By Bernie Whitmore
291 Turnpike Road (Route 9), Westborough
Phone: (508) 986-2350
Let’s start by granting NYAvaJoe’s bonus points for such creative naming. The downside of this is, obviously, the abbreviation I’ve chosen. True, the standard ‘find and replace’ function to fix it, but why waste all those words when they should be used to describe such a neat place to dine?
One step in the door and we were struck by the décor ~ a fusion of retro-60s geometric shapes updated in pumpkiny, earth tones and sparked by a touch of post-industrial metalwork. On this Tuesday evening, oblivious to all the recessionary doom and gloom, Joe’s lounge was crowded with people daring to have a good time.
Very soon it became obvious that Joe’s is obsessed (happily so!) with the basics of hospitality: food, drink and service at fair prices. When Nayhara, our waitress, heard that this was our first visit, she made it her personal goal to convert us into regular customers. On our table was a cone-shaped wire bread basket filled with chunks of focaccia and a plate of grated parmesan, garlic and red pepper flakes. Nayhara added olive oil and stirred ‘til it became a slurry ~ perfect for dipping the chewy bread. The deal was sealed…I’d go back just for the focaccia!
Careful to maintain our appetites, we refused a second basket of bread and went on to our appetizer, Joe’s Forno Baked Chicken Quesadilla. Ideal for sharing, this one was cut into four large triangles drizzled with chipotle sour cream. Crammed with pieces of tender white chicken, strips of sweet red pepper and melted pepper jack cheese, what really set it apart in flavor and texture was the chef’s fresh pineapple-jalapeno salsa ~ crunchy-sweet with just a bit of fire! I matched it with a glass of Hop Hound Amber Wheat Ale.
When my friend ordered Sirloin Tips for his entrée my first thought was, ugggh, not that soggy, gravy-drenched affair that seems to shows up on all-you-can-eat buffet lines…But something was different here. Nayhara asked how he wanted them prepared. Rare? Twelve or sixteen-ounce portion? Ah, Joe’s has stripped away all the mushroom gravy stuff ~ these were “honest” ends of sirloin steaks grilled for rich char flavor and served over garlic smashed potatoes.
The menu, as if to dare me, billed their Mustard-Crusted Chicken as “our claim to fame.” I took the bait and made it my entrée. The mild flavor of two boneless chicken breasts was barely accented by, I daresay, a quick dip in mustard marinade. A coating of panko crumbs formed a crusty shell when pan-fried deep golden brown, locking in juiciness and flavor. Solid, honest cuisine served with more of those smashed potatoes and crunchy sautéed green beans.
We finished our meal with a slice of Black Satin ~ three layers of moist chocolate cake encased in dense fudgy frosting. It was served with a dollop of fresh whipped cream so thick we initially mistook it for ice cream ~ way above average by any standard.
In concept, Not Your Average Joe’s seems a union of several traditions. Its cuisine takes home hooking a step beyond with creative flourishes. The casual format borrows from many national chains but adds a sophisticated bar scene and seems, let’s hope, to shun those annoying birthday parades. And all this comes with service that is warm and genuine. Find out about the rest of the menu and their other locations at their above-average website.