Rural Missouri - March 2017 - 14
. . . famous for
by Heather Berry | email@example.com
he city block it's on is fairly nondescript. A neon blade sign
hanging off one brick building quickly carries you back to a
time when the street may have seen more action. The building dates back to Prohibition, when gambling and other
more, shall we say "less wholesome," entertainment opportunities
were common in Joplin.
"Wilder's h as been here since 1929, so it's got quite a history,"
says Marsha Pawlus. She and her husband, Mike, owned The Kitchen Pass eatery next to Wilder's 18 years before purchasing Wilder's in
1996. They're the third owners in the 88-year history of the eatery.
Marsha recalls one patron telling her that she "wouldn't have had
shoes on her feet if Vern Wilder hadn't bought wild game from her dad."
"Vern would buy wild game during the war and serve it in the restaurant because he couldn't get beef," says Marsha. "It was probably illegal to
do that, but he also had illegal game playing, ran bootleg liquor sales and
had a bordello going on at the same time."
While the years have rolled on, the speakeasy feel of the place still lingers,
mainly due to the owners' attention to keeping as much historical ambience in
the décor as possible.
"We removed two drop ceilings so people can see the original pressed tin ceiling," says Marsha, also noting the beautiful art deco mahogany bar which runs a
good length of the restaurant. "We also keep the neon blade sign in good repair."
Another iconic neon Wilder's sign on the rooftop awaits historic restoration.
"That sign is what drew people in from Route 66 to Wilder's. It lit up the sky," says
Marsha. "It's a great piece of history."
While the menu has changed over the years from breakfasts, burgers and buffets,
the couple has turned Wilder's Steakhouse into the perfect destination for business
dinners, evenings out with a group of friends or a place to celebrate special occasions.
Wilder's original motto of being "Famous for good things to eat and drink" still holds
true today. The Pawluses carry on that tradition with steaks so tender you can practically cut with a fork, and a wide variety of fresh seafood dishes. "We're also known
for our single malt scotch, small-batch bourbons and great martinis," Marsha adds.
Those starting dinner with drinks will want to order one of the dozen starters
offered on Wilder's menu. Fresh bruschetta served with focaccia points, breaded
crabcakes served with a classic remoulade and crab-filled crimini mushrooms are
delicious options. Seafood fans might want to opt for the classic shrimp cocktail,
with four jumbo shrimp served with fresh lemon and lime wedges and a cilantro-lime cocktail sauce, sushi tuna which has been blackened and seared
rare and served with wasabi, pickled ginger, chili aioli and soy sauce
or extra-large sea scallops roasted in a red-pepper cream sauce.
And these, we remind you, are only the appetizers. Wait until you
try the rest of what the menu offers.
Meals are served a la carte, so you can order exactly what you'd
prefer with your entree. Salad fans have outstanding options,
such as the Wilder's Wedge with its iceberg lettuce, English blue
cheese crumbles, housemade blue cheese dressing, smoked
bacon and fresh tomatoes sprinkled on top. Another favorite is the Brussels sprout salad made of shaved Brussels
sprouts, red onion, toasted almonds, Parmesan cheese
and finished with a brown-butter vinaigrette. Another
unique salad option is the grilled romaine, which is a
chargrilled wedge of romaine lettuce served with a classic
Caesar dressing and a blend of cheeses.
Now, the difficult choice - choosing one of the Wilder's
20 entrees. For those who just aren't in the mood for steak
but still desire a delicious meal, try an offering such as
the chicken picatta, pan-fried with butter, capers, white
wine and lemon and served on a bed of fresh spinach and
housemade pasta. Or maybe the thick, house-smoked pork
chop, grilled and served with a dried-fruit compote and red
pepper glaze with garlic mashed potatoes would be in order.
Seafood fans can enjoy the menu offerings of North Atlantic Salmon, South
American Lobster Tail, Chilean Sea Bass and Alaskan King Crab.
Steak lovers have at least 10 options and they're all amazing. Wilder's prides
itself on using hormone- and antibiotic-free, vegetarian-fed beef for their steaks.
Twelve-ounce rib-eyes are well-marbled, and beef tenderloin filets are handcut
from the center of the tenderloin and served in 6-, 8- and 10-ounce cuts, chargrilled to perfection. Prefer a larger cut? Just ask; they've got you covered.
Marsha says her favorite entree is the DuPont, named after her father, with
Wilder's original blade sign in front of the eatery still lights up in neon each night
for those passing through Joplin's historic district of Joplin.