Joplin community welcomes Kitchen Pass back with open arms and empty stomachs


JOPLIN, Mo.– Five years. That’s how long it’s been since people regularly flooded the doors of the Kitchen Pass to treat themselves to delicacies ranging from steak to cashew chicken to cheesecake.

Bringing people together over great food and good conversation.

“There’s people who have said ‘We met here and now we have a family and we’re grandparents,” Marsha Pawlus explained. “It’s pretty awesome really.”

But, that all changed when owners Mike and Marsha Pawlus decided to take a break from the daily hustle and bustle in 2015.

“It was was really hard after 29 years,” Marsha Pawlus explained. “It was our baby and people took it really hard.”

Opening in 1986, the family spent nearly three decades operating the Kitchen Pass, pouring everything they had into the restaurant.

“It’s always been exhausting but if you don’t love it, don’t do it. We love it, but it just got to be too much.”

Which is when Pawlus and her family had to make one tough decision.

“I’d love to see these customers and friends on a regular basis, but it’s just not feasible for us to keep this restaurant going.”

The Kitchen Pass participates in JOMO Restaurant Week every January, uniting the Joplin community with a cause Pawlus holds close to her heart: food insecurity.

“The quickest way to anybody’s heart is through their stomach. I think you just give what you have a passion for.”

And despite the heartbreak that came with closing, she says that it helps turn the Kitchen Pass’ re-openings into reunions.

“I’ve hugged so many people and have gotten so many hugs in the last three days — it’s wonderful. Just seeing the bright and shining faces I haven’t seen in a year.”

Several years and many lessons learned later, Pawlus says that no matter what may come, the family will always find a way to give back to the community that welcomed them in.

“The community is the one that’s been so great to us when you get down to it,” said Pawlus. “It’s the community that’s supported us for over 30 years in this business. So you have to say ‘thank you’ in whatever way you can.”

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