Saturday, July 11, 2015

A first taste of Not Your Average Joe's in Bethesda (Photos)

The new cuisine that will be served up by Not Your Average Joe's in the old Hamburger Hamlet space starting Monday, July 13, is as fresh as the interior and exterior makeovers of this Bethesda building. There is the exposed ductwork and ceiling found often in modern restaurants. There's a floor-to-high-ceiling bar - with 4 sports-filled flatscreens - no one will confuse with the old "enclosed-porch" bar at Hamburger Hamlet. But exposed industrial surfaces are also contrasted with fresh flowers placed throughout the 7000+ SF restaurant.

Fresh is indeed the theme of NYAJ's Executive Chef Jeff Tenner's seasonal menu for summer. With that season well underway, I gravitated mostly toward the limited-time summer menu items. I'd recommend you do the same, as we'll have all winter to sample the Anything But Average Meatloaf and grilled New York Strip.
Samuel Adams Summer Ale
(there was more in the glass,
and a foam head when it
arrived at the table)
I started off appropriately enough with the Samuel Adams Summer Ale on draft. This crisp and refreshing ale is light enough for summer weather, but has a slightly higher 5.3% ABV than your typical Bud Light or Coors Light. It went well with the rest of the menu items I chose.
Focaccia bread
NYAJ's famous
dipping sauce for
their bread

Everyone gets a basket of NYAJ's signature focaccia bread, with their famous dipping sauce that includes romano and parmesan cheeses, crushed red pepper flakes, garlic, and the olive oil that is added when the sauce is prepared tableside by your server. In other words, it isn't just a jarred sauce or something made early in the day. I am in the great minority of 2015-era diners in that I personally prefer softer breads, but the flavor of this is was great and likely will be one of the best you've had if you like a chewier, crustier bread.
Tomato Basil soup
For an appetizer, I got a cup of the Tomato Basil soup. This was one of the best tomato soups I've had in a restaurant. It has a good amount of cream in it, making it quite thick and rich. The soup has an element of a puree to it, and I would swear there was cheese in it, but that's not listed in the ingredients. That gives you a sense of how rich it is. There is fresh basil in almost every spoonful, and each strip is fresh and tastes like it was just picked from the garden.
Green Machine Chicken Cavatappi
My choice of entrée was the seasonal menu's Green Machine Chicken Cavatappi. Think of it as a hot pasta salad. The grilled chicken breast had the smoky flavor of a backyard cookout, not just the grill marks. Very tender, it was topped with shredded cheese. Underneath was a two-person serving of cavatappi pasta, made green by an arugula pesto. Mixed throughout were peas and chopped asparagus spears that were crisp but not tough, unlike some restaurants that blanch and serve a wood-like vegetable. I would definitely get this again, as it had plenty of flavor, more garden-fresh vegetables, and the chicken was fantastic.
Garlic Mashed Potatoes 

Not knowing how large the pasta portion would be, I got a side of garlic mashed potatoes. They're homestyle, with slivers of red potato skin, and have plenty of garlic flavor.

On to dessert! Alas, they ran out of their legendary Peanut Butter Thing. Disappointing, but I will be back to try it out. I also hear that their Carrot Cake is a must-try. Ditto.
Molten Chocolate Cake

The sizable scoop of
vanilla ice cream is
on a mound of
chocolate crumbles,
kind of like crumbled
Oreo cookies
But last night, I went with the Molten Chocolate Cake. The molten fudge sauce and vanilla ice cream were both rich, as was the cake without being too dense. Great presentation, too.

Overall, the food was outstanding and is not overly expensive. The beer list is above average for Montgomery County, despite the challenges of the county's liquor regime. Service was great given that training was underway for servers last night. When one set of dishes fresh from the dishwasher had (clean) water on them, a server swooped in with another set before the hostess could finish apologizing. The only suggestion I have - other than hoping they will have more supply of ingredients for the Peanut Butter Thing when Opening Day comes around Monday - is to avoid the booths in the bar area if you're not above-average in height. Ask for a table that has either the high stools or a regular chair. I'm hardly a dwarf in height, but my feet could barely reach the floor from the booth banquette.

Great food and service, FREE parking, and enough variety on the menu to please traditionalists as well as foodies, are a few reasons to try Not Your Average Joe's when it opens Monday at Georgetown Square shopping center. For those coming from points further than Bethesda, there is easy access from the Beltway at the Old Georgetown Road exit, or from I-270.

Not Your Average Joe's
10400 Old Georgetown Road


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Anonymous said...

A lot of allegory in that dessert. Is it a social statement?

Anonymous said...

So can it be summarized as very good execution on unimaginative menu items? I can get things like tomato basil soup and molten lava cake at boring hotel restaurants.

Anonymous said...

Even Chilis has molten lava cake.

Anonymous said...

Mashed potatoes and pasta?

Anonymous said...

We've been looking forward to this! It sure needed remodeling but I'll miss HH's lobster bisque (the original, not the lame later version).

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