Quick history lesson before I get into the details of the homely delicacy that is Joe Beef (the modern establishment).
Joe Beef (a.k.a Charles McKiernan) was a real person. He was Born in Ireland in 1835, became a Quartermaster for the British army during Crimean war and was known as the man who, according to the rest of his regiment, had an uncanny ability to find meat and provisions where there was nothing but death and despair. Thus, his fellow army men re-named him Joe Beef.
Upon his discharge in 1868, he made his way to what is now Old Montreal, where he opened a Tavern/Soup-kitchen that was aptly named “Joe Beef’s Tavern”. From his HQ, he fed the poor, the working-class, women, orphans, everyone; never refusing anyone who came to his door.
The modern Joe Beef is but an homage to a once-great man. In the 1800s the New-York times called the original Joe Beef “a den of filth”. Unlike it’s predecessor, the modern Joe Beef is impeccably clean and very hip. Complete with a perfect cozy decor and full of antiques, it’s the kind of place that makes you feel at home. It is a small, fairly exclusive, restaurant located in Little Burgundy, and if you haven’t been yet, you’re in for a huge treat. Just bring some extra dough.
Where: 2491 Notre-dame west, in none other than Griffintown. Right around the corner from the Atwater Market.
Kind of Food: Food Porn. The quality and preparation is mouth-gasm inducing. You’ll find all kinds of different seafood and meat plates, from their famous foie gras Doubledown (a small sandwich with deep-fried foie gras as the bread, and bacon as the content, as seen below) to a delicious bacon and lobster pasta. Their menu – a giant chalkboard that covers an entire wall – changes seasonally, but it is always updated with quality dishes that will make anyone drool.
Usual Suspects: The thing that is so unique about Joe Beef is their clientele. Because of the restaurant’s worldwide popularity, you’ll find all kinds of people there. At any one time you can find some Suits in town on business, the hippest of local tattoo-covered hipsters, and couples there on their first anniversary. The types of people you’ll find there is truly unpredictable. Everyone just wants to try Joe Beef.
Why I love it: The Service and the food. Basically, it’s perfect. The food is amazing, the atmosphere is fun and homey, the staff are young, hip, nice and good looking (and so were most of the customers). The music playlist there is always perfect, ranging from Kanye to the Rolling Stones. My buddy and I sat at the bar and were served by the bartender for it was quite crowded that Friday eve (as always). The employees really know their stuff! They’re always ready to make suggestions on the spot. The bartender served us the best Bloody Mary we’ve ever had, complete with a giant shrimp and some greens! YUM! I just wanted to stay at this place forever. Oh, and make sure you check out the bathroom when you decide to go – it’s full of antiques.
Why you’ll love it: If you haven’t been yet, you’re in for one of the top culinary experiences Montreal has to offer. It’s that simple.
Who to take: If you’re taking care of the bill, make sure you take someone really special to you, because this place will run you dry in a single sitting.
What we ordered: The vegetable aioli entrée. Delicious. The vegetables were very fresh and local (I suspect some come from their garden inside the back yard terrace). Radishes, carrots, cherry tomatoes, fennel, olives, capers and zucchini. The aioli was not too mayonnaise-ey and also freshly made. Then came the pièce de résistance, a fabulous meat platter for two. “Rosbif, cerf, terrine of sanglier and canard confit”. All perfectly cooked, all succulent on a beautiful antique plate.