As I prepared to write this post, I searched the blog three different ways to ensure my eyes weren't deceiving me. Could it be possible that despite my love of Not Your Average Joe's, I'd never written about it here on the site?
Apparently, despite over 15 years of loyal patronage, I've never done a feature on one of my longtime favorites.
I've been eating at Not Your Average Joe's since high school. I grew up in Newton and the part of the city I lived in was very close to Watertown. There's a Joe's right in Watertown Square.
When my sister or I would get a great report card or be celebrating a milestone like a recital or a play, we'd always request the celebration take place at Joe's. We were obsessed with the focaccia bread, the oil and parmesan cheese dip and of course, the peanut butter thing.
So when the team at Not Your Average Joe's invited me to dinner at their newest location in Waltham, how could I resist?
The Waltham restaurant is located on Market Place Drive, right near the old Polaroid building. The exterior has a much more modern look and feel than the other Massachusetts locations.
That updated look carries into the waiting area next to the host stand, with a collection of funky leather and printed chairs.
To the right is the bar, which was packed! The restaurant can seat over 200 diners and a huge portion of those are in the bar area. There are TVs if you're looking to watch a game, but they aren't mounted on every available inch of space (like their neighbor Jake n Joe's).
I was immediately drawn the light fixtures over the bar. I love the way they reflect onto the windows.
Someone suggested that they looked like snowflakes. Personally, they reminded me of Jacks. Remember that game?
Had the restaurant manager not pointed it out to me, I never would have noticed the beautiful tile floor in the main dining room. People are always reminding each other to look up, well, sometimes you should also remember to look down!
Before taking our seats at the dinner table, we walked outside to what is, in my opinion, the best feature of the restaurant - the outdoor fire pit. Standing around the fire pit, we heard from Jeff Tenner, the Vice President of Culinary and Executive Chef for Not Your Average Joe's.
Once our crew headed inside, I snapped one more shot of the roaring fire. On the other side of that wrap around bench is a bocce court. This outdoor patio is going to be hopping in the summer.
Back inside, Jeff lead us through the dining room and into the kitchen. We saw pizza being made, appetizers being plated, we met the head chef for the Waltham location and then before I knew it, we were inside the walk in!
Jeff gave us a lesson in how the restaurant's French fries are made.
In another area of the kitchen we met Greg (who would become our server). He stood at a giant cutting board and sliced Joe's signature focaccia bread. The bread is made daily at the restaurant.
That freshly cut bread went right from Greg's station into baskets that were brought to our table. Before I could even power up the camera, hands were reaching for that addicting bread!
Once we were settled in, I decided to order a drink to enjoy with my dinner. I went with the Harvest Sangria, which is a seasonal special. I had it the week before at the Watertown location, so I knew I'd love it. It's a wonderfully pink hue, garnished with a thin slice of green apple.
The drink is very sweet, but I like my cocktails to taste like candy.
For dinner we would be enjoying three courses: appetizers, entrees and desserts. Each course would be a mix of classic items from Joe's original menu, as well as newer additions.
The first plate to arrive was the deviled eggs. I've had these a few times before and they are fantastic. The egg yolks are mixed with sriracha chili spice, topped with togarashi spice and garnished with crushed Cape Cod Potato Chips.
The crunch of the chips and the creaminess of the egg, meld together to form one texturally perfect bite.
Next up, the mango shrimp rolls, which looked very similar to an appetizer I often order, the Vietnamese spring rolls. This dish is sweet-chili poached shrimp, mango, cucumber, cilantro, mint and rice noodles with a peanut dipping sauce. That peanut sauce is so good.
The third appetizer is a Joe's classic, the buffalo Caribbean chicken tenders. The chicken is hand breaded and tossed in a mango-buffalo BBQ sauce and served with a side of chunky pineapple-jalapeno salsa. Though I didn't taste this dish, everyone around me was licking their fingers!
The final appetizer was the butternut squash flatbread. It comes topped with sage-pecan pesto, roasted butternut squash, shaved brussels sprouts, caramelized onions, smoked mozzarella and a balsamic reduction. Are you drooling at the description?
The flatbread is a very generous size, perfect for sharing amongst three of four people.
The first dish to arrive in the entree round was the super crunch salad. It normally comes with chicken, but the chef made me a vegetarian version. The salad is packed with quinoa, green apples, pistachios, avocado, spinach, mint and cilantro and is tossed in an orange-sesame dressing.
The salad tasted so fresh. It's clear why it's called the super crunch - the apples and the pistachios add that substantial texture. The best part of this salad was that it still tasted incredible the next day. I took one half home and had it for dinner the next night and it was still as excellent as it was one day one.
When this next dish arrived, I was very excited. I had been eyeing it at the Watertown location the weekend before. It's a new menu item called the spaghetti squash bolognese. This twist on an Italian standard uses spaghetti squash topped with a mushroom bolognese, sautéed spinach and grated romance cheese.
This squash dish is the definition of comfort food. It feels like something your Italian grandmother would make.
It was hard to turn our attention away from the squash, but when the cranberry-teriyaki roasted chicken made its way over, everyone took notice. The pan roasted Bell & Evans chicken sits atop house-made butternut squash and ricotta cannelloni and sautéed spinach.
Lucky for me, the kitchen also makes a vegetarian version. In this rendition there is no chicken and three cannelloni (instead of just two). I've seen this item on the menu before and thought about ordering it, but I wasn't sure I'd like a cranberry teriyaki sauce. Well, I sure did.
The cannelloni was another dish I had on day two and found to be just as delicious.
For those who enjoy seafood, the Vietnamese salmon was a beautifully plated dish. The spice rubbed and grilled salmon rests on a bed of rice noodles, crunchy veggies and peanuts in a lime-infused chili broth.
Another Joe's classic, the mustard-crusted chicken was a crowd favorite. The chicken is cooked in a three-mustard marinade and panko crumbs and served with garlic mashed potatoes and green beans.
The final entree of the night was the rosemary skewered scallops. The dish is New Bedford, all natural scallops, pan seared and placed over succotash and Israeli couscous, grilled corn, bacon and tomatoes, with an orange-chipotle glaze. I don't even eat half the things in this dish and I think it sounds (and looks) amazing.
Though we'd already eaten enough for an army, there's always room for dessert.
We stared with the goji berry apple crisp. It's cinnamon spiced apples, goji berries and ginger with a brown-sugar oat crust, topped with one heaping scoop of vanilla ice cream.
It is well documented here on Pop.Bop.Shop. that I do not care for fruit desserts. To be polite, I did take one bite of the crisp, but as predicted, it wasn't for me.
I quickly moved on to the carrot cake. This is the one dish not made in-house at Joe's. This cake is from Montilio's Bakery. As you can see, it's dripping in cream cheese frosting.
The most interesting thing about this carrot cake is that it's gluten-free. It no one told you, you'd never know.
It was only right that Joe's most famous dessert serve as our grand finale - the peanut butter thing. I think it would be safe to say that in the last 15 years, I've had at least 100 of these slices.
The peanut butter thing arrives with a dollop of whipped cream and two small silver dishes - one with caramel sauce and one with hot fudge.
Our waiter, Greg, drizzled both sauces over the slice, creating a masterpiece!
The table got silent as everyone took bites of the peanut butter thing and their eyes rolled into the back of their heads. Yes, it's that good.
When the final plates were cleared, the consensus was unanimous - this is the best Joe's location yet. It was very fun to see how the brand is evolving. Though the look of their restaurants is changing and they are adding new menu items each season, they still honor the original spirit and hold onto the fans' favorite dishes year after year.
A huge thank you to Jeff, Ralph, Rob, Jonathan, Jen and the whole Joe's team for such a wonderful and delicious evening. You were outrageously generous.
You can visit the new Not Your Average Joe's location at 56 Market Place Drive, Waltham, MA 02451.
*Though my meal at Not Your Average Joe's was complimentary, all opinions are 100 percent my own.