I’m a foodie. There, I said it. Every place I visit, every town I’ve ever lived in, one of my favorite things to do is discover new and exciting places to eat where I can order something unique that I’ve never tried before. Over the years, I’ve tried to take these experiences and incorporate them into my restaurants so I can share them with you. This week I’m going to give a glimpse back at my Top 5 Favorites and show how I’m sharing them with you today.
1. The BEST Grilled Cheese Sandwich
I was in Flagstaff, AZ in 1982, and I happened into a local restaurant that served a grilled cheese sandwich like I had never heard of before. It was served on sourdough bread with not just cheese but smokey bacon & sliced tomato. Everything is better with bacon, right? With that sandwich as my inspiration, we have offered our version at Red Onion Cafe since we opened in 1995. Currently it is not listed on our ROC menu, but you can order it there as well as at Red Onion Espressoria. I would stack our Grilled Cheese Sandwich up against any other.
2. The Chimichanga
Does anyone remember Raphael’s here in Joplin? On Labor Day 1983, Raphael’s opened on Range Line Road and introduced the Joplin metro area to a new Mexican taste – the chimichanga. Aside from it being a fun word to say (chi-mi-chang-a…), it has no comparison in taste. A burrito that has been deep-fried – come on, now, what could be more delicious?! I had never had a chimi until I moved to Joplin to become the Kitchen Manager at Raphael’s, but it became a quick favorite for me and for Raphael’s fans.
3. Italian Fried Chicken
Italian Fried Chicken first came on the scene at Travetti’s in Joplin on our Sunday Brunch buffet. It was so popular, we added it to our menu soon after. It was then brought back at Bella Pepper’s Italian Kitchen, 2004-2010 (RIP Bella Pepper’s). With it being such a popular menu item at both restaurants, Red Onion Cafe will soon offer our “Taste of Bella’s” menu, which features some of Bella Pepper’s most popular selections. We will have the Italian Fried Chicken with grilled new potatoes and green beans. And, of course, it will be offered with our Italian salad and famous Sweet Italian Vinaigrette dressing.
4. Chopped BBQ Beef Sandwich
Cedar Hill, TX, circa 1979, every gas station in rural Texas seemed to have a smoker out front and served excellent BBQ beef – my first encounter with this. You would order a sandwich of chopped BBQ beef, and they would ask if you wanted pickle relish, hot peppers or hot sauce. “Yes to all,” was the answer!
5. Baked Brie with Lemon Roasted Garlic
This is the best hors d’oeuvre I have ever prepared, smelled, tasted, served, you name it. We serve this occasionally with Red Onion’s “Custom Catering.” It’s fairly simple to prepare – pan roast whole garlic cloves in chicken stock and lemon, cut off the Brie rind and arrange on a rimmed bowl or plate. Pour the hot garlic/stock over the Brie and heat in the oven until slightly melted. It is best served with baguette and grapes, and it will be the highlight of the party!