‘Instant Karma’s gonna get you’


Kurt Montgomery/The Chart

Server and bartender, Jake Cornett, serves up “K.C. Thunder Clouds” at Instant Karma on November 6, 2013

If you think the phrase “gourmet hot dogs” sounds like a contradiction, I can’t say I would argue with you. Aren’t hot dogs a cheap concession stand staple? Aren’t they the thing you throw on a stick when camping? Does anyone even know what they’re made of?  

That being said, Joplin’s own Instant Karma Gourmet Hot Dogs is throwing all of those assumptions out the window. The downtown restaurant is reinventing the hotdog with their creative toppings, quality, local ingredients, and even vegan options.  In 2011, they were awarded Editor’s Pick for Best Hot Dogs by 417 Magazine.

Instant Karma, located at 527 Main, has a casual, artistic style with local artwork displayed on every wall. The historic downtown location and regular live performances give it a hip nuance. There’s a certain sense of whimsical humor that occupies the restaurant as well—as if the owner’s themselves find it ironic that they have a “gourment hot dog” place.  

It was opened in 2010 by Jason and Suzanne Miller.

“My husband lived in New York for awhile and they have a lot of hotdog restaurants there, and I think that’s what really gave him the idea,” said Suzanne.

A couple of favorite options on the menu include “The Turning Japanese” dog, which is bacon-wrapped and topped with teriyaki grilled pineapple and green onions, and “The Kitchen Sink,” which is piled high with, well, everything but the kitchen sink.

Instant Karma has an extensive menu that stretches beyond hot dogs. In fact, some items on the menu are downright experimental. Jim Gaffigan has a joke where he imagines a ham sandwich with two glazed donuts instead of buns. At Instant Karma, it’s a reality except pushed a bit further: The Paradise Donut Burger. Don’t have a sweet tooth? Swap out those donuts for two grilled cheese sandwiches and you have The Grilled Cheese Burger. Some other Karma-exclusive oddities include the Chili-Dog Corn Dog, the French Toast burger and a variety of options using duck meat.

“We really just do whatever we want,” said Suzanne. “Everyone who works here is pretty fun, and we give them freedom to try new things and they like to name stuff fun names.”

For those with a taste for international cuisine, Instant Karma offers “The Sushichanga” (giant sushi roll), Bangers and Mash and Vegan Thai Curry Pot Pie, to name a few.

If you think hot dogs and beer make a good pair, the Millers agree with you. Instant Karma’s bar has a beer menu of over 50 varieties, both domestic and micro, many of them from Missouri breweries. They will soon be carrying Piney River’s winter brew “Hot Date.” The brewery is located near St. Louis, and “Hot Date” was actually brewed for the very first time at Instant Karma’s Valentine’s Day dinner last year.

The name Instant Karma came from Jason’s father who is named Karma.  The Miller’s also have a son with the same name.

If you need  a quick appetizer, a huge, hearty meal, or just a place to have a few drinks, Instant Karma has endless options to choose from.  

Plus there’s a bonus: college students get a 10 percent discount.