Taste of the Four States
Undercliff Grill & Bar: A Little Taste of History
By Savanah Mandeville
|Wednesday||11 am-9 pm|
|Thursday||11 am-9 pm|
|Friday||11 am-9 pm|
|Saturday||9 am-9 pm|
|Sunday||9 am-3 pm|
When I found out Undercliff Grill & Bar was reopening, I think I literally jumped for joy.
The quirky old restaurant, located on Old 71 Highway not far from Gateway Road about halfway between Joplin and Neosho, means a lot to me. I have memories of eating there with family and friends stretching back to kindergarten.
When I got a chance to chat with owner Brad Ezell, I learned the restaurant had a lot of personal history for him, as well, which is ultimately what led him and his wife, Lauren, to purchase the business and reopen it December 9.
“The place meant a lot to me,” Ezell said. “My grandfather used to bring me down here when I was younger, and we always sat at the round table. He actually built one of the model airplanes that hung from the ceiling, and is hanging there again today, and it’s a reminder of the good times we had here as a family.”
I think if you asked any Joplin local, they’d have similar stories about Undercliff. And they’d agree when it was closed, something felt missing.
The building, which is literally carved into the side of a cliff, was initially a second location for a 1920s feed and grocery store for the Tipton Ford community. It changed hands many times over the years, the most recent owners operating it as a restaurant from 1995 to 2016.
From the time the Ezells took the plunge and bought it in early 2016, they knew their mission was breathing new life into the building. Thus began a nearly two-year undertaking to rebuild the kitchen to the original 1928 two-story floorplan, update the flooring and bathrooms, increase parking, build a handicapped ramp and add some stylish touches.
“Almost everything in here has a story behind it,” Ezell said. “We really wanted to keep everything local and true to the area.”
For example, the tin wall and shelving behind the bar were salvaged from a famous round barn near Joplin; the bar and tables were made by Ezell’s cousin using wood from a family friend’s farm; a unique ceiling fan was hand-crafted by one of Ezell’s friends; and even the industrial-style light fixture hanging over the bar was made by Ezell himself.
Pay a visit to Undercliff now and you’ll see it still has historic charm but with crisp, modern touches and an upscale atmosphere.
As the weather warms up, the Ezells are busy getting the outdoor bar, known as A.J.’s Outdoor Pavilion, ready for business. The space will have its own menu and full bar so it will be the perfect spot to enjoy Ozark summer days with a refreshing drink and a yummy snack.
“It’ll be a nice, relaxing place to spend an afternoon,” Ezell said. “People have been coming here since the 1800s, so that’s got to tell you something!”