M&M Bistro

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’s Bistro’s new – and more spacious – locale 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.

 

mm bistro back

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.

 

mm bistro interior

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.

 

mm bistro bar

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.

 

mm bistro teapot and cup

The teacup itself was served in a copper and glass cup, and was unlike anything I’d seen before.

 

mm bistro tea

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.

 

mm bistro dolmades

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.

 

mm bistro salad

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.

 

mm bistro gyro platter

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.

 

mm bistro spanikopita

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.

 

mm bistro baklava

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.

 

mm bistro faravahar

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.

 

M&M Bistro is located at 612 S. Main Street. Click here to visit its website, and click here to follow M&M Bistro on Facebook.

 

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

All Aboard Ice Cream

There are restaurants you stop at to fill your belly, and then there are restaurants you visit to fill the pages in your family’s book of memories.

 

All Aboard Ice Cream is one of those memory-making restaurant destinations.

 

Location

All Aboard Ice Cream is located on Highway 86, just south of Joplin. It’s right across the street from Shoal Creek and some of Wildcat Glades Conservation and Audubon Center‘s scenic hiking trails. Take advantage of this great location by enjoying a nature walk before or after your visit to All Aboard.

 

 

The Appeal

The Kansas City Southern postal car that sits in the front of the property attracts curious visitors to All Aboard, but the old-fashioned ice cream and hamburgers are the gustatory draws (more about those later).

 

all aboard rr car

 

When my daughter and I visited All Aboard, the first thing she did was run to the rail car to begin exploring.

 

This was once a postal car, and I found it interesting looking at the names of the towns listed on the mail slots in the center of the car.

 

all aboard mail

 

Back in the day, it might take days or weeks for messages to be delivered. Explaining this process to email-savvy young ones makes for a unique history lesson.

 

all aboard car interior

 

You can also eat inside the air-conditioned rail car at one of the dining booths.

 

By the way, All Aboard offers birthday party packages in the rail car. Talk about a one-of-a-kind location!

 
 

Whisler’s

After exploring the rail car, we headed over to the train depot to order our food.

 

 

all aboard depot

 

The counter is divided between All Aboard’s dessert orders on the left and Whisler’s Old-Fashioned Hamburgers on the right.

 

Burgers? Wasn’t this supposed to be about ice cream?

 

I promise I’ll get to the ice cream, but first let me tell you about Whisler’s.

 

Lunch before dessert, you know.

 

People who grew up in southwest Missouri have heard of the original Whisler’s in Carthage that has been perfecting its hamburgers since the 1950s.

 

all aboard grill

 

Well, I didn’t grow up around here so I’d never heard about Whisler’s until it opened at the All Aboard location.

 

Whisler’s is the type of all-American restaurant that you envision when you think of the wholesome 1950s, when burgers and ice cream were regarded with much more reverence than those served in today’s fast-food chain restaurants.

 

That’s because everything was made from scratch back then – and with quality ingredients.

 

Whisler’s old-time burgers are made to order on a busy, sizzling grill in the open kitchen. If you come at peak lunch time, be patient. There’s only so much room on the grill, so strike up a conversation with your neighbor in line while you wait for your juicy beauties to be ready.

 

all aboard burger

 

I ordered a single cheeseburger, which is slightly larger than a slider. Made with fresh, local beef, this burger was dressed with mustard, onions, pickles, and cheese, and topped off with a fluffy bun.

 

If you’re craving more meat, you can order double and triple burgers, or you can choose burgers topped with other types of meat, such as the “Pig and Bull” (with ham), “Sow and Cow” (with bacon), and the “Farm” (with ham and bacon).

 

My daughter doesn’t like burgers (what?!), so she ordered a hot dog.

 

all aboard picnic 2

 

She was obviously happy with her choice.

 

 

Finally, the Ice Cream!

A good old-fashioned slider meal begs to be topped off with a rich, creamy treat. All Aboard makes it easy to satisfy that craving by presenting a variety of ice cream flavors at the counter adjacent to Whisler’s.

 

all-aboard-ice-cream small

 

I confess that I’ve eaten All Aboard Ice Cream countless times in the past — but it was known as Anderson’s Ice Cream back then.

 

Let me explain.

 

Anderson’s Ice Cream satisfied the collective sweet tooth of the Joplin community for many years. Carl and Freda Anderson founded the original ice cream company in 1936 in downtown Joplin, and it was operated by family members until 1999.

 

In 2012, Billy Garrigan answered the prayers of many Joplinites and opened up Anderson’s Ice Cream inside the Candy House Gourmet Chocolates building.

 

Treating my kids to Anderson’s Ice Cream to kick off the first day of summer vacation became our family tradition.

 

When Garrigan moved his business in 2015, he also changed its name to All Aboard because a company in the Northeast had trademarked the name Anderson’s. While it would’ve been nice to carry on the Anderson’s name, I think All Aboard suits this train-themed business perfectly.

 

Drew Evans is the owner of All Aboard now, making premium ice cream in the Anderson’s tradition (its richness comes from 14% butterfat). I tried a scoop of caramelly Creme Brûlée (which is hard to see in the photo because it was such an incredibly bright day), and it was creamy perfection.

 

all aboard dessert

 

Family Friendly

When Garrigan opened All Aboard, his goal was to make the business and location as family friendly as possible. He scored well with the high-quality (yet affordable) burgers and ice cream.

 

The train theme puts him over the top.

 

In addition to the rail car, there’s other railroad memorabilia to discover. My daughter had fun standing by the crossing sign (which looks like she’s standing just a few feet from an active track)…

 

all aboard rr crossing

 

…and ringing the bell in front of the train depot.

 

all aboard bell

 

Older kids can play in the picnic area out front, and young children can toddle around safely in the enclosed patio area where their parents can sit down and eat in peace. There’s also a sandbox and a mini train; tickets can be purchased for a ride around the picnic area.

 

all aboard mini train

 

All Aboard has gone to great lengths to create a destination where families can enjoy wholesome food and family fun.

 

And where lasting memories are made.

 

 

All Aboard is located at 102 Castle Drive. Visit its Facebook page here.

 

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

 

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.

 

Joplin Dines Out

A tour of the best local eateries

Grilled sea bass from Crabby’s,

the grand Tour of Mythos,

BBQ from Big R’s,

and Karma’s Bio Diesel.

Hackett’s award-winning, succulent wings,

These are a few of my favorite things.

 

You won’t see them near the exits of I-44, where nationally-recognized chain restaurants dominate the landscape.

 

But drive a couple minutes in from the interstate, and you’ll find them – the local restaurants that are raising the bar on culinary standards in southwest Missouri with creative menus and quality ingredients.

 

crabbys (1)

Crabby’s

 

Starting off the day right
Don’t be fooled by the simple interior of the Bruncheonette; here, the focus is on the food. This downtown restaurant serves breakfast, brunch, and lunch items daily; one of my favorite items is the Benny Harper, a variation of traditional Eggs Benedict that tastes like a BLT thanks to the addition of sliced avocado and smoky bacon.

 

But I rarely order regular menu items here because the daily specials are simply irresistible. Take the “Foitomatic for the People,” a French toast stuffed with local foie gras, and topped with champagne-poached apple compote, spicy pickled raisins, and Hawaiian black lava salt.

 

Casual eateries with gourmet fare
With its whimsical decor and ever-changing local artwork on the walls, Club 609 wowed me with its big-city feel. This downtown restaurant is a solid choice for lunch with an extensive menu, and after work, it transforms into “the” bar in Joplin for Happy Hour and beyond. Classy bar bites include Sushi Sticks and Parmesan Portobello, and Happy Hour lasts until 10pm on some weeknights, making this a great place to relax with friends for an evening.

Standouts here are the Chicken Cordon Bleu Sandwich with creamy béchamel sauce, the Thai Asian Chicken Salad with spicy peanut sauce, and the inventive Tuna Bruschetta.

 

In south Joplin, Club 1201’s three personalities target different groups of diners. Meet here during the week for an impressive business lunch and try the Apricot Turkey Sandwich, with avocados, pecans, raisins, and apricot mayo. On the weekends, catch up with friends in the small and cozy part of the restaurant (called Uncorked) over Banana Rumaki or Bruschetta Steak Sliders (topped with prosciutto, herbed cheese, and a balsamic reduction). Linger over the Bloody Mary bar on Sundays while enjoying a leisurely brunch.

Not your typical burgers and dogs
With its bohemian decor, wide selection of local and craft beers, and eclectic menu including vegan and vegetarian items, InstantKarma Gourmet Hot Dogs is the hippest dog joint around.

 

crabbys (1)

Instant Karma

 

I love the Bio Diesel, a hot dog (beef or vegetarian) topped with creamy, tangy blue cheese slaw and spicy Sriracha sauce, and my daughter likes the Heavenly Donut, a juicy burger served with a glazed donut as the bun.

 

More burger options await at Eagle Drive-In, Instant Karma’s sister restaurant which is housed in a vintage drive-in in south Joplin. The Eagle’s version of a traditional burger comes topped with a quail egg, which sounds unusual but is truly delicious. Other burgers here are made from lamb, bison, and elk.

Vegetarians, don’t despair! Try the Black Bean or Falafel Burgers. And everyone should order a basket of fries to dip in specialty sauces like the garlic aioli or the wasabi mayo.

 

BBQ and wings that sing
People have been making special trips to Joplin for decades just to eat the tender, hickory-smoked meats at Big R’s BBQ. Top off your barbecue meal with a slice of one of Mrs. R’s out-of-this world pies, like Strawberry-Lemonade or Caramel Macchiato (vanilla coffee cream with ripples of caramel).

 

Hackett’s Hot Wings, made Memphis-style, are recognized as some of the best in the region. Choose from five dry rubs and eight sauces, or mix and match to create your own flavor (you can also buy bottled sauce to take home).

 

Dining with class
In addition to the more casual eateries, Joplin also has some wonderful fine-dining establishments that shouldn’t be missed.

 

With its dark, polished wood and art deco interior, I feel like I’m going to run into Al Capone in the dining room at Wilder’sSteakhouse. The atmosphere here implores you to order a Gin Rickey to sip on while you wait for your steak to be cooked to perfection – I love the Filet du Pont, a tender medallion topped with sweet caramelized onions, earthy mushrooms and sharp Gruyere.

 

crabbys (1)

Eagle Drive-In

 

Joplin also has an incredible seafood restaurant: Crabby’s. Concrete floors and crimson walls create a chic, urban vibe. Start your meal with the zesty crab cakes, then try the honey-lavender dressing on a crisp house salad, followed by the popular Pan-Seared Chilean Sea Bass, which is served on a bed of savory garlic mashed potatoes, and topped with sesame asparagus, wild mushrooms, and a mirin butter sauce.

Upscale meets international at Mythos Euro Greek Kuzina. With an elegant dining area that pays homage to its Greek roots, Mythos offers a taste of both Mediterranean and American fare.

 

Still in the mood for Greek? Order the Tour of Mythos, an appetizer designed for two: sliced gyro meat with tangy tzatziki, stuffed grape leaves, spanikopita, olives, and more. Want something closer to home? Try the walnut-crusted chicken or one of the incredibly tender hand-cut steaks. Leave some room for the Deconstructed Tiramisu, which offers all the creamy, coffee flavor of the traditional dessert without the usual soggy texture.

 

More international flavors
There are several excellent Thai restaurants in Joplin. Try the Thai Basil Chicken at Kinnaree, the Magic Mango Fried Rice atMagic Noodle, and the Pumpkin Curry at Thai Time.

 

For sushi, I like to visit the friendly and talented Han the Sushi Man. He is well-known in Joplin for fantastic, fresh sushi and an ever-changing menu to keep things interesting. Try his popular Preston Lacy Roll (named after the Joplin-born actor and daredevil), which is a spicy tuna roll topped with salmon and seafood sauce.

 

crabbys (1)

Kinaree

 

If you’re searching for authentic Mexican food, look no further than Lalo’s Taqueria. Small and unassuming, this restaurant serves a variety of tacos (including tripe and tongue), tortas (Mexican sandwiches), tostadas (the spicy chorizo is my favorite), and fresh guacamole. Come on the weekend to try a bowl of menudo, a traditional Mexican soup.

 

 

One more observation about the Joplin dining scene: Not only are inventive restaurateurs choosing to introduce this city to their unique cuisine, but they are encouraging others to do so, as well.

 

And this supportive restaurant community continues to grow – solidifying Joplin’s position as one of Missouri’s top destinations for gourmands.

 

Click to find Joplin’s best restaurants!

 

 

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