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.
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. The 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.
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. 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. 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.
The 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. 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. 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.
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). Drinks and bar food items, like Frito Pie, are served outside. If you want to order off the regular menu, plan on eating inside. 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. Oh, and if you’re at Undercliff on Thursdays, you get half-price drafts every time a train passes. 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.