In the American vernacular, there is no male name which denotes “average” more than Joe. The terms “Average Joe,” “Ordinary Joe” and “Joe Sixpack” are used to convey a completely average, down-to-earth working class male just as Ordinary, Average or Plain Jane are used to describe average women. These terms are used more as general descriptors than they are for anyone in specific. When someone does something extraordinary or special, the expression “no ordinary Joe” is often used.
Joe’s Dining in Santa Fe does its best to define just who Joe is: Joe is everyman. He is you, he is me, he is the guy next door, the gal next door. He is José, Giuseppe, Joseph and all female renditions of the name. Joe is the common thread among us and yet he is one of a kind. He is friendly, unpretentious, straightforward with quietly discriminating tastes. Joe has a robust sense of humor – he loves to laugh, even at himself. He loves good food, good drink and good company.
Joe’s Dining is certainly no ordinary Joe. What sets it apart is a palpable passion for a sustainable, local food supply-food that is wholesome, non-genetically engineered, often “better than organic,” humanely treated and minimally processed and that has been grown with a smaller energy-use footprint and transported short distances. To that end, no restaurant in Santa Fe purchases as much of its product from the Santa Fe Farmers Market than Joe’s. From 2008 to 2010, Joe’s increased such purchases 167 percent–from $30,000 to over $80,000.
Joe’s is the brainchild of owners Roland and Sheila Richter who launched the restaurant in 2002 as a diner with the intent of offering an unpretentious comfortable atmosphere for locals who demand high-quality local food and uncompromising quality of ingredients offered at a fair price. In 2012, the restaurant changed its name and concept from “Joe’s Diner” to “Joe’s Dining,” the difference being more than a few letters. With the name “Diner,” patrons often expected a Denny’s-like menu and that’s just not what Joe’s is all about.
Joe’s is the quintessential neighborhood restaurant with a menu several orders of magnitude more sophisticated and more environmentally responsible than your typical diner. Having headed kitchens in London, New York City, Toronto and Santa Fe, chef-owner Roland Richter offers a broad menu showcasing gourmet dishes and gluten-free items even as he and Sheila endeavor to restore a food culture in which we know once again who grows our food and where it comes from. Joe’s has been a pioneer in the locavore movement, sourcing locally for well over a decade now.
Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner every day of the week from 7:30AM to 9PM, Joe’s truly does offer something for every taste. The standard menus will pique your interest, maybe even make your mouth water in anticipation, but the daily specials will have you drop whatever plans you have and speed to the restaurant’s Rodeo Road location. Such specials as Roast Goose with Braised Apple, Red Cabbage and Gnocchi in Sage Butter truly earn the distinction “special.”
The appetizers menu includes such treasures as Organic Chicken Liver Pate sauteed with onions, seasoned and enriched with butter then chopped. The pate is garnished with an onion-marmalade and cornichons and is served with bagel chips. The organic, non-processed qualities of the pate give this dish a strong liver flavor much like you’d experience in Europe. The sweet onion-marmalade will cut that strong flavor somewhat, but use it sparingly if you enjoy liver (and not everyone does).
One of the more pleasant surprises about Joe’s is that even on the lunch menu you’ll find more than the standard diner offerings of sandwiches and burgers. You can, for example, have grass-fed fresh New Zealand Lamb chops which are roasted gently over the restaurant’s open ﬁre mesquite grill. You also have the option of a full rack or a half rack. A full rack features four lollipop (what lamb rib chops are called when they’re “Frenched” (when the meat is cut away from the end of a rib or chop, so that part of the bone is exposed)) lamb chops served with mint sauce. They essentially come with a built-in “handle” which makes them easy to pick up and eat. Each lamb chop is pert and petite, but it’s packed with flavor and is very tender. When asked the degree of “doneness” for your chops, it’s best to leave it to the chef’s discretion. At medium-rare, Joe’s lamb chops are moist and delicious.
Six years before launching Joe’s, the Richters opened their first Santa Fe restaurant. Named Pizza Etc., it featured locally grown organic produce, mozzarella made on the premises and vegan-friendly options. Though the Richters sold Pizza Etc. to employees, they continue to offer pizza at Joe’s and it’s no ordinary pizza. Joe’s pizza (and pastry doughs) are made with organically grown New Mexico flour and no stabilizers, preservatives or milk powders are used. The pizza sauce is made from reduced tomato (not reconstituted) paste, olive oil and spices. On all its pizzas Joe’s uses its own fresh mozzarella made several times a day in the restaurant’s kitchen. The pizza crust is made from New Mexico grown organic wheat flour and a gluten-free crust is available in the 10″ size for an additional charge.
The restaurant’s signature Margherita Pizza is made with heirloom tomatoes from Dave Fresques. Because the tomato growing season is short, this pizza is offered only for a short period of time, a sign that Joe’s will not compromise on quality. At other times, you’ll have to “settle” for other pizzas such as the Giovanni which is made with Montrachet goat cheese, housemade mozzarella, roasted red peppers and roasted garlic cloves. If you’re used to delivery pizza which will set you back three sawbucks for three pizzas, you might go into sticker shock at the near thirty dollar price tag on the Giovanni. The Montrachet goat cheese with its soft, moist and creamy texture and mildly tangy flavor profile is worth the price all by itself. “Settling should always be this good!
Joe’s recently introduced a gluten-free chocolate cake that’s as moist, rich and delicious as any chocolate cake you’ll find anywhere. It may look like one of those cloying, waxy store-bought chocolate cakes, but it’s not overly sweet in the least. In fact, the frosting seems to have mocha-like properties and is definitely in the realm of adult chocolate. Another dessert that’s antithetical to its store-bought counterpart is the apricot-pecan pie which takes the best qualities of a standard pecan pie (New Mexico grown pecans) and adds a unique twist with apricots instead of the gooey, syrupy standards typically used on pecan pies.
Joe’s Dining certainly does not live up to its name. It is, by no means, an ordinary Joe!
2801 Rodeo Road
Santa Fe, New Mexico
LATEST VISIT: 22 December 2012
# OF VISITS: 1
COST: $$ – $$$
BEST BET: New Zealand Lamb Chops, Giovanni Pizza, Gluten-Free Chocolate Cake, Peach-Pecan Pie, Organic Chicken Liver Pate