Instant Karma

When Instant Karma opened its doors a decade ago, it was branded as a restaurant that served gourmet hot dogs. But the restaurant’s chef and owner, Jason Miller – who is constantly inventing new dishes that we never knew we could live without – has expanded the menu over time, offering something for virtually every palate.

 instant karma interior

The vibe that Miller has created at Instant Karma can be described as quirky with a conscience, like a world sprung forth from the imagination of Dr. Seuss, where Miller plays the roles of both Sam-I-Am (persistently trying to get the protagonist to eat something new and unusual like green eggs and ham) and The Lorax (diligently advocating for the environment, which Miller does in several ways, such as sourcing food from local farms, and using cloth napkins and biodegradable straws). 

 

instant karma salt and pepper

 

The Menu

 

There’s a nice variety of menu items to choose from at Instant Karma. Of course, you can still order a gourmet hot dog here; choose the locally sourced pork option, or the vegan dog. Top it with whatever you like, or try one of Miller’s eclectic creations, like The Turning Japanese: a bacon-wrapped dog topped with sautéed pineapple, scallions, and teriyaki sauce.

 

A popular vegetarian option is The Volkswagen Bus: a vegan dog topped with vegan chili and either ranch slaw or bleu cheese slaw. Even if you don’t pick this as your meal, be sure to order a side dish of the bleu cheese slaw because this stuff is heavenly! I usually order my dog topped with the slaw and a drizzle of sriracha.

 instant karma bio

If you have a hankering for a burger, you can choose from several types here, too, from a ⅓-pound ground beef burger (top it with delicious Karma sauce for a favor explosion), to the whimsical Doughnut Burger

 

instant karma donut burger

…to the Salmon BLT Burger, to The Impossible Burger, a plant-based burger topped with vegan cheese, which is what I ordered when I recently dined here for lunch with my friend Carrie.

 

instant karma impossible burger

It tasted and looked (see the red center?) so much like a traditional beef burger that I convinced my meat-loving husband Travis to try it for dinner a few days later, and he loved it as much as I did.

 

 

In addition to hot dogs and burgers, Instant Karma’s menu (see bottom of post) includes sandwiches, salads, and hearty entrees like Chicken & Waffles, and Impossible Meatloaf & Mash, a vegan option which Carrie ordered (she told me she’d been craving it all week). This generous portion of vegan meatloaf was served with red-skinned mashed potatoes and oven-roasted broccoli.

 

instant karma impossible meatloaf

Carrie offered me a bite of her meatloaf to try. I admit I was hesitant to do so, having experienced a traumatic meatloaf experience in my childhood. My sister, who is 12 years older than me, was babysitting and served meatloaf for dinner. But she failed to cook it all the way through. Eating undercooked meatloaf is not something that one easily forgets, but Instant Karma’s vegan version was so delicious that I’ve reconsidered my opinion of meatloaf – at least the plant-based kind. 

 

The Brews

 

Not only is Instant Karma a great place to eat, it’s also a prime spot for sampling local craft beer.

 

instant karma beer on tap

The daily beer menu is featured on a monitor located next to the bar.

 

instant karma untapped

I spent several minutes squinting and focusing on the monitor from across the room before I realized that I could download the Untappd app on my phone and see the beer menu up close. Just now, I opened up the app and saw that there are 21 draft beers offered at Instant Karma today. That’s quite a variety!

 instant karma bar

From local beer to unexpected food pairings, there’s always something new to try at Instant Karma. Would you be open to trying one of Miller’s wildly imaginative Texas Chainsaw Massa-Curd Burgers, topped with melted cheese curds and brown gravy? 

 

You do not like them.

So you say.

Try them! Try them!

And you may.

Try them and you may I say.

 

 

Instant Karma is located at 527 South Main Street in Joplin. Delivery is available through Bite Squad. Click here to visit Instant Karma’s Facebook page.

 

Here are photos of the menu:

instant karma menu 1

instant karma menu 2

 

 

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

 

This post was updated on 6/27/19.

The Bruncheonette

A visit to The Bruncheonette brings to mind the saying “You can’t judge a book by its cover.”

 

Let’s break down this expression in relationship to The Bruncheonette, shall we?

 

brunch front

 

First, The Bruncheonette’s “cover,” its small brick facade, is rather nondescript. But don’t judge it just yet.

 

Second, The Bruncheonette’s “pages,” or its interior, is plain and tiny. But hold off a few more minutes before you form an opinion.

 

Trust me.

 

Because there’s one more component of a book to consider: its words. The arrangement of the words used to tell a story is what makes a book truly unique. And the “words” at The Bruncheonette are the delicious and inventive dishes that are served without fanfare.

 

Here, the “words” speak for themselves.

 

Sometimes these “words” appear in tantalizing photos on Facebook, which is how I was first introduced to the creations of The Bruncheonette. My curiosity was piqued after seeing several daily specials on my Facebook feed, like The Devil Wears Strata, filled with tart cranberries, white chocolate, cream cheese, cinnamon and topped with a drizzle of Lambrusco reduction; and the Anyung Crepe, which consisted of peanut butter, sriracha, and coconut milk crepes with cream cheese, bacon, cilantro, and green onion, topped with a spicy coconut sauce.

 

I knew I had to give this place a chance.

 

Owned by Sean and Chas Flanagan, The Bruncheonette serves breakfast, brunch, and lunch items, and closes its doors in the early afternoon (hours of operation are listed on its website).

 

brunch counter

Chas Flanagan taking orders at the counter

 

The menu is written on dry erase boards behind the front counter, which is where you go to place your order. Then you can find yourself a seat inside or outside in the patio, and then salivate while you wait for your meal.

 

At least that’s what I do.

 

I recently met my friends here for an early lunch, or in my case, brunch. Being a huge fan of Eggs Benedict, I ordered the Garden Benny, which is made with an English muffin topped with fresh asparagus, tomatoes, avocadoes, local micro greens (from the Webb City Farmers Market), poached eggs, and beet – yes, beet – Hollandaise. Holy yum!

 

brunch micro greens

Look at those super greens!

 

The Garden Benny is just one of several variations of Eggs Benedict on the menu at The Bruncheonette. In the past, I’ve ordered the Benny Harper, which comes with bacon, avocado, and tomato, and tastes like a BLT; the other two Bennies are Steak and Salmon.

 

My friends, Carrie and Donna, were both interested in lunch, so they each ordered the Farmhouse sandwich, which is made with asparagus, roasted red pepper, mushrooms, caramelized onions, and Gruyere on toasted Redings Mill bread (a local baker).

 

brunch farmhouse

The Farmhouse with cheese and a side of French fries.

 

All sandwiches come with a side of fries or carrot fries. Carrie, who is vegan, ordered the Farmhouse without cheese and with a side of carrot fries.

 

brunch carrot

Back off, Bugs Bunny! These are Carrie’s fries.

 

In addition to focusing on high-quality food, The Bruncheonette is passionate about utilizing local food sources as often as possible, like the micro greens in my dish and the bread in my friends’ sandwiches. There’s even a page on The Bruncheonette’s website labeled “Our Farmers,” which is dedicated to the local vendors that supply the restaurant with their farm-raised, home-grown, and homemade products.

 

So while the cover of this book may appear to be “Just Another Diner,” the words inside tell a different story: a humble farm-to-table restaurant where the chefs play with flavors and ingredients, creating memorable dishes that dance on your taste buds.

 

And that’s a book worth reading.

 

The Bruncheonette is located at 424 N. Main St.

 

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.

 

Red Onion Cafe

When a restaurant has been in operation for longer than the length of time that I’ve lived in Joplin (which is now almost two decades), that says something.

 

In such a fickle industry, owning a successful restaurant since 1995 says, “We’ve figured out the magic formula! We’ve listened to you, our people, and we honor you by serving you the quality food that you want.”

 

Thanks, Red Onion Cafe, for making me feel appreciated as a citizen.

 

I appreciate you right back.

 

The casual, urban atmosphere at Red Onion makes it adaptable for any kind of dining experience, from a date night to a business lunch, a girlfriend getaway to a family meal (regarding that – a quick thank you to all of the Red Onion servers who patiently waited on my fidgety, sometimes boisterous, toddlers over the years).

 

Recently, I left my family at home and joined my friends for a rare girlfriend getaway dinner at Red Onion. Without the distractions of familial responsibilities, I was able to really see the restaurant for the gem that it is.

 

red onion front

 

First of all, Red Onion is located in a quaint historic brick building in the heart of downtown Joplin at 4th and Virginia Streets, just a block off of the iconic Route 66. Inside, the restaurant is open and airy, and offers a laid-back, neighborly feeling. If you’re a local, you will no doubt run into at least one person that you know here.

 

Once my friends and I were seated, we ordered our drinks and an appetizer. In addition to soft drinks, Red Onion serves fantastic raspberry tea and peach tea, as well as a selection of beer and wine.

 

For our appetizer, we ordered the Bruschetta Misto. Red Onion’s version includes grilled foccacia served with fresh, chopped tomatoes with garlic and basil, herbed cream cheese, and a marinated olive salad.

 

red onion misto

Bruschetta Misto

 

One of the most popular appetizers here is the Smoked Chicken Dip, a creamy, smoky, spicy creation that’s served with tortilla chips. This dip is known all around town. I’ve even been with my friend when she picked up an order of this dip, transferred it to a crystal serving platter, and brought it with her to serve at a holiday party. This dip is a perennial crowd-pleaser.

 

For our dinner entrees, Donna and I both ordered the Chicken Tuscany, which was made with grilled chicken, sun-dried tomatoes, artichokes, and wild mushrooms, and topped with a rich parmesan cream sauce. It was served with wild rice and butter fondue broccoli.

 

red onion tuscany

Chicken Tuscany

 

The tangy taste of the tomatoes and artichokes contrasted the smooth, rich flavor of the cream sauce, making my mouth very happy.

 

Erin ordered one of the daily specials, which was a tender steak (Red Onion’s steaks are cut daily in the kitchen) served with equally tender brussel sprouts, which Erin was excited to order since this often-underappreciated vegetable doesn’t regularly appear on menus.

 

red onion steak

The steak special of the day

 

Carrie, my vegan friend, ordered the Black Bean Veggie Burger (minus the cheese).

 

red onion bbb1

Black Bean Veggie Burger

 

Check out the pickle-tomato-and-onion smiley face on her bread. It’s a happy veggie burger!

 

Because I’ve eaten at Red Onion so many times over the years, I’ll tell you about a few more of my favorite items here. For lunch, I typically order the ROC Chicken Salad Sandwich, made with crunchy grapes, celery, and walnuts, and served on buttery grilled whole-grain bread.

 

I am in love with this rich, nutty bread. I’ve considered asking the management at Red Onion who their bread supplier is so that I can buy some to bring home. But then I realized that if I had the bread in my house, I would probably eat an entire loaf in one day so it’s probably best that I don’t know where I can buy it. Yes, these are my food-obsessed thoughts. You’ll understand once you’ve tasted this bread. Believe me.

 

Sometimes, I’ll order the salad version of this sandwich. It’s called the Chicken Walnut Salad and it also comes with a piece of that addictive toasted bread. I order the homemade sweet vinaigrette to top my salad.

 

One of the most popular dishes at Red Onion is David’s Fried Chicken Salad, which consists of mixed greens topped with coconut-breaded chicken, tomatoes, avocados, chopped egg, and cheese, and is served with a honey-mustard dressing.

 

Desserts are not to be forgotten at Red Onion. I’ve eaten enough desserts here through the years that I believe I have the right to claim myself as an expert.

 

You see, the Red Onion’s dessert selection has supported me through three pregnancies. During my second pregnancy, I ate a slice of the Caramel Fudge Pecan Cake about once a week. I noticed that it’s now listed as a best seller on Red Onion’s menu, and I think I maybe I had something to do with that.

 

red onion cake

Caramel Fudge Pecan Cake

 

Red Onion’s wide selection of high-quality menu items, coupled with its relaxed, welcoming dining room, makes it one the restaurants where I always know I’ll have a great experience.

 

Even with fidgety toddlers in tow.

 

 

Red Onion Cafe is located at 203 E. 4th St.
To read more about my adventures in the area, visit JoplinMOLife.com.