By Gary Stubblefield, Photos by Mandy Edmonson

Let’s take a walk down memory lane. When I was a kid, there were a few dining options in downtown Joplin. Maybe it was a hot meal from Robert’s Cafeteria or Bob Miller’s Restaurant. Cold sandwiches could be bought from Leo, at the Frisco Building and, of course, at Sherman’s with a cold orange juice.

Things started changing in the culinary offerings when more upscale restaurants started popping up in the 1980s and 1990s in downtown Joplin. Some have come and many have gone. But the one constant has been the iconic Red Onion Cafe, opened in 1995 by David Blum. This restaurant has one of the most loyal followings around. So loyal David knows some items from the original menu will probably never be changed, like the Tomato Rumba.

The Red Onion Cafe menu is full of favorites, like the Smoked Chicken Dip, which is just one of the eight starters on the Red Onion lunch menu. It is by far the most requested appetizer, although some make it a meal. Mandy and I enjoyed the smoked chicken dip, which features decadent cream cheese, mild Anaheim peppers, tomato, red onion, jalapenos and corn tortilla. Another one of my favorite appetizers is the Coconut Fried Chicken.

Red Onion Cafe has six salads on the lunch menu. We opted for the Mandarin Orange Salad, which boasts mixed greens, mandarin oranges, candied almonds, red onion, celery, grilled chicken and a sweet vinaigrette. Probably the most popular salad is David’s Fried Chicken Salad, which features coconut breaded chicken, mixed greens, cheese, tomato, artichoke, avocado, chopped egg and honey mustard dressing. If soup and salad sound good to you, consider pairing the ROC dinner salad with either one of Red Onion’s amazing soups: the French Onion Soup au Gratin or the Bacon and Potato Soup.

Red Onion Cafe offers five specialties on their lunch menu, like the Monterey Chicken and the Chicken Tuscany. I really like the Downtown Grilled Chicken washed down with a raspberry tea.

Red Onion offers six incredible pasta meals, including the iconic Tomato Rumba, the wildly popular Tuxedo Chicken and Penne from Heaven. It’s really hard to pick a favorite from their pastas. They’re all delicious, and the portions are way too big.

Six sandwiches are featured on the lunch menu. The Love Me Tender is popular, as is the ROC Chicken Salad, which includes roasted chicken, grapes and walnuts. If you’re looking for a sandwich you can really sink your teeth into, check out the Philly cheesesteak, which boasts sliced ribeye, onion and mushrooms that are grilled and chopped, with American cheese on a grilled roll.

Grilled offerings include the Bourbon Maple Glazed Pork Chop. Red Onion offers seven grilled delights on their lunch menu. If you’re following a keto diet, Red Onion has you covered there, too! They also offer six craft burgers. Mandy and I did our best to split a mushroom and garlic burger. It was topped with mozzarella, mushrooms sauteed in butter, rosemary, garlic au jus and mayo. We wept tears of joy.

David Blum has made a successful career with the Red Onion Cafe. In the future, he plans to retire and leave the restaurant in the capable hands of his longtime manager, John Starchman. One thing is for certain, current and future generations will fondly consider the Red Onion Cafe as a downtown favorite. They have the recipe for success! Try them out soon!