Eat at Joe’s is a diner from 1969 that harks back to even earlier times. On the specials board the day we went was “SOS on Toast.” The name is redundant, as the second “S” stands for “shingle,” which is toast. The first “S” represents chipped beef in a cream sauce. Both beloved and belittled by former service members who knew it as regular rations, its presence on the menu reflects Eat at Joe’s no-nonsense hash-house style.
There are two famous breakfast specials on the permanent menu, both centered around industrial grade sausage patties. Most famous is the John Wayne Special. This riff on huevos rancheros was allegedly served to Duke one morning in the diner’s infancy. The dish is home fries on a corn tortilla topped with eggs over easy and then laquered with a couple of melted slices of American Cheese “singles.” The tortilla, potato, egg and cheese stack is drowned in “Spanish sauce,” which is a thin mild tomato-chili gravy with hunks of green bell pepper. It is finished with halved sausage patties placed at the four corners of the plate.
Even better than the John Wayne is the Joe’s Special. This sees fluffy biscuits topped with the sausage patties and drowned in dense white gravy, with home fries on the side. It’s an extra meaty take on the southern classic biscuits and gravy. Eggs are served on the side, any style, with home fries.
One of the quirky specialties of the diner is a “Mad Dog.” This is a rotating selection of lunch special gravies not served at the previous meal. The resulting stew comes ladled over an American cheese-stuffed omelet. We lucked out. The daily “Mad Dog” was beef stroganoff, a favorite of Eat at Joe’s regulars: large, tender chunks of stew meat cooked in sour cream gravy with mushrooms. It formed a glossy coating for the large, fluffy, torpedo-shaped omelette.
If these eccentric specialties seem a bit gussy (or gloppy) for you, fear not. Eat at Joe’s does the simple things really well. Eggs are cooked properly, and tend towards the easier side (over medium was just runny), just as they should. The pancakes are fluffy and just barely sweet. The potatoes are well crisped by the grill. The menu reads heavy, but it eats comfortably, and the food leaves no oily residue on the plate. Coffee is hot and frequently refilled. At its least, Eat at Joe’s is excellent diner food. If you are tempted by the wilder options on the menu, Eat at Joe’s is a singular American greasy spoon.
Eat at Joe’s also has a very impressive collection of tableside sauces. We ate at the counter and counted a dozen different condiments, hot sauces, and syrups within arm’s reach. Most useful was the spicy house made salsa that is dispensed from syrup pitchers. It’s great on the potatoes and adds some much needed heat to the sauce on the “John Wayne.” We’re pretty sure Mr. Marion Morrison (Duke) would approve of spicing his breakfast up.