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.

 

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is infuxn-bar.png

 

 

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is infuxn-booth.png

 

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.

 

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is infuxn-chalk.png

 

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.

 

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is infuxn-lower-elevation.png

 

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.

 

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is infuxn-last-summer-t.png

 

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).

 

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is infuxn-curry-hummus.png

 

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.

 

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is infuxn-salmon-1.png

 

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).

 

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is infuxn-sides.png

 

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.

 

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is infuxn-stroganoff.png

 

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

 

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is infuxn-borscht.png

 

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.

 

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is turtleheads-exterior.png

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.

 

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is turtleheads-interior.png

 

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.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is turtleheads-oysters.png

 

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.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is turtleheads-c-with-shrimp-1.png

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. 

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is turtleheads-gumbo.png

 

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

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is turtleheads-island-slaw.png

 

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.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is turtleheads-pan-boil-2.png

 

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

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is turtleheads-jalapeno-hushpuppies.png

 

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.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is turtleheads-band.png
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.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is turtleheads-t-and-c.png

 

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.

 

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is turtleheads-facade.png

 

 

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. 

 

undercliff interior2

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.

 undercliff bar

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.

 undercliff motorcycles

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.

 

undercliff grilled cheese

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.

 

undercliff burger

 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.

 

undercliff patio close

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.

 

undercliff patio wide

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.

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.

The Coffee Shop at Joplin Greenhouse

Have you ever experienced such outstanding customer service that you feel like you’ve stepped into an alternate reality?

 

Like when you’re greeted by someone who flashes a warm smile, makes direct eye contact, and engages with you in such a familiar way that you begin to think that perhaps that person has mistaken you for someone else – like a regular customer, or the boss’ sister?

 

But after a quick glance around, you realize that you’re the only person standing in line.

 

So… you must be the recipient of this VIP treatment.

 

It’s somewhat discombobulating, but yet oh-so-wonderful, to be regarded more like a human being than just a customer, isn’t it?

 

This is what it feels like every time I go to The Coffee Shop at Joplin Greenhouse.

 

greenhouse entrance

In addition to its exceptional customer service, The Coffee Shop also offers quality local products (including coffee, of course), inventive menu items, and lots of greenery (hello, nature!), making it one of my favorite places to go to meet with friends or to get some writing done.

 

greenhouse facade

Opened in September 2018, The Coffee House shares a building with Joplin Greenhouse, and is located in front of the Food for Less store on 32nd Street.

 

greenhouse counter

The interior of the shop looks like the work of HGTV’s Joanna Gaines, with its stained concrete floors, exposed ductwork, corrugated metal focal walls, black and white tiles, and, yes, shiplap.

 

greenhouse sign and counter

This industrial look is softened by a multitude of plants (courtesy of Joplin Greenhouse) that are spaced throughout the shop, and on a living wall – in front of which there is a selfie station that my daughter and I had fun using (see our Instagram boomerang at the end of this post).

 

greenhouse photo booth

Feel like you’re outdoors while you sip your coffee at one of the tables next to the koi pond created by Inside Out Designs.

 

greenhouse inside out

Or, when the weather is warm enough, physically go outdoors and sit at one of The Coffee Shop’s covered tables.

 

greenhouse outside

Local is the focus here, and The Coffee Shop proudly serves coffee from Bearded Lady Coffee Roasters and Cottage Small Coffee Roasters, as well as Kansas City’s Hugo Tea Co. products.

 

greenhouse menu

In addition to the regular beverage menu, there are special drinks each month, like the festive Eggnog Shooter, or refreshing iced Ozark Stinger, sweetened with local honey.

 

greenhouse monthly menu

Over the winter, I got hooked on the Dark Chocolate Cortado drink special, made with Bearded Lady espresso, Ozark Mountain Creamery chocolate milk, and dark chocolate pieces (finding the chocolate at the bottom of the cup is like discovering a treasure!).

 

greenhouse cortado

Even though the Dark Chocolate Cortado is not on the regular menu, the staff will gladly make it upon request – another sign of excellent customer service.

 

To go with your coffee, try The Coffee Shop’s unique offering: the puffle, a soft, lightly sweet puffed waffle. Fill it with ice cream for a sweet treat, or choose the savory Breakfast Puffle any time of the day; it’s filled with bacon, egg, cheese, guacamole, Sriracha sauce, and maple syrup, and delivers a salty, sweet, savory mixture of flavors.

 

greenhouse puffle

I’ve also tried the Avocado Toast special here, which is served with tangy feta cheese crumbles, and fiery Sriracha sauce.

 

greenhouse avocado

If you’re hankering for some baked goods, sample a macaron, cupcake, or cookie made by local baker Maggie Brown of Willis Baking. Always committed to encouraging local entrepreneurs, The Coffee Shop has opened its kitchen for Maggie to use so that she can access the resources she needs in order to grow her business.

 

greenhouse pastries

This movement to support local businesses is not new to Curt Carr, the owner of Joplin Greenhouse. Prior to opening The Coffee Shop, he operated The Marketplace in the same space, carrying local and organic produce, meats, and other goods (read about it here).  He continues that tradition by selling local goods at The Coffee Shop.

 

greenhouse local goods

Curt hit the jackpot when he hired Adam Lopardo, and his wife Ivy – both former Starbucks employees – to run The Coffee Shop. Prior to working at The Coffee Shop, Adam honed his barista skills by completing the Starbuck’s Coffee Master program, but it was his time at Best Buy that taught him something equally valuable. There, he worked in the Geek Squad, hiring employees who demonstrated good customer service skills first, and then training them on information technology.

 

Adam has applied that same model at The Coffee Shop. He does not hire baristas; rather, he hires people who radiate hospitality, and then he trains them in the art of coffee-making.

 

Because you can teach employees to make a good cup of coffee, but you can’t teach them to care about the customers.

 

Lucky for us, at The Coffee Shop, they do both.

 

 

The Coffee Shop at Joplin Greenhouse is located at 2820 E. 32nd Street. Click here to visit its website, and here to follow it on Facebook.

 

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

Bookhouse Cinema

When I first heard that Bookhouse Cinema, a micro theater, was opening in Joplin, I was excited that we’d have a venue in town where we’d be able to see independent, artsy movies – the kind of films that we’d normally have to drive to Kansas City for if we wanted to see them on a big screen.

 

I’ve now seen several films at Bookhouse since Holly and Brad Crane opened the theater in April 2018. Each time I go, I discover some new aspect about this place. In addition to the theater itself, there’s a kitchen, a pub, and a community space.

 

It didn’t take long for me to realize that Bookhouse isn’t just a spot where you can watch cool movies; it’s a gathering place.

 

bookhouse projector

To give you an idea of what a visit to Bookhouse is like, let me tell you about a Sunday afternoon that I spent here with my friend Carrie.

 

An East Town Gem

 

Bookhouse occupies several historic buildings on Broadway Street, which was once the iconic Route 66, right in the heart of Joplin’s East Town.

 

bookhouse exterior

Parking is available along the street, or in lots on the west and east ends of the property. I parked in the west lot, across from the captivating East Town mural, Belonging to All the Hands Who Build, which depicts the history and culture of this Joplin neighborhood.

 

murals-belonging-full-mural (1)

The west parking lot is adjacent to an ornately fenced-in green space, which the Cranes plan to develop into a usable outdoor space for the Bookhouse complex in the near future.

 

bookhouse patio

 

Cinema

 

I’d purchased our movie tickets online a few days earlier, so  Carrie and I checked in at the box office, got our paper tickets, then made our way to the concession area. This area is anchored by a show-stopping counter that runs along the back wall. 

 

bookhouse counter1

This counter, which once resided on Main Street at Criterion Bar over a century ago, now brings a hefty dose of charm to the concession area at Bookhouse. That’s something you don’t see at your everyday multiplex.

 

bookhouse popcorn (1)

Bookhouse offers traditional snacks like candy and popcorn, although the topping choices for the popcorn are anything but traditional.

 

bookhouse toppings

We planned on eating lunch after the movie, so we skipped the snacks and just got some water. Had I been in the mood for a more grown-up drink, I would have been welcome to enjoy it during the movie. Bookhouse is the only place in Joplin that allows patrons to bring drinks like beer, wine, and cocktails into the theater with them.

 

bookhouse theater seats

Carrie and I found some seats in the comfy 45-seat theater and settled in.

 

bookhouse screen dark

The movie showing that day was Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, a documentary about Fred Rogers, whose groundbreaking children’s show we both had grown up watching. I totally wasn’t prepared for the emotional ending. I’m glad Carrie brought tissues…

 

Dining

 

Afterward, we emerged from the dark theater into the cozy community space.

 

With its warm wooden ceiling beams, textured walls, and rustic brick floors, it looks like an Old-World pub, and with groups of people talking, eating, and drinking, it feels like an Old-World pub, too. Again, a gathering place.

 

bookhouse entrance

At first, Carrie and I were quiet, each of us processing the final scenes of the Mr. Rogers’ movie. But it only took a few minutes looking at the goodies at the food counter to bring us back to reality. Food has a wonderful grounding quality to it, doesn’t it?

 

The sweets caught our attention first. That afternoon, they were featuring brownie batter cheesecake bars, blueberry pie fudge, apple butter snickerdoodles, vegan cookies, and an electric green Grinch cake (a timely choice for the Christmas holiday). I ordered a piece of this festive, checkered cake to take home for my family to feast on.

 

bookhouse cake

Then we focused on ordering lunch. The menu at Bookhouse offers a variety of shareable plates, salads, tacos, and sandwiches. Plus, there are options for vegetarians, vegans, and even for those following a keto diet. Nothing here is ever frozen; everything is made from scratch by Chef Matt Richardson.

 

We placed our orders, then walked around to look at the work of Bookhouse’s current featured artist hanging on the walls. (To see whose art is on display right now, click here).

 

bookhouse art

I love that the Cranes offer space at their business for local artists to gain exposure, and I love being surrounded by such creativity while I eat.

 

It’s a win-win.

 

Our food arrived, and we started out with the crunchy beer-battered cauliflower, one of the shareable plates on the menu.

 

bookhouse cauli

Then I moved on to my tender lamb sliders, which I’d ordered with a side of crunchy beet chips.

 

bookhouse lamb

Carrie, a vegan, opted for the veggie sliders with a side of pasta salad.

 

bookhouse veggie

The sliders consisted of a zucchini falafel topped with greens, tomatoes, and feta, and it came with tzatziki sauce. To make this vegetarian dish vegan, Carrie omitted the feta and asked for a vegan substitute for the sauce.

 

We’d ordered the drink specials to go with our lunch. I tried a glass of mead from Leaky Roof Meadery, located in Buffalo, Missouri. Made with wildflower honey, it tasted light and refreshing; a perfect accompaniment to my hearty lamb sliders.

 

bookhouse mead

Carrie ordered a cup of vegan hot chocolate with peppermint schnapps, a great way to warm up on a cold winter’s afternoon.

 

Check out that steam!

 

bookhouse hot choc

To find out when the kitchen at Bookhouse is open, click here. And if you’re craving something from Bookhouse but just can’t muster the energy to leave your house, just place an order with Bite Squad, and your food will be delivered to you.

 

Community

 

But by eating at home, you’d be missing out on an essential component of the Bookhouse experience: community. There’s a palpable energy here, with people coming in for many different purposes: to watch a movie, eat a meal, grab drinks with a friend, or meet with a special group, like Joplin Board Games Meetup, or The Bookhouse Book Club.

 

Or, like me, to find a comfortable spot to write.

 

To create.

 

To be.

 

bookhouse restaurant interior

The reasons that people are drawn to Bookhouse may be diverse, but the outcome is always the same: connection.

 

Kudos to the Cranes for creating an inviting space – a gathering place – for the Joplin community.

 

 

Bookhouse Cinema is located at 715 East Broadway Street. To view its website, click here, and to follow it on Facebook, click here.

 

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

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.

Wilder’s Steakhouse

I begin to relax as I press my back into the solid wooden booth seat, enjoying the privacy provided by the booth’s towering heights and the restaurant’s dim lighting. From my clandestine spot, I can see a portion of the long, inviting bar, well-stocked with neat rows of alcohol bottles waiting to be mixed into classic cocktails like Sidecars or Singapore Slings.

 

wilders bar

 

The atmosphere reminds me of the kind of cool and sophisticated place where members of the Rat Pack once frequented. I picture them sitting at one of the tables up front, surrounded by friends for a night of celebration, or, conversely, ducking into one of the high-backed booths to enjoy a meal without the constant attention of adoring fans. As I sip the last drop of my martini, I swear I see Ol’ Blue Eyes himself appear in front of me.

 

wilders blue eyes

 

I snap to and realize that it’s actually my Blue Eyes, my husband Travis. This place has a way of tricking the mind, of making you think that you’ve traveled back in time to the golden age of restaurants, when dining out was more than just grabbing a quick bite to eat: it was an event.

 

This time-frozen place is Wilder’s Steakhouse, a casual, fine-dining establishment that has served diners in Joplin since 1929. Located on Main Street in the downtown district, Wilder’s continues its decades-old tradition of offering some of the best steaks in town. These days that includes hand-cut, hormone-free, and antibiotic-free cuts of Black Angus beef.

 

So, when Travis and I were recently craving some steak, we pointed the car toward Wilder’s. Street parking is available in front, but we opted to park in the lot behind the building. Entering through the rear brought us through a hallway peppered with vintage ads and menus, serving as a time tunnel connecting us from the modern world outside to the restaurant’s classic interior.

 

wilders vintage sign wall

wilders vintage sign

wilders vintage menu

 

After settling in with some cocktails, we ordered appetizers: Shrimp Cocktail for Travis (served with four plump jumbo shrimp),

 

wilders shrimp

 

and The Wilder’s Wedge for me because I wanted a crisp, fresh salad to balance out the upcoming hearty meal.

 

wilders wedge

But with an ample amount of lettuce, locally grown tomatoes, smoked Applewood bacon, and house-made bleu cheese dressing, I could have eaten The Wilder’s Wedge as a meal by itself.Through sheer will, I forced myself to stop so I could leave room for my entree.

 

Although Wilder’s is a steakhouse, the menu here is not limited to steak; you’ll find entrees to suit any appetite, such as Chilean Sea Bass, Pesto Roast Chicken, and Vegetarian Sauté. But that night we had come for the steak. Each steak entree comes with the choice of one side. Travis ordered Wilder’s Mignons: two juicy tenderloin medallions topped with rich Asiago cream sauce and some more of that tasty crumbled Applewood bacon, with a side of tender grilled asparagus.

 

wilders mignons

wilders asparagus

I ordered the fancy-sounding Filet Dupont, a melt-in-your-mouth, six-ounce center cut tenderloin topped with mushrooms, caramelized onions, and Gruyere –  flavors which complemented one another nicely.

 

wilders filet du pont

 

For my side, I ordered something based on the recommendation of my friends: Wilder’s Signature Truffled Macaroni & Cheese. I’m not a big mac-and-cheese fan, so I thought I’d just have a taste and bring the rest home to my kids. Well, the kids never even saw it because I ate every bite (except the one I let Travis taste).

 

wilders mac and cheese

This wasn’t your typical powdered Kraft mac-and-cheese; the pasta here was tossed with earthy truffle oil and topped with real cheese. This dish totally broadened my view of mac-and-cheese: it can be a gourmet item.

 

As we were settling up the bill, our server asked us if we’d seen the recently restored Wilder’s sign on top of the building. Installed in 1950, the neon hadn’t worked for the past 20 years, which was the length of time that I’ve lived in Joplin, so I’d never had the chance to see it illuminated. Naturally, I had to check it out.

 

wilders restored sign

All the sign’s arrows ARE working. I just happened to catch this one mid-flash.

 

While this street-level picture doesn’t do it justice (a drone would’ve captured a more impressive photo), seeing the kitschy sign with its flashing neon-orange arrows pointing to the Wilder’s name made me feel, once again, that I’d stepped back to a time when dining out wasn’t just a convenience, but a special occasion.

 

Wilder’s Steakhouse is located at 1216 South Main Street. To visit its website, click here, and to follow Wilder’s on Facebook, click here.

 

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