Looking for a unique place to eat near Joplin, Mo? How about the Undercliff Bar and Grill?
At the joining of two country roads lies a bridge that marks a ford. When the land was owned by James William “Bill” Tipton in the mid-1800s, it was the only area between the towns of Joplin and Neosho where the Shoal Creek was low enough to cross. A small farming community grew up in the area and was called, naturally enough, Tipton’s Ford. Well, when these folks were low on supplies, they could travel to either Neosho (about ten miles away) or Joplin (roughly twelve miles away). Now remember, this is in the day of the horse and wagon. Twelve miles was easily a day-long trip if you had horses, and likely to be a two-day trip if you had oxen. A young man by the name of Ab McConnell suggested a store at Tipton’s Ford, went around to all the neighbors, and wasn’t long in raising the money to build it.
From the early 1900s to today, the location has housed a general store, a cafe, a smokehouse and a grocery store. It’s borne the names “Heckmaster’s Mercantile,” “Frank and Bonnie’s” (which I understand had the best fried chicken around) and “Tipton Ford Cafe.” The original building (which was the first in town with modern indoor plumbing) burned down in the 1980s and has at times sat vacant, waiting for new owners, new enterprises.
Today, it’s a grand place for good food, eye-catching curios and friendly conversation – much like any good small-town bar and grill, but for the rocky wall that is the rear of the building. It’s fenced off, but still close enough to reach out and run your hand over the rough-edged stone that gives the place its current name.
The staff is knowledgeable and full of helpful suggestions – though they’re no longer impressed by the remarkable location – and the food portions are generous; do try their “Build-a-Nacho,” but be prepared to share it with someone!
Undercliff Grill and Bar
6385 Old Highway 71, Joplin MO
Wednesday to Friday, 11-9; Saturday 9-9; Sunday 9-3