The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Local News

January 15, 2014

Mike Pound: Avilla cafe brings back memories

This week has been filled with nothing but work and worry.

On Monday, I had to make a big pot of chili and listen to Jimmy Buffett’s radio station at the same time. Then, on Tuesday, I was on Carol Parker’s cooking segment on KSNF-TV to talk about the big pot of chili I made on Monday.

Just when I thought my week couldn’t get any more jampacked, on Wednesday I had to drive to Bernie’s in Avilla and have a deluxe bacon cheeseburger with Mike Olmstead.

To quote Jimmy Buffett: “I can’t run at this pace very long.”

Mike, the news anchorman at Fox 14-TV, is searching for the best cheeseburger in the area. He asked me if I knew of a great, slightly out-of-the-way establishment that serves up a good cheeseburger, and I immediately suggested Bernie’s on the north side of the road in downtown Avilla. The best way to get to Bernie’s is to take Highway 96 east out of Carthage about 10 miles until you get to Avilla. If you drive more than two minutes once you get inside the Avilla city limits, you have driven too far.

Rick and Dawn Walker run Bernie’s during the day, when it is mostly a cafe that serves up great food for breakfast and lunch. Later in the afternoon, Bernie — Rick’s mom — takes over, and the place turns into more of a bar than a cafe. But Bernie also serves food.

The guys at Pinewood Nursery, located a few miles east of Avilla, told me about the cheeseburger at Bernie’s several months ago, so I tried it out and quickly determined that I had found a great burger place.

I’ve known Mike since the 1990s, when we both worked at KSNF-TV. Mike is originally from Indiana and shares my love of places like Bernie’s. He announced after tasting his double bacon cheeseburger that he is officially a fan of the place.

Bernie’s is the sort of place that brings back memories. Many years ago, when I worked in the oil fields, there was a tavern like Bernie’s somewhere outside of Pawhuska, Okla. When you’ve spent 10 hours working on an oil rig, there is nothing better than a cold beer and a bacon cheeseburger.

Many of the people who stop in at Bernie’s for breakfast or lunch are folks who work in or around the area.

“The people who eat here have mud on their boots” is how Rick put it, and I knew exactly what he meant. They are honest, hardworking people who are looking for a good meal and a little small-town talk.

On Wednesday, a man and his son sat next to Mike and me. The man said he has spent pretty much all of his 65 years in the Avilla area. The guys were hauling rock to wherever you haul rock. The guy’s son said they stop in at Bernie’s so often that they don’t even need a menu.

“They know exactly what I want,” he said as Rick slapped a hamburger patty on the grill for him without being asked.

I like the way Rick and Dawn treat their customers. I also liked the fact that Dawn remembered me from my visit a few months ago and was able to tell me exactly what I ordered. My order from a couple of months ago sounded so good that I ordered it again, only this time, at Dawn’s suggestion, I ordered onion rings instead of fries.

Mike, who is younger than I am, passed on the deluxe burger I ordered and opted instead to upgrade to the larger, double bacon cheeseburger. There was a time when I would have done the same thing, but there was also a time when I would play basketball.

People change is what I’m saying.

DO YOU HAVE AN IDEA for Mike Pound’s column? Call him at 417-623-3480, ext. 7259, or email him at mpound@joplinglobe.com. Follow him on Twitter @mikepoundglobe.

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