Wally Kennedy: 6 Joplin restaurants to be featured in 'Best Bite in Town'

Mar. 29—What would you think if this were to happen to you?

You have operated a successful food truck on the island of Maui. You decide in early 2023 to open a Hawaiian-style restaurant on Main Street in downtown Joplin. Six months later, your restaurant is among six in Joplin to be chosen for national exposure on the Food Network.

This is what happened to Daniel Campbell, owner of the Hungry Monkey Island Style Eats, 905 S. Main St. His reaction: "It's totally wild."

Said Campbell: "I know many chefs and restaurant owners that have tried so hard to get on any of these shows ... especially back home in Hawaii. It's crazy that this happened six months after I opened here. It's pretty special."

When Campbell told me last August that Guy Fieri, of "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives" fame, was producing a new program that would feature the Hungry Monkey and five other Joplin restaurants, I thought he was pulling my leg.

My reaction: "You've got to be kidding." Sure enough, it's happening.

Fieri is the executive producer of "Best Bite in Town," a new program that premieres April 12 on the Food Network. The episode featuring Joplin will air at 8 p.m. Friday, April 19.

In each episode, host Noah Cappe and two guest chefs visit six of the most popular spots in a community that has been selected by Fieri. They nominate three exceptional dishes to present to a panel of judges to determine the Best Bite in Town. In the Joplin episode, the judges also visit Big R's BBQ, Finn's, Ghetto Tacos, Han the Sushi Man and Blackstone Gastropub.

When Han Hein, owner of Han the Sushi Man, 2640 E. 32nd St., was first contacted by the producers of the show via email, he thought he was being pranked.

"After we determined it was legit, we did a phone interview and a video of myself," Hein said. "This is national exposure. Will we get some business from this? We'll see."

Campbell, who is planning a watch party at the restaurant the night the episode airs, said, "I think anything Guy Fieri or the Food Network touches is a huge opportunity for a restaurant or a brand. It's cool for Joplin's community to be a part of it. And also, any visitors or vacationers passing through are more apt to find you. I'm excited to see just what impact it will actually make for all of the restaurants and chefs featured."

Cappe, in a statement about the show earlier this month, said, "This series is a whole new ride with every episode culminating in a flavor-packed showdown highlighting the epic eats that these communities are serving up. It's more than just finding the best bite in town; it's about celebrating the heart and flavor of each community."

Other communities to be featured in the program are Tulsa, Oklahoma; Paducah, Kentucky; Davis and Placerville in California; and Clarksville, Tennessee. Fans can get a sneak peek at the restaurants featured on "Best Bite in Town" by checking out the Food Network's social media pages before every episode.

All of the restaurants on the program have at one time or another been a featured subject of this column. Regardless of who wins the competition, they are all good representatives of "the heart and flavor" of this community. But as a lifetime resident of Joplin, I can't help but chuckle about this. I can remember when there was only one Mexican restaurant in town, Casa Montez; when there was only one Chinese restaurant in town, Henry's Fine Foods; and when there was only one seafood restaurant in town, Gladys' Heidelberg Inn.

And now, here we are watching six local restaurants and our food community get some national exposure. Boy, have we evolved. It is totally wild.

ArtWalk on tap

The April ArtWalk will take place from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Thursday at several venues in downtown Joplin where some receptions are planned for the artists.

In the lobby of the Harry M. Cornell Arts & Entertainment Complex, 212 W. Seventh St., will be ArtWalk artists Rachel Cabral and Diane Simonds. In the Spiva Center for the Arts will be PhotoSpiva 2024, PhotoSpiva Kids & Teens, and Emerging Expressions, a high school student art show.

Joplin Avenue Coffee Co., 506 S. Joplin Ave., will present the paintings of Tammy Brown. The artisan market will feature Shawn Riley, Ashley Williams, Jared Cox, Carol Chitwood, Erica Evans and Garret Gabriel. Music will be by Dwayne Smith.

The Urban Art Gallery, 511 S. Main St., will showcase native American artist Lee Bocock. Photography by Linda Teeter and mixed-media works by Stacy Heydt also will be featured. Music will be by Tough Luck Chuck.

The mixed-media works of Amber Mintert will be featured at 530 Somewhere, 530 S. Main St., and Club 609, 609 S. Main St., will feature the paintings of Justin Kidston, an award-winning artist.

Contact Wally Kennedy at wkennedy@joplinglobe.com.