Saturday, October 29, 2005

A Pleasant Surprise – Eating At “Not Your Average Joe’s”

I do not recall having ever used this space to review a restaurant. An unexpectedly delightful dining experience compels me to do so today.

My friend, Matt Knight, is finishing up his career as a naval officer by working in military intelligence at the Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island. Matt and I were looking for a place where we could meet and talk about his career choices as he transitions from the world of the Navy to the world of business. Matt asked his friends at the War College to recommend a place that would be halfway between his office in Newport and mine in Wellesley. Someone suggested we try “Not Your Average Joe’s” on Rte. 139 in Randolph.

I arrived with no expectations other than looking forward to catching up with Matt and spending some time together talking about his job search. I was not thinking much about what food we might order. I was immediately struck by the warmth of the staff and the extraordinary level of attention they pay to making sure their guests understand all the options available for their dining pleasure. The menu is a moderately priced assortment of standard fare – but the experience was anything but average. Our waitress managed to being appropriately attentive without hovering or being intrusive. There was none of the pretentiousness I have experienced in other places – ”Hello. I am Francois and I will be your server today. Today we are featuring as our special a charred monkfish, broiled for 26 minutes, and then lovingly messaged with a plum pudding reduction and served on a bed of kelp and Dead Sea salt for only $26.95.”

None of that! Our server came over to take our drink order and asked if this were our first visit to “Joe’s.” When we admitted to being rookies, she said: “We have a tradition of starting each guest off with this basket of foccacio bread – baked fresh in our brick pizza oven. We have a special dipping sauce that I think you will like. On this bread plate, I am adding olive oil to this mixture of grated Romano cheese, garlic, and red pepper. Enjoy. I will return with your drinks in a moment.” Wow – what flavor! I would return to this restaurant just for the dipping sauce and hot bread!

We decided to share an appetizer – an order of fried calamari. It was perfectly prepared – the telltale light golden color that announces that it has been carefully cooked in clean oil for just the right amount of time. The flavor was exceptional.

I order the entrée of steak tips, mashed potatoes and green beans. I confess to not being a big vegetable lover, but I consumed every last bean. The meal was excellent. Matt was equally satisfied with his baked haddock. Throughout the meal, our server returned to refill our drink glasses and to bring us a second basket of bread and a new supply of olive oil and dipping spices.

As we were finishing up our meals, the manger approached out table: “Gentlemen, do you mind if I bother you for a moment? Your waitress tells me that this is your first visit to “Not Your Average Joe’s. I have taken the liberty of putting together a packet that we like to prepare for our first time guests. Inside, you will find a brochure, explaining the history and philosophy of our restaurant. We are now in 11 locations – Lexington, Newburyport and Watertown to name a few - and will soon be opening a new place in Acton. In the packet, you will also find coupons for $5.00 off any item on your next visit, coupons for 10%, 20% and 30% discounts on take-out orders, a special phone number to call if you are planning to visit on a busy night. When you call, we will place your name on the waiting list and tell you how long we expect the wait to be. When you arrive, you will have moved up to the front of the waiting line. There is also a Website address (, and an e-mail address to use to reach us for questions and comments.”

We spent the next five minutes talking with the manager about how delighted we were with the whole experience. Matt and I mentioned the fact that the restaurant clearly understands branding and the value of superior customer service.

As Matt and I left and prepared to part from each other, we said: “Let’s plan to meet here again soon!”

Enjoy! This place is definitely Not Your Average Joe’s!



Anonymous said...

ive been there many times and i love eating there. its umm " how to dicribe this" good food.

Anonymous said...

It's amazing that more people don't know about this place! It is REALLY different!