You know the feeling you get when the underdog that you’ve been rooting for wins the race? That’s the same feeling I get when I step inside M&M Bistro’s new – and more spacious – location on Main Street in downtown Joplin.
The original restaurant was opened in April 2013 by the Alvandi family: Mehrdad, his wife Minoo (the chef), and their son Sia. Over the years, the Alvandis have built a loyal following, and that’s no small feat for a family-run business. Local mom-and-pop restaurants are typically underdogs in the fickle restaurant industry where they’re competing with national chains.
But with high-quality Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisine, along with pleasant service, M&M Bistro has proven it has staying power in the Joplin market.
My husband Travis and I often come to M&M Bistro for lunch during the week, but our most recent visit was the first time we’d been to the restaurant’s new location.
We had two options for parking: along Main Street in front of the building, or in the public lot at the rear of the building. We chose the lot.
Inside, the first thing I noticed was the festive twinkle lights and cozy atmosphere. Mehrdad, the owner, greeted us with a soft smile and led us to our table. On our way there, we passed the restaurant’s bar area.
Yes, M&M Bistro now has a liquor license!
Since it was a chilly day out, we ordered hot tea. The teapot and cup were presented on a dainty scalloped white platter with gold trim.
The teacup itself was served in a copper and glass cup, and was unlike anything I’d seen before.
We ordered dolmades as an appetizer: tender grape leaves stuffed with a mixture of rice, toasted pine nuts, and spices. The creamy Florentine sauce served on top contrasted nicely with the subtle tang of the grape leaves.
My entree came with a Mediterranean salad, and it was one of the freshest and crispiest salads I’ve ever eaten in a restaurant. The vegetables tasted like they’d just been plucked from the garden – even though it was the middle of winter.
The salad was crowned with a hearty scoop of crunchy tabbouleh, a bulgur salad mixed with parsley, mint, onion, tomatoes, and seasoned with salt, olive oil, and lemon juice.
Travis ordered the Mediterranean platter as his entree.
The base of the platter included everything that was in my salad, plus slices of tender and savory gyro meat, cool and refreshing Tzatziki sauce, homemade hummus, warm pieces of pita, and sliced, seasoned potatoes.
The Mediterranean platter is what I usually order, but I thought I’d try something new in honor of M&M Bistro’s new location. I took Mehrdad’s suggestion and ordered spanakopita. I’ve always thought of this traditional Greek dish as a finger food; the kinds I’ve bought in the freezer section at the grocery store are always presented as such, but the one I had at M&M Bistro was different.
Here, the phyllo dough pastry was stuffed with spinach, mushrooms, and cheese, then topped with a creamy Florentine sauce. Hearty and dense, it was definitely fork food.
While dessert was the furthest thing from my mind, I’d heard that the baklava here was outstanding and I wanted to give it a try, so I ordered it to go. Honestly, I hadn’t had baklava in years and, from what I remembered, I thought it was just okay.
Well, that was before I tasted M&M Bistro’s version. The combination of mixed nuts, brown sugar, cardamom, and cinnamon made it taste somewhat like a snickerdoodle cookie but with a different texture, thanks to layers of flaky phyllo dough. I guess I’ll be ordering this every time I go now.
Another thing that I wanted to mention about M&M Bistro was the use of this symbol throughout the restaurant.
It reads: “Good thoughts, good words, good deeds. There is but one path in the world – the path of honesty.”
This symbol also appears in the logo for M&M Bistro, so I asked Mehrdad about its meaning. He explained that it was the Faravahar figure, a common symbol in his country of origin: Iran. And what does the M&M in the logo stand for? Mehrdad and Minoo.
Knowing the meaning behind M&M Bistro’s logo adds yet another layer of appreciation for this family-run business. Not only do the Alvandis offer a taste of their country through their food, but they proudly display symbols of their culture throughout the restaurant, offering those of us who have never been to their homeland a glimpse into the world outside of the Ozarks.
Authenticity, pleasant service, fresh food, and pride in family, culture, and business are the qualities that make the Alvandi’s M&M Bistro one of the top dogs in the Joplin dining scene.
To read more about my adventures in the area, visit JoplinMOLife.com.