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.

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.

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.

Sakura Sushi & Grill

The main road running east to west across the south side of Joplin is officially known by a number: 32nd Street. But, with the influx of popular sushi restaurants dotted along this thoroughfare, it might as well be called Sushi Street.

 

Anchored on the east side is Ichiban Sushi, with Han the Sushi Man located about midway, and the newest addition, Sakura Sushi & Grill, serving the west end.

 

For a city in the Ozarks, that’s pretty amazing.

 

sakura facade

Today I’d like to introduce you to the newest kid on Sushi Street: Sakura Sushi & Grill. Located in a strip mall just west of the Freeman Hospital complex, Sakura’s regular patrons include medical professionals and residents from the surrounding neighborhoods.

 

sakura bar

Inside, there’s a dining area with tables and booths, as well as a bar area (one of the waitresses here makes the best Lemon Drop Martini I’ve ever sipped).

 

I recently met my friend Carrie here for lunch, and ordered some hot tea.

 

sakura tea

For those of you looking for something stronger, Sakura serves sake, too (you can even order it cold, which sounds like an interesting drink on a hot summer day).

 

For an appetizer, we ordered edamame, a dish made from steamed young soybeans still in their pods.

 

sakura edamame

Sprinkled with salt, edamame becomes a highly addictive treat. Plus, it’s kind fun to pop the beans out of the pods, too.

 

I noticed that several people in the restaurant had ordered bento boxes for lunch. Here’s an example of one from Sakura’s menu.

 

sakura bento box

 

Bento boxes include a choice of one or two sushi rolls or stir-fried dishes, miso soup, a house salad, steamed rice, and edamame. It’s a lot a food for a reasonable price. Sakura offers dinner bento boxes, as well.

 

For my entree, I ordered the Green Goddess roll, which is a baked sushi roll that marries flavors from Japan and Mexico.

 

sakura green goddess

It’s filled with tempura shrimp, then topped with guacamole and tempura flakes. It sounds unusual, but it’s delicious!

 

Carrie, who is vegan, ordered the Vegetable Roll for her entrée. It was made with fresh cucumbers, avocados, and crunchy Japanese pickles.

 

sakura veggie roll

Look at that pretty roll.

 

At Sakura, there’s a variety of sushi rolls, either fresh or baked, to choose from. And for you purists out there who want to ditch the seaweed and other accompaniments that come in sushi rolls, there are many sashimi and nigiri options. Sashimi consists solely of pieces of fish or seafood, and nigiri is the same except the pieces of fish or seafood are served atop small mounds of rice.

 

But you don’t have to be a seafood lover to enjoy a meal at Sakura. Landlubbers can try entrees like Orange Chicken, BBQ Short Ribs, or Beef Teriyaki (Tofu Teriyaki, if you’re a vegetarian). And if you don’t have time to dine in at Sakura, you can order your food to go.

 

sakura logo

 

You’ll find first-rate, flavorful food and attentive service at Sakura. With the addition of this restaurant – the third quality sushi spot on this road – people might just start believing that 32nd Street (aka Sushi Street) leads directly to the ocean.

 

Sakura Sushi & Grill is located at 1802 W. 32nd Street, Suite K. Click here to follow Sakura on Facebook.

 

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

Crabby’s Seafood Bar & Grill

It’s laughable, really.

 

To think that you could have one of the finest seafood meals you’ve ever tasted inside a plain building next to a Sav-A-Lot grocery store, which is located in a landlocked town that’s situated over 1,000 miles from both the West Coast and the East Coast seems, well, preposterous.

 

But don’t let the absurdity of this idea keep you from seeing for yourself, because if you did, you’d miss out on dining at one of the best restaurants in Joplin.

 

And that’s no laughing matter.

 

Like a beacon in a sea of meat-and-potato cuisine, Crabby’s Seafood Bar & Grill beckons those who yearn for the taste of fresh seafood in Ozarks. It’s one of the restaurants where I take people who are visiting Joplin because I want to impress them. After all, just because our city is small doesn’t mean it doesn’t have gourmet restaurants.

 

At the helm of Crabby’s is owner Chef Damien Tiregol, who received the honor of Chef of the Year in 2017 from Feast Magazine, a publication that covers the culinary scene in Missouri and southern Illinois. I’m glad to see that Chef Damien’s creativity and talent are being recognized by someone other than his loyal patrons because he’s an incredibly skilled chef.

 

My husband Travis and I recently dined at Crabby’s, and I’m still thinking about the meal (which is making my stomach growl as I’m typing this). Actually, it’s not just the meal that was memorable – it was the experience.

 

crabbys exterior (1)

The restaurant’s simple, windowless exterior belies the sophisticated urban atmosphere inside.

 

crabbys interior

The small, softly lit dining area is separated by a full-service bar, which you can sit at if you need to wait for a table (reservations are recommended during the weekend).

 

crabbys artwork

The work of a local artist Josie Mai currently adorns the walls, creating a unique wallscape which changes regularly to feature different artists (the pieces are for sale, too). The feeling inside is cozy, but still busy enough to make you feel like you are out and about in a big city.

 

For an appetizer, we ordered the Jumbo Lump Crab Cakes.

 

crabbys crab cakes

This signature Crabby’s dish was served with a smoky roasted red pepper ragout, and the refreshing sauvignon blanc I was drinking provided a nice contrast to the dish. Crabby’s drink menu offers a variety of wines to pair with your meal, as well as cocktails to sip on while you socialize (the Raspberry Lemon Drop Martini is my favorite).

 

Our entrees came with the choice of soup or salad.

 

crabbys salad

I normally choose the House Salad with Crabby’s light and refreshing Honey-Lavender Vinaigrette, but since the Butternut Squash Bisque had just returned to the menu for the fall season, I felt conflicted. In the end, I made the right decision: I chose the salad with a cup of the bisque.

 

crabbys butternut

The creamy bisque was slightly spiced, and lightly sweetened with a touch of brown sugar and molasses. This dish says, “Welcome, Fall,” and is a treat that I look forward to each year.

 

Travis chose an item that’s on the menu year-round: Seafood Chowder. The hearty chowder’s richness was accented by a dash of spice and smoky bacon.

 

Steak, pork, chicken, and duck dishes are alternative entrée options for those who want to order something besides seafood. However, Travis and I ordered seafood dishes because when in Rome…

 

crabbys sea bass

I ordered the melt-in-your-mouth Pan Seared Chilean Sea Bass, which was topped with mirin sauce and served on a bed of wasabi mashed potatoes, along with grilled asparagus. The combination of Asian-inspired flavors in this artfully plated dish make it a popular menu item.

 

crabbys shrimp

Travis ordered the Grilled Scallops and Jumbo Shrimp, a Cajun-influenced dish served with smoked Gouda grits and bits of spicy andouille sausage. This is another one of my favorite dishes here, as it reminds me of the food I enjoyed when I lived in New Orleans.

 

You would think that we’d be stuffed to the gills by this point – and you’d be correct. But I felt that it was my duty to order dessert so that I could do a thorough job of describing the Crabby’s experience to those of you reading this. What a sacrifice, right?

 

We ordered the Signature Bread Pudding and the Creme Brulee, which were both delicious in their own ways. The hearty bread pudding was buttery and boozy, and a favorite of Crabby’s customers.

 

crabbys bread pudding

The fruit-topped Creme Brulee made an elegant dessert, with its dense custard contrasting nicely with the layer of crisp, caramelized sugar.

 

crabbys creme brulee

Crabby’s is a restaurant to visit when you want more than a meal. It’s where you come when you want an experience. And tasting Chef Damien’s creative fresh seafood dishes in landlocked Joplin, Missouri, makes that experience one of a kind.

 

Crabby’s serves lunch and dinner, plus Sunday brunch. It is located at 815 West 7th Street in Joplin. 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.

The Eagle Drive-In

With its sleek black-and-red trim, mirrored windows, and retro sign, The Eagle Drive-In looks like a typical American burger joint from the 1950s. In fact, burgers are served here – they’re just not the kind you expect at a typical drive-in.

 

eagle facade

Take the Salted Caramel Bacon Burger or the Buffalo Bill Burger (a bison burger topped with a blueberry barbecue sauce): it’s like Julia Child waltzed into a Wendy’s and fused its basic menu with her epicurean sophistication. It’s an unlikely scenario to imagine, but it does exist right here in Joplin.

 

Except in Joplin, Jason Miller is our Julia Child. A hometown boy and New York-trained chef, Miller is the owner of The Eagle Drive-In, as well as Instant Karma, a restaurant in downtown Joplin where gourmet hot dogs are the stars. Miller brings ingenuity and worldliness to the menus at both restaurants, and his novel dishes have created a loyal and wide following among area diners.

 

My friend Carrie and I are two of those loyal diners, and we recently met for lunch at The Eagle Drive-In. While the restaurant no longer functions as a drive-in, it retains its nostalgic charm – and size. So if you arrive during the busy lunch or dinner rush, be prepared to wait, as there are only about 10 tables inside. But I promise that your patience will pay off.

 

eagle interior

On the day Carrie and I visited, I ordered a water to drink (it was a work day for me), but The Eagle Drive-In’s Jalapeno Margarita occupied my mind.

 

eagle jalapeno margarita

This spicy, refreshing drink has made my eyes water each time I’ve ordered it, but I don’t let that little inconvenience stop me from sipping this tasty libation. Other adult beverage options here include 10 beers on tap (which change regularly), Bloody Marys (regular and spicy), as well as a full bar.

 

eagle tap

For an appetizer, I ordered Joplin’s Spiciest Shrimp Cocktail, made with plump jumbo shrimp and house-made spicy horseradish sauce.

 

eagle shrimp

The shrimp were so huge that I only ate two and took the rest home for my incredibly appreciative husband Travis. More adventurous eaters can choose from appetizers like mussels, bone marrow, calamari, and chicken-fried escargot.

 

For my entree, I ordered the classic Eagle Burger, a ⅓-pound beef patty topped with Cheddar and Swiss cheeses, mixed greens, tomato, onion, pickle, and – here’s the twist – a fried quail egg and Eagle sauce (a creamy red sauce with a touch of smoke and spice).

 

eagle burger

A fluffy brioche bun added another story to this architectural creation, and I felt sorry for Carrie who had to watch me try to stuff this monstrous burger into my mouth.

 

Then again, Carrie had a similar challenge with the huge Falafel Sub, which is a great menu option for vegetarians; it’s also easily modified for vegans, like Carrie, by omitting the feta and tzatziki sauce.

 

eagle falafel

The Eagle Drive-In also offers other unique burgers made from lamb, elk, or salmon, as well as a variety of sandwiches, salads, and main entrees like Ahi tuna and beef tips. You can also abandon the menu and go with the flow by ordering the chef’s creation of the day.

 

If you order a burger or a sandwich, you get to choose one side dish, and both Carrie and I picked the hand-cut fries which come with the choice of two dipping sauces. With over a dozen sauces to choose from, this was a difficult decision, but I finally went with the Curry Aioli (subtle and creamy) and the Wasabi Aioli (lively, yet not overpowering).

 

If the temperatures outside had been warmer, we would have eaten at one of The Eagle Drive-In’s picnic tables. I like seeing Joplin restaurants adding outdoor dining spaces. We have a pretty nice climate here (compared to Chicago, where I grew up), and I always look for places where I can be outside while I eat.

 

eagle sign

The Eagle Drive-In may look like a typical retro drive-in, but it will surprise you with its creative gourmet menu items. It just might become your new regular hangout.

 

The Eagle Drive-In is located at 4224 Hearnes Boulevard in Joplin. Click here to visit its website, and click here to find out what the daily special is on its Facebook page.

 

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

Club 609

Regardless of whatever music is playing on the speakers, whenever I walk through the doors of Club 609, this is what I hear playing in my head:

 

Sometimes you want to go

Where everybody knows your name

And they’re always glad you came

 

If you were around in the ‘80s, then you’re probably singing the theme song to Cheers right along with me now, and if you’ve been to Club 609, then you’ve probably seen the similarities between this Joplin institution and the fictional Boston watering hole on TV.

 

Perched at the bar is Joplin’s equivalent of Norm, who greets old friends and new faces with a twinkle in his eyes and a smile in his voice.

 

If you are a first-time visitor, you’ll be welcomed here with a mix of curiosity and familiarity, kind of like the girlfriend that your brother brings home for Christmas after a semester away at college.

 

When you’re here, you’re family – whether or not you’re a local.

 

609 outside

 

The welcoming atmosphere here has made this my go-to place for celebrations, and since Club 609 opened in 1990, there have been many, many celebrations: birthdays, weddings, friendships. With a daily happy hour, great food, and playful decor, I always know that I’ll have a good time.

 

I recently met my friend Carrie here for dinner on a Friday evening. While we waited to order, I did some people-watching (this is a prime place for doing so). The bar stools were already packed with professionals unwinding from the work day (yes, Norm was there), and the tables were filling with families, couples, and groups of friends out for dinner.

 

I ordered a Key Lime Martini, which another friend had introduced me to years ago. Made with vanilla vodka, pineapple juice, and lime juice, it tastes like a tropical vacation.

 

609 martini

 

Make that two tropical vacations, thanks to happy hour.

 

While Carrie and I sipped our cocktails, a friend of hers from high school stopped by our table. While they chatted about old times, I checked out the art display on the walls; a new local artist is regularly featured here at Club 609, and it’s always blows my mind to see the high caliber of talent that lives here in southwest Missouri.

 

Then it was time to decide what to order, which is always challenging here because there are so many delicious items on the menu: appetizers, sandwiches, salads, pasta dishes, seafood entrees, beef entrees, and chicken entrees (like Chicken Bijan, which consists of roulades of chicken breast wrapped with bacon and stuffed with feta and basil, then finished with a balsamic glaze – it’s one of my favorite dishes here).

 

I chose to order another one of my favorite dishes, the Chicken Cordon Bleu sandwich. It’s made with a juicy grilled chicken breast, a slice of ham, and a six-cheese blend, all layered inside a piece of soft flatbread, then served with creamy Bechamel sauce for dipping (which I could bathe in because it’s that good).

 

club 609 cordon bleu

 

Sandwiches here come with a side of fries or homemade chips, but I chose to substitute a house salad instead because I was craving some greens.

 

club 609 house salad

 

And also because I wanted the tangy, crispy fried parmesan cheese that comes with the salads here.

 

Carrie ordered the Chargrilled Vegetable Salad, which was an ideal vegan option for her. Her salad base was a bed of tender baby spinach which was then piled high with grilled broccoli, carrots, portobello mushrooms, red onions, and toasted almonds.

 

club 609 chargrilled salad

 

The food here has been consistently good over the decades, and it’s nice to be able to enjoy it in Club 609’s smoke-free atmosphere.

 

While Carrie and I didn’t close down the place that Friday night (although I’ve done my share of doing so over the years), we left Club 609 relaxed and happy. It was a perfect choice for escaping from our everyday routines and enjoying a friendly atmosphere.

 

Wouldn’t you like to get away?

Sometimes you want to go…

 

Club 609 is located at 609 S. Main St.

 

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