JOPLIN, Mo. —
Ge Xiong and Shye Kong were watching a couple of customers eat breakfast at their New Day Cafe when an idea popped into their heads.
“We watched them mix their hash browns with their eggs, and I said, ‘You don’t have to do that, let the chef do it for you,’” Kong said. With that, the Monster Mess was born.
What Xiong does is toss some hash brown potatoes onto the grill, letting them brown on one side, before flipping them over and cracking a few eggs on top. Then he tops the eggs with sauteed onions, green peppers, mushrooms, tomato, ham, sausage and shredded Cheddar cheese. And for extra measure, if you are so inclined, Xiong will also add a generous amount of salsa.
On an average day, Xiong estimates that 20 to 25 Monster Messes are served at the cafe. On a recent Friday, however, 35 orders of the breakfast dish were plated and served.
Xiong and his fiance Kong opened the New Day Cafe, 1218 W. Seventh St., on April 14. In a short amount of time, they have built up a steady stream of customers who have already become regulars. The food, of course, is one of the draws at the New Day Cafe, but equally important to the restaurant’s popularity is the way Xiong and Kong treat their customers.
“When you come here, you become our family,” Kong said.
That family feeling can be traced, in part, to the couple’s Hmong upbringing, but it also speaks to their outlook on life, which is reflected in the name of their business.
“Live like it’s a new day, like there is no tomorrow. What if you don’t tell someone you love them and then they are gone tomorrow?” Kong said.
Of course, even the best families like to have something tasty on their plate. The customers who enter the New Day Cafe and become part of Xiong and Kong’s family can find plenty to please their palates.
Open from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. seven days a week, the New Day Cafe specializes in classic diner food. Breakfast dishes are served all day as are a host of sandwiches, burgers and salads. While the Monster Mess may be one of the more popular breakfast items, Xiong also offer omelets, pancakes, French toast and healthy servings of biscuits and gravy.
Traditional sandwich favorites, such as BLTs, pork tenderloin and country-fried steak, as well as burgers, round out the menu. Xiong is particularly proud of his Reuben sandwich.
“The people who have ordered it are real Reuben fans, and they love it,” he said.
Xiong and Kong each were both born in a Hmong area in Laos and came to the United States at an early age: Xiong when he was 5 and Kong when she was 2. Xiong said, because they are Hmong, the couple is often asked why they don’t serve Asian food at their restaurant.
“We don’t because this is the food we grew up on,” Xiong says with a laugh.
In addition to their regular menu items, Xiong and Kong offer daily lunch specials and will also customize any order.
“If you want something and we have it, we will fix it for you,” Kong said.
Xiong and Kong spent months scouring the Midwest looking for a place to open a restaurant. When Kong visited Joplin, she told Xiong that their search was over.
“I said Joplin is a great town. This is our last stop,” she said.
To help you jump-start your day, we have included a few breakfast recipes from the website allrecipes.com.
1 pound sage-flavored breakfast sausage
3 cups shredded potatoes, drained and pressed
1/4 cup butter, melted
12 ounces mild Cheddar cheese, shredded
1/2 cup onion, shredded
1 (16 ounce) container small curd cottage cheese
6 jumbo eggs
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly grease a 9-by-13-inch square baking dish. Place sausage in a large, deep skillet. Cook over medium-high heat until evenly brown. Drain, crumble and set aside.In the prepared baking dish, stir together the shredded potatoes and butter. Line the bottom and sides of the baking dish with the mixture. In a bowl, mix the sausage, Cheddar cheese, onion, cottage cheese and eggs. Pour over the potato mixture.
Bake 1 hour in the preheated oven or until a toothpick inserted into center of the casserole comes out clean. Let cool for 5 minutes before serving.
Cheesy ham hash brown casserole
1 (32 ounce) package frozen hash brown potatoes
8 ounces cooked, diced ham
2 (10.75 ounce) cans condensed cream of potato soup
1 (16 ounce) container sour cream
2 cups shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
1 1/2 cups grated Parmesan cheese
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly grease a 9-by-13-inch baking dish.
In a large bowl, mix hash browns, ham, cream of potato soup, sour cream and Cheddar cheese. Spread evenly into prepared dish. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Bake 1 hour in the preheated oven or until bubbly and light brown.