About redonionrestaurants

My wife Cindy and I own and operate the Red Onion Restaurants in the midwest.

Oktoberfest 2011

Joplin’s 1st Annual Oktoberfest is happening this Saturday, October 22, 2011 in downtown Joplin, MO on Main Street. Red Onion Cafe will be there with our own version of “street food:” ROC Cheeseburgers, our BBQ Texas Chicken Sandwich, the famous Smoked Chicken Dip, Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars and Sweet Tea. This is a family event, so bring the kids, too!

I’ve always been enthralled by the temporary food venders that set up at fairs, carnivals, races or any outdoor gathering. I spent my formative years in the 70’s in Detroit, and every summer they hosted an “Ethnic Festival” down on the waterfront. I can still remember the great smells and selections of different foods, all manner of traditions and multiple countries represented.

The family favorite at this festival were the Greek selections. We always headed straight for the vendor with grilled steak-stuffed pita bread with cucumber sauce & sliced tomatoes. My mouth is watering just thinking about it! And it didn’t take long to find their stand – follow the smell of grilled steak cooking on the outdoor grill. My mom used to make these gyros during the off-season of the ethnic festivals, and her’s were just as good. Maybe that’s the taste I remember…?

I guess my fascination for the vending aspect of the restaurant business started those many years ago at the Detroit waterfront. It has made me wonder why we love dining al fresco so much. Perhaps its the smell of the food on an outdoor grill, the smoke, the colorful displays. Whatever the reason, it is an experience that every man, woman and child should have at least once in their lives.

Red Onion Cafe will be doing some of their own street vending on Saturday to support our great downtown area, to offer a great time outside and to indulge me in that childhood memory of vending! Hope to see you there – we serve from 11 am to 8 pm. (Sorry…no stuffed pita this time…)

Dave’s Top 5 Favorites

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!

Pumpkin Creme Brûlée

September 23, 2011 – the first day of fall. There are so many delicious foods that come to mind as the fall weather arrives. And one of my favorite fall flavors is pumpkin. I’ve asked our newest team member, Chef Jason Wike, to give us a demonstration of how to make his Pumpkin Creme Brûlée. We’re serving it right now at Red Onion Espressoria, and this is a MUST TRY. Please click on the link below for Jason’s demonstration, and I’ve included the recipe below. Let me know how yours turns out!


Pumpkin Creme Brûlée

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees, no convection


1 1/2 cup Heavy Whipping Cream

1/2 tsp Vanilla Extract

5 large egg yolks

6 TBS Sugar

1 TBS Ground Nutmeg

1/2 cup Pumpkin puree

2 oz. Orange-flavored syrup

1/2 tsp Cinnamon

Add the vanilla extract into the heavy whipping cream, and bring to a boil. Then, cool for 20 minutes and stir. In a separate bowl, combine the egg yolks, sugar and nutmeg. Wisk together until a ribbon occurs. Add in pumpkin puree, orange-flavored syrup and cinnamon. Wisk these ingredients together thoroughly. Next, slowly add in your vanilla & whipping cream combination, stirring as you add. Pour your batter into a measuring cup to allow easy pouring into your brûlée cups. Fill the brûlée cups 3/4 to almost full. Place in baking dish and add water until it is 1/2 up the sides of the brûlée cups. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes, no convection. The outside should be firm and the inside shaky when done. Coat the top of the dessert with sugar, make sure to get the sugar all the way to the sides. Shake off the excess sugar, then carefully caramelize the sugar with a propane torch. Enjoy!

Summer Grilling Do’s & Don’ts

 Interacting with our guests has always been one of the most enjoyable parts of my time here at Red Onion Restaurants. My hope is that this blog will give us a chance to share our cooking ideas and experiences and give you an inside look at the world of Red Onion Restaurants. Please join the conversation and post your comments below. Welcome!

Summer is still here (just ask the 90+ degree forecast), and grilling is one of my summertime favorites. Here are some of my do’s and don’ts of the grill. Remember, safety is number one. Burns don’t make anyone’s day better…


1. Keep the grill clean & oiled – scrub the hot grill with a long-handled grill brush to remove any build up. Oil the grill with a paper towel and a small amount of vegetable oil or spray. Rub the cooking surface to remove the black soot and to keep the food from sticking. Hold the paper towel with long tongs to keep from burning yourself.

2. Oil the food, too – Toss a small amount of oil on vegetables or rub it on meat to help seasoning adhere to the surface and keep it from sticking to the grill.

3. Handle raw meat with separate serving utensils and platters. Wash anything that has touched the raw meat, like cutting boards, counters, utensils, etc.

4. Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds (as long as it takes to sing “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star”) with hot, soapy water. This prevents the spread of bacteria.

5. Season the meat, fish or vegetables you’re cooking liberally before cooking. Combined with the oil, it will ensure the food is flavorful and make you look like a grilling genius.


1. Use the oil very sparingly so we don’t have flare ups from the oil dripping. If there is a flare up, move the food to a different part of the grill.

2. Cook only when the grill is hot. The food will stick and not get the color you desire if the temperature is too low.

3. BUT, be careful not to over cook. Don’t forget, food continues to cook even after you remove it from the heat source. (Timing is everything!)

4. It takes longer to cook if it is cold or windy – if you can, position the grill in a place where the wind is blocked.

5. Don’t be afraid to grill anything and everything – any type of meat, any vegetables, even fruits. Make the grill work for you, not the other way around!

There’s just one month left of summer, so get out there and get grilling! Keep me posted on the new recipes you come up with!