Wednesday, August 29, 2012

“We’ve Been There!”

I exclaimed to Chuck. “And I can tell you exactly what I ate!”

Let’s back up a few days. When I was writing about The Shed (8/23/12), I mentioned picking up a postcard listing the Santa Fe restaurants participating in the Farm to Restaurant program. One of those was Joe’s Diner, and since we are always on the lookout for a good diner, I added Joe’s to the “musts” list. But it wasn’t until we inadvertently drove past it on our way somewhere else, that I realized we had breakfasted there two years ago.

“What really distinguishes Joe’s is…passion for a sustainable, local food supply. Roland and Sheila established Joe’s in 2002 as a diner…to offer an unpretentious comfortable atmosphere for locals who demand high quality local food and uncompromising quality of ingredients offered at a fair price.

“We are indeed the biggest restaurant buyer of Farmers Market goods in Santa Fe. The farmers say this.... What our guests demand is clearly in line with our passion for a local healthy sustainable food supply. This is what drives us to continue in this direction” (

While we could have eaten on the front patio which was surrounded by flowering plants, the morning was chilly and there was a strong chance of rain. So instead we went inside where for most of the time the diner remained fairly empty. But we were there at 9:30 am on a Sunday morning.

“The name, Joe’s Diner, conjured up a decades old memory of the diners I used to frequent in New Jersey. Great places for comfort food reasonably priced, plain and simple, and with a staff that often greeted me with a friendly, ‘What can I get you?’ greeting. These traditional features, with the exception of the New Jersey-accented staff, can be found at Joe’s, blended with a menu created by a master chef” (

With its black, red, and grey décor, Joe’s was reminiscent of a 50’s East Coast diner although in a more sleek and stylish way.

And some clever wag had dubbed the perpetually stopped clock
“Timeless” in a take-off on Timex.

As we are sitting and reviewing the Sunday brunch menu, some tenor who was not Pavarotti could be heard over the sound system singing “Nessun Dorma” while the kitchen staff was yelling to each other in Spanish. And now for a Digression Alert. I can never hear that song without being reminded of the first (and in my opinion the best) of the Three Tenors Concerts on PBS. While Pavarotti had earlier sung the Nessun Dorma aria in his part of the program, the three—Plácido Domingo, José Carreras, and Luciano Pavarotti—reprised the piece as part of the encore. At one point, the camera angle is from behind the singers and you see the conductor (Zubin Mehta, who, next to Chuck, is the sexiest man in the world) with his arms outstretched and behind him you see the Baths of Caracalla and the magnificently lit trees. I would watch every repeat just for that one scene.

But back to brunch. Joe’s house-smokes their salmon and uses for a number of brunch items. It was the smoked salmon and potato latke plate that I fondly remembered from our previous visit, and I was determined that my meal choice would include the salmon.
In addition to the salmon and latke combo, I could have chosen Joe’s Benedict (two potato latkes topped with poached eggs, Joe’s house-smoked salmon and hollandaise and served with salad greens) or Eggs Royale (an eggs benedict variation with toasted English muffins, house-smoked salmon, two poached eggs, and hollandaise and served with home fries). This latter was my choice.

I am of the opinion that smoked salmon needs to be very thinly sliced and Joe’s earns an A+ on that score. But the dish was not without its faults. I will admit that I didn’t specify the degree of doneness for the poached eggs but I feel that these had been overcooked. While
I like the whites firm, I like the yolks liquid and here they were close to solid. And while the hollandaise had a nice light lemon flavor, I wish that there had been more of it and that it hadn’t come lukewarm.

Chuck selected the Cowboy Jack with two scrambled eggs, two blue corn pancakes, two slices of bacon, and home fries. Joe’s makes their blue corn pancakes with a mix of blue corn, wheat, soy and oat flours with New Mexico pine nuts (piñon). The pancakes in particular were excellent--light, yet substantial, with the creamy and at the same time crunchiness of the piñon giving a bit of texture. The
accompanying home fries were made with skin-on red potatoes and were cooked with a bit of onion and fresh parsley.

This was a good breakfast, but not as good as that we had two years ago, and Joe’s Diner earns 3.5 Addies.

To review the role of Adler, Kitty Humbug, and the Addie rating system, read the November 14, 2011 blog.

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