Joe’s Place

PB & J cupcakes for dessert at Joe's Place

PB & J cupcakes for dessert at Joe's Place

I’m a new convert to Joe’s place. Set in a strip mall next to Big Lots, this formerly dead piece of property has become an avenue of sorts for the urbaness rock/hip culture of today’s youth. The outside store sign is strangely reminiscence of a tiki hut Polynesian vibe whereas upon entering, you are greeted by what could only be described as a hybrid urban outfitters/ mum and pop cottage/barnes & nobles hosh-posh of eclectic fixtures and nick-knacks. We’re talking multiple different types of spunky clocks playing against the wall, a small little bookshelf dedicated to urban outfitter type trinkets for sale such as magical 8 balls, Joe t-shirts, and other paraphernalia brought back from the dead of the 1970’s, plus various other items lining the walls.

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xmas trees, pianos, rocking chairs, and books to read!

xmas trees, pianos, rocking chairs, and books to read!

Small attention to detail like these is what make Joe's unique

Small attention to detail like these is what make Joe's unique

Joe’s place is surprisingly large, a deceptive view from the outside, but with 2 rooms (one of which is available for meetings), it allows for dozens and dozens of patrons to sit down and relax on the multitude of regular dining chairs and tables, or if you wish, to sit within the lounge area with comfy sofas, rocking chairs, and even an adjacent piano and fireplace. Available right over is a large shelve with all different types of books for you to peruse at your pleasure, or feel free to bring your laptop while sucking down an enjoyable starbuckesque type beverage with their free wi-fi connection.

Specials and deals are found on the black chalkboard above

Specials and deals are found on the black chalkboard above

Once you’ve finished sightseeing over the entire place, which there is plenty to look at, and also at the same time wondering to yourself how such a room so mix-matched and completely unresolved of any true style of decor could ever look so intimate and attractive, please feel free to step up to the deli style counter where you are greeted by a friendly cashier.

Click the menu for a better view

Click the menu for a better view

First question he asks ” hi guys, so is this your first time here?” with a friendliness that seems genuine and unforced, something that belies the rock look he has with tattoos on his arms as proof. He directs to a well-made sheet of paper while guiding you to the proper way to order an any-way-you-like-it sandwich from their establishment. Simply put, choose the bread (out of the several choices they have), toasted, untoasted, or panini toasted is your next question, followed by the type of condiments they have, the types of cheese you prefer, then continuing with your choice of the various types of meats they offer, then up to five out of the dozen or so vegetables and greens they have, lastly by your choice of home-made potato salad or coleslaw (the potato salad is delicious, thick and teaming with potato, black olives and the other ingredients. It offers itself as a very nice side dish to any complement sandwich). The base price of the whole sandwich plus the side dish is $6.50.

Matt's roast beef au jus special w/ cranberry sauce ($6.50)

Matt's roast beef au jus special w/ cranberry sauce ($6.50)

The true winner of their shop however is the plethora of suggestions the workers have to offer. This time around, the co-owner matt suggested a hot roast beef au jus style sandwich, which sounded just right for me. A French style roll panini pressed with warn roast beef au jus, two styles of melting cheese, plus a thin layer of cranberry sauce came in this approximately 5 by 5 inch sandwich. My first observation upon tasting the sandwich is they did good job in making the roast beef, still nice and tender, with still a hint of the flowing au jus juice within the meat. The panini press had done its job in toasting the bun, plus also offering a very well made out and enticing presentation. A good amount of cheese went into this sandwich, particularly good for a cheese lover like me, and it complemented the meaty aroma of the roast beef quite well. The piece de resistance of this sandwich is the layer of cranberry sauce in-between the meat and the bread. I’ve never had it quite like this before, and I have to say, it made the sandwich oh so good. The cranberry offered a tangy sweet hint of flavor, that though would seem unusual company for roast beef au jus, rather offered a different dimension to this otherwise normal dish. And so kudos to matt for being able to come up with something as creative and tasty as this dish.

Kristen's Sandwich

Kristen's Sandwich

My two other friends who also accompanied me ordered off the menu, one order the Kristen’s sandwich, a vegetarian’s delight, which included allot of very fresh and crisp vegetables. She elicited this 3 out of 5 stars, her only complaint that prevented it from being 4 stars being that the ciabatta bread it came on should of been toasted (something easily fixable if she had asked before hand), though perhaps with this sandwich, the cashier should of offered it as an option while ordering.

Another friend ordered the half and half, a half and sandwich of your choice plus soup of the day, which today was tortilla soup. We each got to try a small sample before hand, generously offered by matt when we came in, and indeed the soup was very fresh and flavorful, indicative of its homemade origins. The soup base was robust and powerful, complementing the beans and other ingredients mixed into the soup. Easily comparable to the well made tortilla soup available at the island’s burger chain stores.

Meatball sandwich

Meatball sandwich

For her half a sandwich, she chose to make her own, going for the meatballs with alfalfa sprouts. The sandwich was decent, the meatballs being tender and somewhat juicy. What lacked in this dish were the powerful flavors in the meatball. Though the meatballs had good flavor to it, personally for me I would of preferred this type of Italian meat to have more spices that would offer it a stronger zest flavor that would truly distinguish it from other meats. Overall, this meatball dish would have satisfied any person it served, but also it has room for improvement.

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Even these guys participate in the ribbon decorations!

Even these guys participate in the ribbon decorations!

Oh by the by, besides serving espresso, cappuccino and other hot items from their beverage selection, they also offer mini and regular cupcakes that make for an excellent dessert. While asking to buy some mini cupcakes, which cost a dollar a piece, Joe the owner of the store, offered us each a regular cupcake ($2.00) for free, it being their way of promoting these neat little suckas. Each regular cupcake came in a clear plastic box, with a colorful decorative bow and sticker to add to the overall presentation of the cupcake, easily presentable at a little kid’s birthday party. They had three or four different selections at that time; we all chose the different ones to share. Peanut butter & jelly cupcake, pumpkin, and French vanilla. I tried all of them and had varying views of them, but for the most part consider all them in a positive light. I was hesitant to try the PB& J at first, after all, who has peanut butter and jelly on a cupcake?!?! To my surprise, it really did taste like PB & J, and though odd at first, was quite enjoyable once my brain acclimated to this perverse coupling of foods. The pumpkin cupcake was by far the best. It just simply taste good. The French vanilla cupcake was moist and light, however the addition of the chocolate mousse icing on top seems to be this cupcakes failing. It just did not taste good on the vanilla cupcake base. In my opinion, this French vanilla cupcake would have been tops with the replacement of the chocolate mouse with say vanilla icing instead. Oh, and I would be a very happy person if they were able to offer a truly great red velvet cupcake. Every since doughboy’s disappeared, there has been a void in good red velvet cakes…. (But the disappearance of doughboys is another story for another time.)

Regular sized cupcakes $2.00

Regular sized cupcakes $2.00

Overall, Joe’s place is an exemplary place for anyone wishing for a different experience. No more mass-produced starbucks places, but rather a homey cottage like establishments where the people call you by first name, as if you were friends. These people are the new cultural and social entrepreneurs of the culinary world, and it is my hope that they continue to be creative and innovative with their sandwiches and other foods. Only by continuing to try new and different recipes, usurping the culinary norm and playing with new and different ingredients, can food really evolve. Next time you visit Joe’s, be sure to tell them to create you something special. You may be in for a surprise.

4 outta 5

Joe’s Place
1340 E Huntington Dr
Duarte, CA 91009

(626) 357-5637
http://www.eatatjoesplace.com

http://www.yelp.com/biz/joes-place-duarte

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