By Benji Tunnell
JOPLIN, Mo. —
On a recent trip to St. Louis, The Lovely Paula Hadsall, stepson Mitchell and I saw an Imo’s Pizza Restaurant, and a craving instantly formed. Maybe not for TLP and M, but definitely me (I believe that we’ve already covered how I’m highly impressionable).
Those who have tried Imo’s Pizza know the stuff is delicious with a capital DELICIOUS. Billing itself as St. Louis-style pizza, it’s served on a super thin, crisp, yeast-less crust with Provel cheese instead of mozzarella. And MAN, it’s good. That crust is strong enough to handle plenty of toppings.
The slices are cut into smaller squares instead of wedges, so you can eat 10 slices without feeling guilty. Bonus!
We plowed through a pepperoni and sausage pizza pretty quickly — so fast it made me want to order another for the road. I wish we could get Imo’s Pizza in Joplin, and it made me think of other Springfield businesses that, like Andy’s Frozen Custard, should set up shop in Joplin.
No offense intended to Joplin businesses; this list contains some duplicates. But it’s hard to shake the things I love about the city where I grew up. I’m a proud Joplinite (Talk about a built-in nickname: I’m MoJoe from JoMo); I just remember where I came from.
With that in mind, these places would fit in great around here, without sending anyone else out of business.
• Leong’s Asian Diner. Wing Yee Leong, the son of Springfield-style cashew chicken creator David Leong, has restarted the family’s work in preparing incredible Chinese food.
My apologies, but I have some tough love for Joplin-area Oriental restaurants: TLP and I have found only two places that come close to getting cashew chicken right: Pacific Rim and Orient Express. Those two places offer cashew chicken that comes the closest to Springfield’s Lucy’s, Mr. Yen’s or Chinese Chef.
But the Leong family created it, and Joplin would love it, as well as many other things available at the restaurant.
• 1984. The owners of this downtown video game arcade think of what they do as museum work, and I can’t describe it any better.
For $5, a customer plays as many stand-up arcade games as they can handle in an environment that matches an ‘80s arcade.
I know there was a similar business based in Webb City a few years ago. But I guarantee they didn’t have the same love for games as the owners of 1984.
The business is co-owned by seven people who loved stand-up, coin-operated video games so much that they restored them as hobbies. Originally thinking they would start a private club, they tried to find warehouse space, where they could plug all the games in and re-create history. But the idea caught on like wildfire with the public.
These guys LOVE their games, and that love would go over like gangbusters in Joplin. A 1984-style arcade would fit awesomely downtown.
• Mudhouse. I’m not a coffee drinker, but it’s cool to head to a downtown spot that isn’t filled with drunk people. In addition to great cafe drinks, there are plenty of games, books, magazines and art in the coffeehouse.
Joplin nightlife, especially in the Brick District, would be greatly enhanced by such a spot.
The Dioko coffeehouse had a pretty good run, from what I understand. Now that there is a more developed downtown scene, I’d like to think a coffeehouse could do well.
• Charming Charlie. Unlike most everything else on this list, Charming Charlie is a national chain. But this store, located in the Battlefield Mall, is PACKED with accessories, costume jewelry, purses, hats and so much more.
Items are grouped together by color, which is convenient for someone like me.
It’s one of TLP’s favorite stores to visit while in the Queen City. In her words, it’s “whimsical, romantic and affordable.”
• Auntie Anne’s. There is no better hot pretzel out there, and the chain is so successful that there are two locations in the Battlefield Mall. The chain offers plenty of varieties, from cinnamon and sugar to pepperoni. But the plain ol’ original is a perfect blend of buttery, salty goodness. One of those with cheddar cheese is almost mandatory while in the Battlefield Mall, and would be a perfect fit in the Northpark Mall.
• Bair’s All-American Sports Grill. Bair’s is a typical sports bar, but its burgers are legendary and make me forget about places such as Red Robin.
Customers can choose from 30 (30!) different burgers, from sliders to a five-pound burger (four one-pound beef patties, 16 ounces of bacon strips and 16 slices of cheese). The beef is excellent and the chefs are skilled.
I haven’t had a bad burger there yet, and would love to be able to get one of their burgers without driving 80 miles.
Clearing the air
Another Springfield thing I’d like to see in Joplin is a smoking ban.
We’ve discussed the merits of bans and the illogical fears of opponents in past columns. But Tuesday’s election results in Springfield are very interesting:
• An initiative petition proposed overturning Springfield’s current ban.
• The measure failed by an almost two-thirds margin.
• Opponents of overturning the ban outraised and outspent supporters by about $40,000 — I’m guessing because the opponents weren’t wasting money on cigs.
• The ban that petitioners tried to overturn was put in place by the same kind of initiative petition. Ban supporters felt it was necessary after experiencing a ban filled with more loopholes than a John Grisham novel.
Joplin and Springfield are so similar in a lot of ways. I often compare Joplin to the way Springfield was 10 years ago. Part of the reason I love Third Thursday so much is that’s when Joplin feels alive with energy, creative spirit and a general great vibe — the exact same vibe I felt when working at 417 Magazine and for a top 40 radio station downtown.
Springfield businesses are doing just fine with a ban — it isn’t killing the economy. Voters are fine with the ban, enough to give it firm support in a reaffirmation of a vote.
Over here, city governments have been hesitant to act courageously in favor of public health:
• Webb City voters in an election told their city council that they wanted a ban, but council members didn’t have the fortitude to enact the will of the people.
• In Joplin, the council considered a proposal from Smoke-Free Joplin, but monkeyed with the language so much that the organization couldn’t support it anymore.
But Springfield, and other smoke-free cities, will eventually overpower hesitant governments reacting to loud, unreasonable minorities with the truth: Smoking bans work. They ensure safer conditions for workers and customers.