Tropicana Bar and Grill

In Sanskrit, buddha means “awakened one,” and that’s how I felt after tasting the Buddha Gouda burger at the Tropicana Bar and Grill.


Not that I had achieved enlightenment or anything – it was just that my taste buds had been jolted into a state of hyper-alertness.


This tender burger’s topped with sweet sauteed onions, smoky bacon and gouda cheese, plus a creamy sauce that’s amped up with a dash (or five) of Sriracha, a hot chili condiment. Sweet, smoky, and sassy, this burger is one of the most popular items on the menu here.


tropicana buddha

I’d describe the menu at the Tropicana as pub food with a twist. Take the Munchies (appetizers), for instance. You can choose from traditional fare like spinach artichoke dip, onion rings, or deep-fried mushrooms, or you can venture out and try the Killer Bill’s Fried Dills (pickle chips served with ranch dressing) or the Philly Rolls.


tropicana phillyA philly IN a roll – not ON a roll. 


The Philly Rolls are made with sliced beef, sauteed onions and bell peppers, plus swiss cheese all wrapped inside an egg roll and served with ranch dressing (who doesn’t love ranch?). These rolls are fabulous.


The rest of the menu contains something for every palate. There are salads like the Big Bleu, with fresh greens and grilled chicken topped with apples, blue cheese, and candied walnuts; sandwiches like Grilled Pimiento Cheese served on wheat berry bread (a vegetarian option); specialties like Fish Tacos, and a variety of inventive burgers.


My husband ordered one of specialties: Fish and Chips. These house-battered cod loins were mild and crunchy, and they were accompanied by a side of handmade chips.


The Tropicana has a full-service bar on the main floor and offers several beers on tap. Here’s a sample of the ever-changing beer menu.


tropicana on tap

We visited the Tropicana on a Friday night, and heard live music from a band playing on the second-story stage.


tropicana bandIt looks like this musician is shooting laser beams on innocent diners below… 

In addition to the stage, there’s also seating upstairs which consists of a long wraparound bar and stools overlooking the dining area below. We ate upstairs and enjoyed watching the hustle and bustle of the activity below.


We also had a clear view of this enormous octopus mural, which is a creative addition to the Tropicana’s nautical theme.


tropicana squidThis looks small, but it actually spans a good portion of the wall. 


The Tropicana also has several outdoor dining areas. This makes me giddy.


tropicana day

I love that more Joplin restaurants are adding this option. I look forward to chilling out on the Tropicana’s patio this summer, whether it’s for dinner or lunch (the Tropicana is open during the day, too; see its Facebook page for hours).


When we were done with our meal, we walked through the main floor and that’s when it dawned on me. We were there on a busy Friday night, yet something was missing.




That’s because the Tropicana is a smoke-free establishment. Woohoo!


But something that was there that captured our attention was this flashy contraption hanging on the wall.


tropicana juke This looks like an overgrown smartphone, doesn’t it?


Can you guess what it is?


It’s a juke box for the digital age.


The Tropicana has certainly succeeded in putting a contemporary spin on the traditional pub atmosphere, creating a modern and welcoming gathering place on Main Street.


The anchor’s been dropped – the Tropicana is here to stay.


tropicana anchorI couldn’t resist the nautical pun.



Tropicana Bar and Grill is located at 2402 South Main Street. Click here to visit its Facebook page.


tropicana patio t and c

Enjoying the patio in summer


To read more about my adventures in the area, visit

JBs Dueling Pianos

After a week of basking in unseasonably warm fall temperatures that enabled my hibiscus plants to continue blooming through November, I was jolted out of my capris-wearing phase and forced to start dressing in layers when a brisk – and unwelcome – cold front blew into town.


The shock to my system made me want to don my fuzzy socks, envelop myself in a fluffy down comforter, and watch Netflix in bed.


I wanted to hibernate.


However, I’d already committed to going out. My husband Travis and had made plans with friends to go listen to live music, so I reluctantly grabbed my winter coat and out the door we went.


We were going to meet another couple at JBs Downtown for Dueling Piano Night, which had just recently returned to the venue after being on hiatus for a few years. JBs is a hot spot in Joplin for live music, featuring bands, musicians, and even karaoke, every week.


Travis and I found a table and settled in for the show. I kept my coat on, fantasizing that it was my down comforter, keeping me warm and snug.


There was no sign of the other couple we were supposed to meet, so Travis and I went ahead and placed our drink order with our server.



The piano players began warming up for the show.


Still no sign of our friends.


Then, just before the show was about to begin, my phone lit up with a text message notification: We won’t be able to make it tonight. So sorry!


Now, not only was I cold, but I was disappointed, too. I was looking forward to spending time with our friends, which is a rare thing these days, and now it wasn’t going to happen.


At that moment, I wasn’t the most content person at JBs. I felt a bit sorry for the piano players because I was a pretty tough customer; it was going to take something monumentally entertaining to shake me out of my somber mood.


Godspeed, piano men. Let the show begin.



I watched as the tables in the room filled up with people talking and laughing, ready to have a good time. Most of them were about half my age, but I spotted a few others representing other decades, too.


The show opened with the gregarious Mike Manson playing the piano on the right, and the hipster BJ Huffman playing the piano on the left, and Ron Savage joining them on drums in the center of the stage.



Their fingers danced across the ivories, pushing the lively music through the keys and out into the room, where it touched the audience members with its upbeat energy.


Okay, piano men. You have my attention.


Requests started pouring in, with audience members dropping slips of paper into glasses positioned on either piano.


Mike and BJ took turns playing the requests, which included songs that represented different decades, like Poison’s “Talk Dirty to Me” from the ‘80s, Alanis Morrisette’s “Ironic” from the ‘90s, and John Legend’s “All of Me”, a current hit.



Then the notes to a ‘70s classic filled the room. Out of the corner of my eye, I spied a subtle movement. Was that my boot-clad foot actually tapping along to the beat?


Sweet Caroline,

Good times never felt so good


“So good, so good, so good!” 


That was me, my voice joining others in the crowd responding to Neil Diamond’s famous chorus lyrics.


I’d been infected by the music.


I was having fun.


My coat was off. My phone was tucked into my purse so that I wouldn’t have to read another apologetic text from my absent friend.


My mind was right there in the room at JBs, focusing on the moment and allowing myself to feel the excitement and joy of hearing live music.



“YMCA” was a crowd favorite that night.


Then Mike read the next request, scratched his head, then declared, “Whether we know it or don’t know it, we’ll try it.” With that, he picked up his phone and searched for the lyrics of the requested song: Shania Twain’s “Feel Like a Woman.”


He then proceeded to play his heart out while reading the lyrics, doing a great job of performing a song that was unfamiliar to him.


The audience also got a kick out of hearing him sing, “Man, I feel like a woman.”


I’d started the night cold and disappointed and in a foul mood, but experiencing the palpable energy of live music cleared my head and allowed room for something more joyous.


So now I’ll let my gal Shania sum up the rest of my night at JBs:


The best thing about being a woman

Is the prerogative to have a little fun.

Well done, piano men!



JBs Downtown is located at 112 South Main Street. Click here to visit its Facebook page.


Check out these other Joplin venues where you can hear live music: Blackthorn Pizza & Pub, Turtleheads Raw Bar, and Tropicana Bar & Grill.


To read more about my adventures in the area, visit

RSVPaint Date Night

My husband Travis and I love our occasional, and much-needed, date nights. Once the kids are shipped off to grandma’s house, here’s what we typically do:


Date Night Option #1: Stay in and binge-watch some Netflix.


Date Night Option #2: Go out for a nice dinner at one of our favorite restaurants.


Date Night Option #3: Go out for nice dinner at one of our favorite restaurants, then come home and binge-watch some Netflix.


Aren’t we exciting?


Sometimes even we bore ourselves. That’s when we know that it’s time to look for some new activities to shake things up on date night.


Recently, I signed us up for the Date Night session at RSVPaint, a paint-and-sip art studio in downtown Joplin. Since neither one of us is really good at painting, I knew there would be no danger of intra-couple competition (unlike the time we played laser tag; I beat him at that, by the way).


So if neither of us is a painter, why did I sign us up for RSVPaint’s Date Night? First, so we could learn something new together. Second, so we could encourage one another in the process (just kidding – I did it so we could laugh at each other).



The studio was packed when we got there, and I was glad that I signed up ahead of time online, although walk-ins are always welcome, if there are still easels available.


We started sipping some wine – to get our creative juices going, of course. There’s a bar in the back of the studio where you can purchase beer, wine, mixed drinks, soda, water, and snacks. You can also bring your own beverages; we brought a bottle of our favorite Merlot which the bartender uncorked for a small fee.


Then we got settled in front of our easels. Our supplies included four paintbrushes, a palate of five paint colors, and an apron to protect our clothes.


The theme for our Date Night session was “Under My Umbrella,” and we were going to create a diptych. A diptych consists of two paintings that, when placed side by side, make one scene.



I chose to paint the male figure and Travis painted the female, although some of the other couples did the opposite.



Jordan was our instructor that night, leading us through the process stroke by stroke, and color by color. She was laid-back in her teaching style and supportive of everyone’s creative expression. She made me feel like Picasso.


Or maybe that was the vino…



We started painting our backgrounds, then added our trees. I do admit that Travis’ trees were better than mine.



Then it came time to paint our male and female figures. If Travis were a wise man, he would have painted a dainty feminine figure like everyone else in the class did.



But, no.


My renegade husband chose that particular moment to “express his individuality.” While everyone else’s figure was black, his female was bright yellow.



That, combined with its, um, interesting shape resulted in something of a cross between Mrs. Doubtfire and the Man in the Yellow Hat from Curious George.



Thanks, honey.


Did you notice how slim I made my male figure?


Did you?



I guess I’ll forgive him because spending a few hours creating a one-of-a-kind diptych at RSVPaint was a welcome break from our usual date night routine.


Plus, it gives us something to chuckle about for the rest of our lives.



Group photo courtesy of RSVPaint’s Facebook page. RSVPaint is located at 223 Third Street. Click here to visit its website. 


To read more about my adventures in the area, visit

Siblings Improv

The pounding of my heart grew louder, faster. My mouth felt like it was stuffed with cotton balls. I took a sip of water. When I did, the paper napkin under the glass stuck to my sweaty palms.


I had no reason to be nervous. I was a mere audience member seated in the shadows, waiting for someone else to step into the spotlight on stage. Yet, I felt anxious for the performers that night. After all, the audience expected them to come up with entertaining material on the spot.



I couldn’t wrap my brain around the concept. I’m the type of person who needs to write down my thoughts in order to process them, so the idea of having to immediately construct a story while acting it out gives my stomach butterflies. That’s way too much pressure – even to witness!


But moments into the performance of the improvisational group Siblings Improv, I began to relax. These actors were sharp, going through scenes like they’d rehearsed them several times before. In reality, they were making up the material based on suggestions from audience members. And in the process, they remained as cool as cucumbers.



Their spontaneous creativity was off the charts and reminded me of watching the Drew Carey TV show “Whose Line is it Anyway?” which introduced improv comedy to the masses. That night, Siblings Improv was introducing improv to Joplin.


This group of actors – none of whom are actually siblings – was formed in 2013 by Drew Crisp and Eric Epperson. They had taken classes at The Second City in Chicago and wanted to bring that style of theatre to Joplin. And they have, performing regularly at JBs Downtown Joplin, where I happened to be watching them that night, along with a couple of my girlfriends and a house full of people hungry for inventive entertainment.


It was my first time watching live improv theatre and I wasn’t totally sure what to expect. Before each game or sketch, the group collected written suggestions from the audience then quickly began acting out their interpretation. It would have taken me a good five minutes to process, plan, and execute the suggestions (so never choose me to be on your team for charades), but these actors were right on it, never missing a beat. Honestly, I was a little intimidated by their MENSA-worthy response time in their games and sketches.


The sketch “Homeschool 2072” involved a teacher from the future presenting history lessons from the year 2016 to her students. The audience was asked to supply topics pertaining to current events, and then various performers would act them out. With it being a month before a controversial presidential election, you can guess which topic came up repeatedly!


“Swipe Right” was a game where each actor sat in a chair and pretended to create a dating video. During the videos, the actors would extol their best – or quirkiest – qualities, depending on what was written on the slips of paper provided by the audience. Below is what one of the troop members said when she introduced herself in her “video”:


I’m Susan.

Not “B. Anthony.”

“B. Tony.”



Susan B. Tony


Quick wit – I love it!


In addition to performances, the Siblings Improv also offers creativity workshops, teaching everyday people (like me) the art of improvisation. Maybe I should go to one of these workshops to overcome my anxiety about performing in public. 


Siblings Improv’s performances are both intellectual and entertaining, and provide a unique, big-city type addition to the nightlife offerings in Joplin.


For more information about Siblings Improv, click here.


To read more about my adventures in the area, visit