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Eat at Joe’s – it’s good, it’s local, it’s fun

Joe’s Dining on Rodeo Road features locally sourced upscale diner favorites. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Albuquerque Journal)

SANTA FE, N.M. — Watching some golf online, minding my own business, an ad came up. It seems people are having their dinners shipped to them. The raw ingredients, that is, to cook. Huh?

“It saves us time going shopping,” says the distaff member of the two-income and zero-common sense couple in the ad.

They tear open a cardboard box unveiling plastic-wrapped steaks, vegetables. “Gee, honey,” chimes in the Dumb Male (note: the most popular character in advertising today) while melting butter in a pan. “Look how easy it is!”

Duh! It’s called cooking. And going to the market is a great human activity, now communal. They should try it! It’s kinda like making your bed. You don’t like doing it, but you’ll love having done it. And if you don’t want to go to the market and buy stuff to cook, that’s why take-out and restaurants were invented.

Speaking of which, I really dig Rodeo Plaza Shopping Center. There’s everything you need and pretty much all locally owned in the little one-story island at the confluence of Zia and Rodeo Roads. A charming Blake’s Lotaburger sits at the prow; there’s a martial arts studio, a family-owned liquor store, A Java Joe’s coffee shop, a jewelry store, frozen yogurt AND, not least, the locally renowned Joe’s Dining.

“Oh, it’s so corny,” complains the Good Doctor when I suggest Joe’s for a recent light dinner.

“But the food is very good,” he adds.

He’s wrong about the interior. It is not at all “corny”; more charming, like Wim Wenders meets “The Petrified Forest.” Bright, festive and fun, red and shiny with hanging lights, red leather booths along the walls, red stools at the counter, Hank Williams on the box.

He’s right about the food, though. It is very good, and from nearby, for the most part. Indeed, Joe’s Dining claims to be the biggest restaurant buyer of Farmers’ Market goods in Santa Fe, and for a time the Good Doctor himself purveyed his prized tomatoes to Joe’s. (Pizzas are made with organic flour, with sauce from fresh tomatoes and mozzarella cheese hand-made several times a day on the premises. Wow.)

Local is a major theme at Joe’s since it opened in 2002 as a “diner” that offers, as it says on the cover of the menu, an Everyman Joe’s menu of “locally sourced, European influenced, American comfort food.” Local “food partners” include Monte Vista Organics, Romero Farms, Susan’s Sprouts, Jacona Farms, Beck & Bulow Buffalo and Ohori’s Coffee.

There’s breakfast, pizzas and pastas (including Tuesday’s Spaghetti and Chianti Night), BBQ brisket to buffalo burgers and daily specials, nicely paired with wine suggestions. This evening’s fare included a Roasted Duck Spaetzel and Bavarian braised red cabbage ($19), 8 oz. Rib-Eye Steak and Crispy Onion ($28, with grilled red florian polenta and grilled asparagus).

We went light, the Doctor having an appetizer of Calamari ($10), crisp, lightly breaded and grilled, with chipotle aioli and orange dipping sauce. The Doctor, who loves his calamari, proclaimed it “Superb” and I had to concur.

His Greek Salad ($15, Tucumcari feta, calamata olives, tomato, onion, garlic and cucumber on baby greens with Italian dressing), was a meal in itself, again fresh, crisp, superb.

My New England Clam Chowder ($6/$8) was better than you’d find in New Bedford; generous with the clams, firm bits of potato and tangy bacon. Only complaint, no Oyster Crackers! But a lovely basket of warm, handmade rolls and lavash was delivered. Very nice.

And since Mardi Gras had just passed, had to have a trio of Fried Oysters ($8) with a lovely, tangy Cajun remoulade. Pluperfect.

Joe’s Dining is not your average Joe’s joint. The fare is familiar and the ingredients are top-drawer. Our favorite upscale diner!

Journal North restaurant reviews rate eateries on a scale of one to four stars.


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