I’ve never been a food snob, but I’ve always appreciated good food. Now that dining out usually includes two very different little diners in tow, the variety of places we eat out has definitely changed. With Henry and Isabelle, I know they’ll eat well at certain restaurants. For example, we’re always safe with Japanese food, more often than not we can handle Italian, even though only one of the two will eat pizza. One can go to fancier restaurants because she’s likely to try new things and will be well behaved, the other is better off left at home if we’re dining out late or in a more “grown up” environment. So, if we’re all going out for dinner there’s a good chance that we’re looking for somewhere low key, where service is good, and I want to food to be good too.
I’m not a fan of the big chains, and some of the smaller local chains are less than fabulous. At the risk of spending good money at a less than stellar establishment, we default by picking up food at the nearest Whole Foods, or searching on the phone for the nearest Japanese restaurant. This past week, I was invited to join some fellow bloggers at Joe’s American Bar and Grill. I have to admit I hesitated, but was looking forward to checking in with my fellow bloggers and hearing about their adventures at BlogHer. As for the food, I was expecting a glorified food service menu like so many “family friendly” restaurants offer. What I got was a pleasant surprise.
When I go to the latest gastropub, or hot little restaurant in Cambridge, I expect to hear about who grew the greens, which local farmer supplied the pig for the bacon, and that the organic baby vegetables were pickled in house. I don’t find it pretentious, or just an act, and I expect such a kitchen to know where their food is coming from.
When I go to a larger chain, with a greater distance between the person who orders the food for the kitchen and the chef who cooks it up, I cringe at the use of buzzwords “locally sourced”, “made in house” when local might = the US somewhere and “made in house” refers to more like assembled in the kitchen but arrived pre-packaged from somewhere else.
When you dine at Joe’s American Bar and Grill they’re not setting the same stage or putting on the same show as the open kitchen, ten to twelve table restaurant, in a small up and coming neighborhood. They’re going to hand you your menu, bring out bread for the table, answer any questions about the menu, and take your order. It turns out, though, that Joe’s may not know the farmer, but they are getting their fish, meat and vegetables unprocessed, delivered fresh, pickled in house, broccoli cut in the kitchen and steamed up for the kids. There is no microwave in the kitchen and the only freezer space is there to keep the ice cream frozen for their desserts.
The combination of the fact that the food is freshly prepared in the kitchen by a chef, and that the people behind Joe’s American Bar and Grill were an eccentric family of sorts just running a handful or two of good restaurants makes me want to seek it out when I’m in the neighborhood. My one complaint would be that the drinks were okay but not great…but then again, when it comes to drinks…I am a total snob.
And now for a little gratuitous food porn.