Tonight, instead of working on the house, we went out to eat. Thank goodness, I can’t move my arms and really need time to get back to normal. We have been eating out so much lately that it is really hard to choose a place, but we finally settled on one of our favorites, the Undercliff. This place is a really unique restaurant built into the space underneath a cliff in the rocky areas near Shoal Creek south of Joplin, Missouri. The current owners opened the restaurant in the 1990’s after it had sat empty for nearly fifteen years. Prior to that, most folks remember it as Bonnie and Frank’s or Tipton Ford Restaurant, which opened in the 1960’s and finally burned down in 1981.
Bonnie and Frank’s, taking up residence in the former Undercliff Store, circa 1928, was locally famous for their crispy fried chicken. My parents couldn’t afford to take us kids out to eat very often, but when they did it was to Bonnie and Frank’s, or Tipton Ford as we knew it. I can remember everyone in dad’s family crowding around a long table set up just for us. We would be surrounded on three sides by the walls of “the cave”, and my little brother and I thought it was absolutely the coolest place to eat dinner. If any of the kids in our neighborhood had dinner there, it was THE topic of discussion the following day, before any kind of games got under way.
Tonight, I looked over from our table by the wall towards the center of the room. I could imagine sitting right there, at a checkered cloth covered table, watching my mom pour water into my glass from the huge green glass bottle with the silver metal flip lid. My brother and I always ordered the same thing – fried chicken leg, french fries, and a hot roll. After waiting for an ETERNITY we would finally get our food, and it was so very hot that we couldn’t eat it right away. Finally we couldn’t wait any longer and we would timidly take a bite out of that big ‘ole chicken leg. And I’m not talking about a puny, four inch long thing like they serve in restaurants today. Bonnie’s chicken legs were HUGE and would easily fill up the stomach of this six year old little girl. After awhile, the infamous Bonnie and Frank would stroll through the restaurant, stopping at each table to visit with the families and making sure their meals were worth eating. My brother and I could do nothing more than nod enthusiastically, being in awe of the lady who cooked that magical fried chicken.
Today, the Undercliff is a bar and grill, serving really tasty burgers, sandwiches, fries, and a wide assortment of other good meals. Along the back and sides of the main area are the same “cave” walls that I remember. But the checkered table cloths are no longer there, nor are the green glass water bottles. And you won’t find fried chicken on the menu, but I’m glad they don’t try to replicate Bonnie’s famous chicken. Nobody could EVER do it justice.
After supper, we decided to head over to Richardson’s Candy House, where another famous Joplin icon makes its home. Anderson’s Ice Cream was originally located on south Main street, but closed several years ago. I don’t remember going there as a kid, but my husband was apparently a frequent visitor. I took our daughter to Anderson’s once a week, right after school, until she got too big to go for ice cream. It was a treat for both of us, walking into the quaint little shop and breathing in the luscious smells of freshly made waffle cones and ice creams. It was a sad day for many Joplin folks when the owners decided to close their doors forever.
Just a couple of years ago, a new shop opened in Richardson’s Candy House on 86 highway south of Joplin. There aren’t as many flavor choices, but I can always find a good one. Tonight, my choice was Chocolate Lovers’ Chocolate. We took our ice creams and went out onto the cute little patio to sit down. A family – great-grandma, grandparents, dad, and little girl – was enjoying their ice creams. I couldn’t help watching the cute blondie with the green ice cream, drips on her chubby chin and arms, oblivious to everyone around her but her daddy. There’s something special about your daddy taking you for ice cream.
We enjoyed our little diversion tonight. Tomorrow, back to the ceiling.