Optimistically Cautious

Saturday, November 03, 2007

"Glorified bar food": Original Joe's

After work on a hungry Friday, Dickson and I hit one of the restaurants still on my "to try" list in the High Street area. Original Joe's (12520 102 Avenue) looked more plain and less hip than my nearby favorite Urban Diner, but I was still interested to see how this restaurant/bar had sustained itself for so many years.

We arrived at around 7pm, and found the place packed. It had been renovated over the summer, but as this was my first time here, I was unable to discern the changes. The dining area, framed by high wooden beams and aged brick, was anchored by a bar along one side, and supplemented by a pool table in the corner and television screens. It genuinely had the feel of a recreation room or basement of a good friend (reminding me of an adult version of Red Robin's), and with the buzz created by what was undoubtedly for many parties a TGIF celebration, the lofty emotions of an impending weekend were contagious.

The very friendly and efficient host indicated that we would be seated shortly. While we waited, I scanned a 2001 Edmonton Journal review of Original Joe's, written by Scott McKeen likely years before he was given his own editorial column in the paper. While he did use the phrase "glorified bar food" in the article, it was nonetheless a favourable review, if not only for the prices. Back then, a burger cost $6.95, while their signature hot dog plate was $5.95. Oh how things have changed.

After we were seated (at what turned out to be quite a cramped dining space), we perused our options. While I wouldn't dispute McKeen's description of the menu choices, Original Joe's doesn't pretend to be anything more than a casual place to grab a drink and a bite with friends. As well, I was delighted to see that their sandwiches and burger entrees came with not one, but two sides. Dickson ended up with an order of the Hamburger (now $10.99, cheese and mushrooms extra), and I decided upon the Double Dog (now $9.99).

The food understandably took a little longer than expected, but when our plates did arrive, we were pleased with the portion sizes. Dickson commented that his burger was nothing special, but did quite enjoy the mashed potatoes (the sweet potato fries looked better than they tasted - too salty for his liking). My Double Dog came garnished with sauteed onions and fresh tomatoes, but in the end, the flayed European wieners weren't all that satisfying. I would have much preferred the chargrilled Fat Frank at Urban Diner.

With good service, a festive atmosphere, and an unpretentious menu, Original Joe's would work well as the venue for an after work get together or a catch up meal with friends.

Double Dog with French Fries and Caesar Salad sides

Hamburger with Mashed Potatoes and Sweet Potato Fries

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