal drinks, the Campfire Cappuccino. This dreamy cool-weather drink, served with torched marshmallows,  is made by soaking honey graham crackers in steamed milk to extract the flavor, then adding white and dark chocolate.

 

 

The staff here treats coffee like a science, and the Campfire Cappuccino is one of its successful lab experiments.

 

If dairy isn’t your thing, you can choose oat or almond milk to put in your coffee instead. If you’re watching your caffeine intake, you can order decaf espresso. If you prefer to have something besides coffee, Zinc offers loose leaf Rishi Tea, matcha drinks, smoothies, and golden lattes (made with tumeric, ginger, and steamed milk).

 

 

There’s also a small selection of pastries to snack on, as well as a variety of Mylk Labs oatmeal. And if you want a cross between a meal and a cup of coffee, try the decadent coffee shake.

 

 

The Space

 

Zinc opened in 2018 on Joplin’s historic Main Street.

 

 

Being housed in a former service station adds character to the interior. There’s the main room, the converted body shop, where you go to place your order. It’s filled with ample seating.

 

Next to that is a smaller room (the old office/waiting room, perhaps?) that contains more seating, as well as the barista counter – the coffee lab.

 

 

 

In the rear of the building, there’s an additional room that’s available to book.

 

 

Zinc is an excellent venue for meetings, study groups, or for mobile workers, like me. You can place your order at the counter, get the password for the secure Wi-Fi, then find a seat and start your meeting or project. Someone will bring your drink to you. Not having to wait at the counter for your individually crafted beverage is a nice perk of choosing Zinc.

 

 

Additional Perks

Fur babies are welcome at Zinc, too. Bring them with you inside the coffee shop, or let them lounge next to you under the covered patio when the weather is nice.

 

If you’re short on time, you can always grab a coffee from the drive-through, which is actually a door that your server will come through to take your order.

 

 

The drive-through process, as well as the parking situation, can be a bit confusing for a first-timer, so here’s a map that illustrates both.

 

 

Another question you may have is, “Why the name Zinc?” It’s a name that pays homage to the mineral that was mined in the area a century ago, and which brought prosperity to Joplin’s economy and helped construct our city.

 

Today, Zinc Coffee serves the fuel that sustains Joplin’s most important modern resource.

 

Its people.

 

 

Zinc Coffee is located at 1825 S. Main Street. Click here to visit its website, here to follow it on Facebook, and here to follow it on Instagram.

 

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

Infuxn Kitchen and Cocktails

Infuxn.

 

Let’s start with the pronunciation of this odd little word, specifically the latter half.

 

It does not rhyme with suction; it rhymes with fusion.

 

Now, put it all together and say in-fusion.

 

Not only is that what the name sounds like, it also describes what goes on at Joplin’s ultra hip vodka bar and eatery called Infuxn Kitchen + Cocktails.

 

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This upscale lounge with its sleek decor, frozen drink rail at the bar, and vodka bank in the rear makes me feel like I’ve have been transported from southwest Missouri directly to a club in Vegas.

 

infuxn bank 2The vodka bank. Care to make a withdrawal?

 

In 2019, Infuxn expanded its lounge to include a full dinner menu, and swapped its low-profile tables for wooden dining tables so that its patrons could comfortably enjoy a night of cocktails and dinner all at one convenient location.

 

Naturally, I had to try it out, so my husband Travis and I went there recently on our date night.

 

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Infuxn sets itself apart from other local venues by focusing on the art of the cocktail. Many of the drinks here are actual infusions, which are defined in the dictionary as “drinks, remedies, or extracts prepared by soaking the leaves of a plant or herb in liquid.”

 

Yes, Infuxn has a remedy for whatever ails you.

 

The medicine man here is Daniel Valentine, the creative force behind Infuxn’s cocktail elixirs. He has crafted a menu of drinks that is anything but ordinary. Daniel even takes his art beyond the menu by concocting a daily drink special, plus he makes customized drinks based on his patrons’ requests.

 

The elixir that beckoned to me on our date night was the Lower Elevation, a refreshing citrus drink with a kick.

 

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It was made with some ingredients that I recognized: Espolon tequila, fresh lime and grapefuit juices, house sour, and muddled jalapeno; and some ingredients that I had to look up: El Bujo mezcal (a smokier relative of tequila), and habanero-infused St. Germain (an elderflower liquer).

 

Travis ordered the Last Summer.

 

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Made with Hendrick’s gin, lavender-ginger syrup, and fresh lemon juice, this cocktail is served over ice and topped with a Luxardo cherry, and it goes down easily, so pace yourself. Do yourself a favor and eat that decadent (and expensive) Luxardo cherry on top; fruity with a hint of amaretto, Luxardo cherries are the elegant cousins of the familiar Maraschino cherries.

 

We ordered the hummus of the week to nosh on while we sipped our cocktails (Risotto Rice Balls and Antipasto Rose Flatbread, I’ll see you on future visits).

 

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Our curry hummus was served with fresh celery, carrots, and either baked or fried naan (we chose the pillowy fried naan, which is lightly seasoned and highly addictive).

 

On a previous visit, when Infuxn only served appetizers and small plates, we’d ordered the Crab Stuffed Mushrooms. They are still on the menu, so I thought I’d include a photo of these generously stuffed, creamy and savory goodies for you.

 

infuxn crab

 

The dinner menu at Infuxn offers something for nearly everyone’s palate and dietary needs. For those seeking an upscale burger made from superior-quality beef, there’s The Infuxn Wagyu Burger; if eating plant-based is your thing, there’s the meatless Beyond Burger.

 

If you’re cutting carbs, try the Tuscan Chicken Mornay or the meaty and succulent Seared Strawberry Salmon, topped with balsamic vinegar and strawberry salsa, and served with asparagus, and your choice of two sides.

 

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Travis ordered the steamed vegetables and new potatoes as sides for his salmon (the Parmesan mash is a good low-carb substitute for the potatoes).

 

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Since we were at a vodka bar, I chose to go the traditional Russian cuisine route. I ordered the carb-loaded Homestyle Beef Stroganoff, a hearty (and insanely huge) dish filled with mushrooms, carrots, and tender beef in a rich sour cream sauce, and served over farfalle pasta.

 

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I also ordered a cup of Infuxn Borscht with my meal, because where else in Joplin can you find borscht on the menu?

 

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This traditional root vegetable soup, often found in Russian and Polish cuisine (although its origins are actually Ukranian), contains shredded beef and pork that is simmered in a tomato base.

 

Both the stroganoff and the borscht dishes at Infuxn are family recipes, and they reminded me of similar dishes that I ate growing up in a Polish household.

 

I’m excited that Infuxn is part of Joplin; it offers a one-of-a-kind experience in our city, making it a must-visit place for both tourists and locals.

 

Just make sure you practice saying the name before you go.

 

 

 

Infuxn Kitchen + Cocktails is located at 503 S. Main St. Click here to visit Infuxn’s Facebook page.

 

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

Carmine’s Wood Fired Pizza

It’s 7:45 on Thursday night. We’ve finally arrived home after an evening of softball, soccer, and dance. Tired and hungry, my family members turn to me expectantly.

 

What’s for dinner?

 

Seriously? I’d literally been with them at the ball fields and the dance studio for the last four hours; when would I have had time to make dinner?

 

There’s only one solution on a night like this.

 

Pizza.

 

Reflexively, I grab my phone to place an order with Papa John’s, which we’ve been regularly ordering from for years because its pizza is approved by my pickiest eater (the rest of us think it’s okay). I open up the Papa John’s app, and then it dawns on me.

 

There IS another way.

 

We don’t have to sacrifice taste for the sake of convenience. We can have authentic, hand-tossed pizza topped with fresh ingredients delivered to our door just as easily as the so-so pizza from Papa John’s.

 

I open up the Bite Squad app and place an order for Carmine’s Wood Fired Pizza.

 

The Pizzeria

A few weeks earlier, my husband Travis and I had eaten at Carmine’s for the first time. The restaurant, owned by New Jersey native Bill Carmine Cornell, opened in 2016 in a cheerful yellow building in downtown Joplin.

 

 

We were lucky to find a seat, as the family-friendly restaurant was bustling that Friday night. We each ordered a beer (a regional KC Bier Dunkel for me) and settled in to study the menu.

 

I knew that Carmine’s featured New York and Neapolitan-style pizzas, and I had a basic understanding of each type, but I did some research ahead of time because, well, I’m curious. Here’s what I learned, both from the information online, and from our friendly server at Carmine’s.

 

The Pies

New York-style pizza has a thin crust that is basically uniform throughout, and is sturdy enough to support lots of cheese and other toppings without getting soggy or falling apart. Yet, it is pliable enough to fold in half and eat on the go, in the classic New Yorker way. At Carmine’s, the New York-style pizzas measure 16” and are cooked in a Baker’s Pride deck oven at 550 degrees.

 

We ordered the Italian Sausage, which was topped with crushed tomatoes, Mozzarella and Pecorino-Romano cheeses, in addition to the flavorful sausage.

 

 

The sauce had a nice balance of sweet and savory, and the taste reminded me of the thin-crust local pizza that I grew up eating in Chicago. There really is more to Chicago pizza than deep-dish, so if you’re ever up there, try some thin-crust from Rosati’s.

 

Neapolitan-style pizza has a thin, airy crust that puffs up and sometimes chars on the edges. Dollops of cheese are used on this crust in order to avoid making it soggy. At Carmine’s the Neapolitan-style pizzas measure 13” and are baked at around 800 degrees in an Acunto wood-fired oven, hand built in Naples, Italy.

 

Hmm, does Papa John’s have one of these?

 

We ordered a Neapolitan classic: Margherita. It was made with San Marzano tomatoes from Italy, fresh Mozzarella, Pecorino-Romano, fresh basil, olive oil, and sea salt. Simple, fresh, heavenly.

 

The pizza dough at Carmine’s is handmade in small batches (there’s a gluten-free option, too), and allowed to ferment for 24 to 48 hours before being hand-stretched and tossed and made into some of the best pizza I’ve ever eaten in Joplin.

 

 

Beyond Pizza

If you’re not in the mood for pizza, don’t let that stop you from choosing Carmine’s for your next meal. Try one of the salads, like the Caprese, or a calzone, sausage roll, or maybe a meatball or sausage sandwich.

 

Whatever you do, leave room for dessert. With a variety of mouthwatering cakes and even Nutella Pizza, it would be a crime to pass it up.

 

I had heard about how amazing the Lemon Basil Sorbetto was, and it lived up to the hype. I got the very last scoop.

 

We also ordered the beautiful homemade cannoli,

 

which I enjoyed with a robust espresso.

 

How cool is it that Bill Cornell has brought a taste of New York to Joplin with his restaurant Carmine’s?

 

And how lucky that I can have Carmine’s conveniently delivered to our door via Bite Squad or Door Dash?

 

See you later, Papa John’s.

 

 

Carmine’s Wood Fired Pizza is located at 524 South Joplin Avenue. Click here to visit its website, and click here to see its Facebook page.

 

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

 

Turtleheads Raw Bar

Joplin is nestled in the rolling hills of the Ozarks, right in the heart of America. This means that while we’re surrounded by miles of trails to explore, we’re also a long way from the crashing waves of the ocean. In fact, there are seven degrees of latitude that separate us from our closest ocean access point: The Gulf of Mexico. 

While it’s not easy for us landlocked Ozarkians to physically travel to the beach to enjoy some rest and relaxation, we can feel like we’re there when we visit Turtleheads Raw Bar, located right here in Joplin.

 

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The turquoise exterior of Turtleheads reminds me of the bright Gulf water, and it offers a hint of the carefree, beachy vibe cultivated inside. With kitschy nautical decorations and neon signs adorning the walls, this is a hangout where Jimmy Buffet would feel right at home.

 

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Recently, my husband Travis and I ate at Turtleheads. Both of us went to college in the Gulf region; he in Pensacola, Florida, and I in New Orleans, so every once in a while, we crave the variety of seafood that we had access to when we lived there. Lucky for us, the menu at Turtleheads offers several items that satisfy those cravings.

There are some appetizer options here that you won’t find anywhere else in town, like fried gator tail and frog legs. There are also oysters, both fried and on the half-shell, which Travis ordered.

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He was given the choice of Gulf or Blue Point oysters, and he chose the latter. It had been years since he’d eaten some, and he was excited to be able to do so here in Joplin.

 

I’ve never acquired the taste for oysters, so I ordered the coconut shrimp. Served with honey and citrus sauce, it had a nice tropical flavor.

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As we enjoyed our appetizers, the languid beat of the reggae song Red, Red, Wine by UB40 played, transporting us back to the day that we met on a beach in Illinois in the summer of ‘87. Ah, yet another good time at the beach.

When it came time to order our entrees, I was torn between the po’ boy sandwich or the gumbo, two of my favorite Cajun foods. I ultimately went with the gumbo, which was packed with tomatoes, celery, shrimp, and spicy andouille sausage, served over Cajun rice. 

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My side dish of island slaw, subtly sweetened with coconut and grapes, was a nice complement to the fiery gumbo.

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The Louisiana Pan Roast that Travis ordered also had a kick to it. Similar in consistency to the gumbo, his pan roast contained shrimp and crab, bathed in a creamy – yet spicy – tomato and clam sauce, and served over Cajun rice.

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His side dish of jalapeno hush puppies, served with a remoulade-type sauce for dipping, was delicious.

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In addition to its regular menu items, Turtleheads runs specials on different nights of the week, such as Crab Feast on Wednesdays (with all-you-can-eat crab legs), and Catfish Fry-Days.

But eating seafood is only part of the Gulf Coast lifestyle feeling at Turtleheads; the other part is listening to live music under twinkling lights on the outside patio.

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Midnight Rose performs on the patio stage.

The patio is open year-round, and there’s live music played there every Saturday night. 

Outside, we sipped on our beer as the balmy breeze carried away our worries. We felt relaxed, like we’d been to the beach – yet we’d never left Joplin.

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Changes in latitudes, changes in attitudes, like Jimmy Buffet sings.

On this night, we mentally changed latitudes with a virtual trip to the beach at Turtleheads.

 

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Turtleheads Raw Bar is located at 4218 South Main Street in Joplin. Click here to visit its website, and click here to find it on Facebook.

 

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

El Taco Loco

In just two short years, Deanna Marroquin has taken her business El Taco Loco from a humble food truck to an area favorite.

 

I like to think that I helped contribute to that success with my frequent (okay, sometimes weekly) visits. After all, once I tried the authentic, flavorful Mexican food served at El Taco Loco, I was hooked.

 

For instance, to break up a day of writing at home, I’ll say to my hubby Travis (who also works at home), “Let’s go to El Taco Loco for lunch.” Or, if it’s 4 p.m. and I realize I’ve forgotten to start the crockpot and now have to come up with an alternative for dinner, I’ll get El Taco Loco delivered.

 

Dinner on our deck – it tastes so much better when I don’t have to cook!

I’m become such a fan of El Taco Loco that I usually suggest eating here whenever I meet a friend for lunch. Heck, I’ve stopped short of taking perfect strangers to El Taco Loco, just so I could see their reactions when they take their first bites of the savory goodness served here and say, “See? I told you it would be awesome!”

 

I think the reason why I, and all of the other El Taco Loco fans, appreciate the food here is because of its freshness and authenticity. There’s no need for heavy sauces to stretch the value of a bland meal (like many Americanized Mexican restaurants often do). The specially seasoned meats and the tender, homemade tortillas are the stars at El Taco Loco, and they shine on their own.

 

 

The menu at El Taco Loco is simple, and if you compare it to the voluminous menus at typical Mexican restaurants found in the US, you might think that it seems limited. But here’s the thing: when a restaurant focuses on a few things and does them well, there’s no need to complicate matters. People don’t feel the need to have more options because they are more than satisfied with what’s already offered to them.

 

Pretty profound.

 

El Taco Loco is probably best known for its street tacos. I like to order the 3-Taco Special, which comes with a steak taco, a chicken taco, and a marinated pork taco, all sprinkled with fresh onions and cilantro.

 

Each time I get this meal, I play a little taste-test game and try to determine which taco I like best. Each time, my brain screams at me, “Don’t make me pick a favorite! I like them all, just in different ways!”

 

Kind of like my own children.

 

The 3-Taco Special comes with homemade red salsa, which has a kick to it, and a milder homemade green salsa. Sometimes I add the salsa to the tacos, and sometimes I eat them plain. Either way, they’re delicious.

 

The 3-Taco Special fills me up, but if you’re looking for a meal that includes traditional rice and beans, you can try the Taco Plate, which comes with just two tacos, along with the rice and beans.

 

Other menu items include quesadillas, tortas (sandwiches served on Mexican-style baguettes), and burritos. We recently picked up lunch to bring home and Travis ordered a Burrito Original, which came stuffed (and I mean stuffed) with his choice of meat, rice, refried beans, sour cream, and guacamole.

 

It’s a dense meal, for sure.

 

When I handed it to him, I used two hands and presented it to him like it was a newborn.

 

And if the Burrito Original is like a newborn, then the Burrito Loco is like a toddler. This monster of a burrito serves 4 to 5 people. Of course, you’re welcome to eat it all on your own. In fact, El Taco Loco offers the Burrito Loco Challenge: if you eat the 6-pound Burrito Loco in under 10 minutes, then you get it for free, and get the burrito named after you.

 

On Cinco de Mayo in 2019, a competitive eater named Randy Santel took on El Taco Loco’s Burrito Challenge – and won! You can see the video of it here. So now I guess the Burrito Loco is officially named the Randy Santel Burrito, until someone comes along and beats his record.

 

You can dine in at El Taco Loco, pick up your food at the drive-through window, or have your meal delivered via Bite Squad.

 

El Taco Loco’s drive-though window.

If you’re up in Webb City, pop into El Taco Loco’s location there, and if you’re out and about in town, keep an eye out for the food truck that started this business, because it still travels to different events, bringing authentic Mexican food to the region.

 

Wherever and however you choose to try El Taco Loco, do it soon. Your taste buds will be forever changed. Not only do the flavors of the food here dance on your tongue, they do so like nobody’s watching.

 

El Taco Loco is located at 1221 W. 7th Street in Joplin (see its Facebook page here), and at 202 E. Daugherty St. in Webb City (see its Facebook page here). Delivery orders can be placed through Bite Squad.

 

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

Undercliff Grill & Bar

Unique on the inside, relaxed on the outside, Undercliff Grill & Bar is a solid hangout choice any time of the year.

 undercliff exterior street sign

What makes Undercliff so special? First of all, it’s built into the side of a cliff, making the back wall of the restaurant solid rock. So, imagine that you’re sitting there enjoying a bite of your burger, when you look up and see the rock wall behind you, and it dawns on you: You’re eating a meal while sitting partially inside the earth. 

 

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Well, at least it feels that way – and that’s kind of cool.

 

The man-made portion of the restaurant once operated as a general store here in the small community of Tipton Ford, located near Shoal Creek. It was a popular stop for people traveling between Neosho and Joplin – first by horse and buggy, and eventually on the railway that runs just in front of the building. 

 undercliff exterior3The original building burned down, and was rebuilt to serve as a restaurant from 1995 to 2015, when it closed. Local resident Brad Ezell, who used to come to the restaurant as a child, purchased the building, made some renovations (which included adding a new, large parking lot), and reopened Undercliff in December 2018.

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Brad’s decision to breathe new life into Undercliff has made many area residents happy. Now they have their hangout back.

 

I remember coming here for breakfast after my first ride-along motorcycle trip (read about it here). Undercliff is a regular favorite among bikers who like exploring the windy, rural roads of southwest Missouri, and there’s a good chance you’ll see a bike or two – or 20 – parked in front when the weather is nice.

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Case in point.

 

This summer, I’ve already been to Undercliff twice with my husband Travis. The menu here has a little bit of everything: sandwiches, salads, and hearty entrees like meatloaf and fried chicken.

 

The first time we ate here, Travis ordered the Buffalo wings as an appetizer. I don’t eat buffalo wings (weird, right?), but Travis said they were tasty and had lots of meat on them.

 undercliff wings

While we waited for our entrees, we sipped on some refreshing draft beer. Undercliff offers several beers on tap, including some local options from Neosho-based Indian Springs Brewing Company.

 undercliff history wallThe beer was a nice complement to my sizable Reuben sandwich, which was piled high with corned beef and sauerkraut. The broccoli that I’d chosen for my side was perfectly tender.

 undercliff reuben

Travis ordered the Hobo Grilled Cheese, which was like paradise for any grilled-cheese lover. Here, Parmesan toast is stuffed with Swiss, American and cheddar cheeses, as well as grilled tomato and hickory-smoked bacon.

 

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Chef Tom Ales told me that this is one of the most popular dishes, and I can understand why. It’s so uniquely yummy, especially with that Parmesan crust.

 

The second time we ate here, we ordered burgers: the double-patty Miner’s Pick Burger for Travis, and the Black Bean Burger for me. Both were delicious. This time, we ordered onion rings as a side; they were light and delicate and I ate way too many.

 

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 It was during our second visit that the patio was open, so we sat out there for a bit (check before you go, as it’s open dependent on the weather).

 

undercliff patio side

Drinks and bar food items, like Frito Pie, are served outside. If you want to order off the regular menu, plan on eating inside.

 

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But the patio…ahh. This is what summertime is all about, my friends. Hanging out with your people in the warm summer air and enjoying great conversations is simply the best.

 

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Oh, and if you’re at Undercliff on Thursdays, you get half-price drafts every time a train passes.

 

undercliff beer on patio

 

Choo-choo!

 

Another fun summertime activity is playing in the creek, which you can do just down the road from Undercliff at The Water’s Edge Campground (read about it here). Spend the day fishing, swimming, or floating, then meander over to Undercliff for a satisfying meal.

 

Undercliff’s good food and one-of-a-kind atmosphere make it a place where people choose to spend an lazy afternoon, forging friendships and creating memories.

 

 

 

Undercliff Grill & Bar is located at 6385 Old Highway 71 (the address lists it as being in Joplin, but the area is also known as Tipton Ford). Breakfast is served on Saturdays and Sundays, 9 am to 11 am, and the regular menu is offered the rest of the time. It is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays. Click here for contact information and hours. Click here to see Undercliff’s Facebook Page.

 

A historical note: It was on the railway near Tipton Ford that, on the night of August 5, 1914, two trains collided and many people lost their lives (read more about it here). In 2014, a stone was erected at Undercliff to honor the victims of the tragedy.

 

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