By Bernie Whitmore
An eternity of April drizzle and sleet had shivered away my last stirrings of spring fever. But after stepping into Joey’s Bar & Grill, the gloom started to lift; the dining room’s warm sunset hues and subdued tropical motifs were a relief on this bleak April night. The bar’s flat-screens were tuned to a Red Sox game, too ~ a promise of better days ahead.
Soon after being seated, my guest and I were greeted by Shana, our waitress. If Joey’s leaves you with an impression of warm friendliness it’s largely a credit to the wait staff; they were attentive and helpful throughout the evening. When Shana took our drink orders I asked about their Long Trail draft beer. In a flash she was back with a sample of this Vermont brew… its amber color and full rich flavor won me over immediately.
Joey’s appetizer menu ranges from the standard Jumbo Shrimp Cocktail to funkier cuisine like Fried Dill Pickles. We shared an order of Fried Oysters, a dish that could go either way ~ but Joey’s got them right, they were fresh, juicy, delicately flavored and served over tangy citrus beurre blanc sauce. Even though the flavor of the sauce was restrained I was thankful they had not drenched such fresh seafood.
If I’m partial to beets, it’s because I’ve seen and tasted what amazing dishes can be made with them by creative chefs. Joey’s chef certainly falls into that category ~ the Roasted Red Beet Salad is a plate-load of field greens tossed with thin strips of carrot, tomato chunks and crumbled goat cheese then drenched in pomegranate vinaigrette. The thin-sliced beets were nestled on top; ruby-red, tender and sweet. A basket of focaccia bread came with herbed oil for dipping, but I found the salad’s vinaigrette much tastier.
There’s enough breadth in Joey’s menu to offer varied dining experiences. In fact, when the climate heats up I might return for fried dill pickles and BBQ baby back ribs or crispy chicken. Or I might even join the crowd on the bar side of the room and enjoy a quick burger and draft. But this evening had called for comfort food, and they had us covered.
My guest’s entrée, New Zealand Lamb Shank, was braised with fresh rosemary ‘til the bones fell away from the meat and was served over a heap of garlic smashed potatoes. Joey’s nailed this classic ~ the spicy meat fell into pieces, perfect for swabbing up savory drippings and potato. This is a dish that requires time and patience and is nothing to be attempted by kitchens too dependant upon deep-fryers and microwave ovens.
With rich cream sauce studded with pieces of lobster meat, my Jumbo Lobster Ravioli entrée shouted, “Comfort!” The full plate of hockey-puck sized pillows were stuffed with lobster cream and served with a scattering of roasted corn that added crunch and rich sweetness.
When Shana presented the dessert tray we immediately spotted the selection made on-site, Chocolate Banana Bread Pudding ~ even the name itself is compelling! Made with hunks of sweet bread and gooey chocolate, the pudding was served warm with whipped cream and tart strawberry slices. In a blur of fancy spoonwork we had quickly demolished it.
There’s a tradition of casual dining at the shore of Coes Pond. Joey’s Bar & Grill is the latest at the Mill Street location and, easily and by far, the best.
Joey’s Bar & Grill
242 Mill Street, Worcester