I have driven by Joe K's Brewhouse on Union Deposit in the evenings on several occasions. Either due to their spacious parking, or perhaps just bad timing on my part, I've never seen very many cars in the lot, and I have wondered if the place was in business anymore, but after unending disappointment with the local Chinese buffets 'pretending' to serve snow crab as part of their weekend fare, I recently turned my weekend attentions to just trying out restaurants close in proximity to see how they appealed to me, while I inwardly continued to pine for my long-lost crab legs. I decided it was a small venture to do further exploring of Joe K's Brewhouse- and I'm very glad I did.
This restaurant and bar was a real find as far as I'm concerned. Once you get inside, you find that the exterior is a complete underestimation in presentation. Deliciousness wafted in the air as my girlfriend and I approached the hostess. She was very friendly, yet professional, and promptly seated us in an inside booth after giving a choice of either inside or outside dining. She announced that our server, Lauren would be with us shortly.
Lauren was also a friendly and professional compliment to the business as she helpfully answered our questions and was knowledgeable about their menu offerings. We could not resist the "Joe K's Classic Steampot for 2" deal at 35.00. At $17.50 a person plus drinks, this seemed like a great value compared to other restaurant menus I have seen with comparable content. We figured that there would be a lot of new potatoes and corn to pad the balance of crab and lobster, but were still anticipating sinking our teeth into whatever was brought to the table. While we waited we also ordered onion rings for an appetizer, and were also pleased to have green salads brought to us as part of the entree.
As we waited for our food I scanned around the general decor. The place appears to be set up to incorporate the ingredients of a bay area fish house, but without the ancient decay, stains, fishing memorabilia, and odor. The rafters are uncovered, clean, and bare wood. There are numerous large screen televisions, booths, tables, and a central bar in what appears to be a spacious layout. I even had occasion to visit the restroom and found it to be clean and inviting. We came in about 5 pm on a Sunday afternoon, and at that time it was a relaxing, mostly quiet atmosphere which we appreciated as well. We were comfortable.
When Lauren brought our food to the table, we were elated to see that it exceeded what we had been expecting. Generous clusters of succulent crab legs, shrimp, and open-shell clams were scattered in a large roasting pan and crowned with a large lobster. I think I had been expecting a nominally-sized lobster tail, but I certainly approved of the reality upgrade.
Everything was just so satisfying. We hungrily picked over trying everything in the pan after Lauren snipped open the lobster for us before leaving us to enjoy our meal. Everything was just great as it simmered in the Old Bay broth inside the pan. The only thing that I wasn't completely sure about was the shrimp. I ate it, but to me it tasted too 'clean' with almost a sanitized flavor. That being said, I don't eat peel-and-eat shrimp that often, so I may not be the best critic there. Believe me, that didn't keep me from wolfing it down anyway. Even the onion rings were extraordinary to me with a solid crispy batter as opposed to the signature flaking-off batter that is all too common and less impressive to me.
The JKBH staff are such a credit to the business and contribute greatly to the dining experience. Lauren was not just great in her service, but several other staff of anonymous title would occasionally stop by and take away dishes and generally get things out of our way. There was a real sense of responsibility to making a great impression for the restaurant and a certain pride in their work that is becoming more and more rare in these times. It was refreshing to enjoy it here again.
When the crab shell shrapnel settled, the aftermath of our meal consisted of a few sausage strips which I packed up to enjoy later. That steampot didn't stand a chance against us, and as we got ourselves together to leave, we let the manager on duty know that we would be giving a great review, and would definitely be back for a rematch. Can’t wait!
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