In this city, restaurants come and go faster than you can say "sustainable locavore burger." And even though there are great new additions to the culinary landscape popping up every week, you've gotta give kudos to anyone who can stick it out for over a year. With that in mind, we bring you Still Got It, our tribute to establishments that continue to serve mouthwatering meals and drinks long after the buzz has faded—or if the lingering hype is still justified.
In a neighborhood chock full of small restaurants serving interesting food, the so-called "Aggressive American" restaurant JoeDoe has quietly emerged as one of our sure-thing spots in the East Village. Chef Joseph Dobias and his partner Jill Schulster have created that rare restaurant treat: a place where the portions match the prices, the staff seems genuinely pleased to see you, and it is very hard to leave unhappy. Though the joint's actual digs are teeny-tiny (beyond what you see in that photo above, there are just two more tables) the flavors Dobias serves are big and bold, the drinks Schulster and her bartenders mix are unique and strong... and did we mention the nearly Midwestern portion sizes?
Much online ink has been spilled on Dobias' occasional Twitter rant, and that is a shame, as the chef's constantly improving food speaks much louder, and more eloquently, than his tweets. Which helps explain why the crowds collecting on East 1st Street for brunch no longer seem to just cluster around Prune. Speaking of, we're particularly fond of the man's corned duck hash ($17)—which is so good we often have to take a nap after we've eaten it. But don't go to the brunch just for Joe's twists on the standard fare. Joe and Jill, according to their menu, are currently working on a sandwich shop (JoeDough, natch) and have been carefully testing out different sandwich options at their brunch services. If you have ever doubted that brisket is one of the greatest things ever, you have not tried JoeDoe's brisket sandwich served on a roll with a fried guinea egg (though really, if there is anything brisket on the menu you want to try it—trust us).
The dinner options, while slightly less accessible and slightly pricier than the spectacular brunch, are just as good. Think DJ Krahn-cured scallops with jalapeño mayo and croutons ($15), warm lavash bread with radishes, garlic, cotija cheese ($13) and slow-cooked rabbit with jalapeño, fried dough, tomatillo-onion salsa ($28), not to mention a constantly changing lineup of specials. For instance a recent steak for two not only provided us with enough food for three, it was one of the better steaks we've had outside of a steakhouse in ages. That everything comes out of a kitchen no bigger than one you'd find in your average New York City apartment just makes the whole thing more impressive.
And we'd be remiss to talk about JoeDoe and not talk about the drinks that Jill Schulster has designed for the menu. Behind the bar she's mixing up interesting cocktails (for a warm weather treat try the Piri Pressure made with Siembra Azul Tequila, Mazi Piri Piri and frozen pineapple) but her prepared beers are where the real fun is. Until we had tried JoeDoe's $12 Muddy Puddle we never would have believed you if you'd told us that Sierra Nevada would mix perfectly with bourbon, iced espresso and peanut dust.
JoeDoe was opened by Dobias and Schulster on credit card debt and sweat equity, which means their quirky personalities show up over every inch of their quirky restaurant. The walls are adorned with their family photos, their favorite music plays on the iPod (both have distinct tastes in tunes) and the duo and their staff are always happy to talk your ear off about what is new on the menu, the block and in the neighborhood. All fair enough enough since they essentially live in the restaurant. And after one bite of Joe's brisket, you'll wish you did too.
45 East 1st Street; 212-780-0262