Having to take an unexpected trip out to Santa Monica on this past Monday led me to quickly search out a diner to review. Why squander a trip outside my usual neighborhood when there are diners aplenty to seek out? A quick google search later, I found Joe’s Diner. How about that! It actually has ‘diner’ in the name. That might be a first for the diner blog.
On this trip, I took along my friend Greg who is visiting from Washington state. He's a clown who does birthday parties and burlesque shows... I hate his life because I covet it. Anyway...
Joe’s Diner is located in the middle of an old storefront block in Santa Monica that has been thoroughly gentrified. It is nestled between a sushi restaurant and trendy clothing boutique. We entered Joe’s through a rickety screen door and took a booth right inside. I noticed something immediately that makes me have to disagree with Joe’s website- "A Clean, Well-Lighted Place". The lighting was down low to near-romantic levels, this, as well as the soft music playing, gave the diner an out of place “date” atmosphere. The dining area itself reminded me of an old apartment I once had. A fresh coat of white paint and a mopped floor but it still looked dirty. Please don’t think that this is a place with cockroaches on the floor or rats using butter pats to skate on the griddle, that’s not it at all. Sometimes old buildings are just always old. And old equals dirty.
Our waitress hit us up quickly for drinks. We both got the coffee. She apologized for being a bit frazzled, apparently that soft music we were listening to had been the same soft music playing in the restaurant for some time. The cd player had been stuck on repeat and “High Life” was starting to drive her bonkers. She left us menus and retreated to the back to try to fix the problem. After a moment she returned with our coffees and the new Amy Winehouse started to play. The coffee had a smoky flavor, it reminded me of a bonfire at the beach for some reason. I’m ashamed to say that it wasn’t until later that I realized that that meant the coffee was probably burnt.
Gazing over the menu we noticed a vegetarian section which should please a lot of folks. This and the fact that they had an item called “Zone Diet Salad”, lead me to conclude that this place was a nouveau diner with way too much avocado and healthy alternatives. This conclusion was blasted away when I saw the “John Wayne’s Eggs”. This was a MEAL, a man’s meal, a “don’t call during Ninja Master on G4” meal. Chilli on top of two eggs, on top of home fries, on top of a flour tortilla with sausage-Like I said, “a man’s meal.” I imagined this would be similar to the Devil’s Mess I got at Millie’s. Greg was willing to take one for the team and let me order for him. That way I could get a closer look at another item. The Santa Fe Melt sounded like a good choice- Jack cheese, turkey, green peppers, tomato and avocado served on sourdough bread.
My confidence in our food was bolstered when I noticed it would be an aged man in a paper hat preparing our meals. C'mon, a paper hat!
We inquired about desserts. I saw that they had apple pie as the sole representative from the Pie food group. Greg asked about a massive ice cream dish that was described as having 10 scoops of ice cream. Our waitress admitted she was completely unfamiliar with the desserts. I asked if she knew if the pie was made in house. She said it was made somewhere else but baked at the diner. Greg then ordered the second most pornographic sounding dessert I have heard of-the first being the fudgeanna at Frankie Doodle’s in Spokane Washington- Greg ordered a Frosty Brown Cow with a Vanilla Sidecar. Our waitress also admitted she had no idea what that was. We broke it down and figured it was a blended root beer float served with a glass of vanilla syrup and soda water. We adjourned our dessert conference and she went off.
After only a short wait, she brought out our meals.
Greg commented that it was refreshing that the turkey had been heated all the way through. Normally a hot sandwich (one not served open face of course) suffers from the fact that most places heat the sandwich all at once on the grill or toaster or (heaven help us) the microwave. This usually means the core of the sandwich doesn’t get as hot as the rest of the sandwich. Joe’s had clearly heated the meat separately guaranteeing a even temperature throughout. The fries, which were surprisingly curly, were good. Not crunchy but not soggy either. The pickle still retained some semblance of a cucumber flavor.
The John Wayne’s Eggs did not disappoint. The chilli, worked great with the eggs and the eggs worked great with the home fries. Originally I dismissed the inclusion of the tortilla at the bottom, but found that it helped mop up the leftovers from the top layers. The sausages were basic breakfast links, more crispy than you usually get but really plain. This was such a man’s meal I, a man, couldn’t even finish it all.
We did have to remind our waitress of the desserts after we were done with our meals. She quickly brought out the pie and left to get retrieve Greg's ensemble. The pie was straight-up good apple pie. A nice flaky top and a strong cinnamon taste to the apples that I enjoyed. She returned with the three glasses that made up Greg’s dessert. One for the frosted brown cow, one metal cup from the milkshake machine, and one glass with the vanilla sidecar. After some deliberation we decided that sipping through two straws, both the brown cow and the sidecar, was the most reasonable and delicious way to drink it.
We left Joe’s with full tummies and some leftovers. Definitely check it out.
Price: $10-14 for most entrees
Service: Personable but not necessarily on-the-ball.
Pie: Apple and definitely good.
2917 Main St, Santa Monica - (310) 392-5804
UPDATE: Joe's has changed. It has become more trendy and added a wine menu. I drove past it and didn't even recognize it. It has a totally different feel now.