Tuesday, February 16, 2010


Life is good. Or at least, it should be. And I've got just the place to convince you of this. Take a walk through charming Nolita, down Elizabeth street, and stroll into Jo's at 264. You will simply feel it in the air - yes, in this coveted NYC restaurant space, life is good. Have a leisurely meal with a loved one or a few, grab a post dinner drink with one of their signature cocktails at the bar, wake up the next day thinking back on your evening, and life is still good.

Meet the newest neighborhood bistro where both neighbors and non-neighbors feel right at home. In mission and execution, Jo's is all about comfort - truly accommodating its patrons. The three options for drinking and dining perfectly serve its all-inclusive nature. The bar room as you walk in is a great spot to meet a few friends or even a date, whether you are sitting at the bar or closer to the windows in prime people-watching position. Head to the dining room in the back of the restaurant and you could find yourself with that same group of friends, date, or even dining with your parents. The room is warm and comfortable with elegant mirrors hanging on the walls - just in case you weren't done with the people-watching. And, there is even one more option that if you aren't paying attention, you just might miss- a private dining room behind what appear to be sliding barn doors, serving as blackboards offering the nightly specials. This is a great spot for a celebration or even just a family style meal as it can hold up to 45 people. I'll say it again, Jo's is all about making the space and experience work for you. And since we all have very different needs, that's no easy task (but that still doesn't stop them from making it happen).

In case you are wondering what the catch is, I am right there with you as I am still trying to figure that out too. And to add to this mystery, on top of the various accommodating dining options, there are numerous special promotions. Not only does Jo's work for you, they are also working for the times. Every night from 5 to 8 pm - there is a happy hour drink special and Monday through Friday oysters are $1. And yes, for the drinks, that is seven days a week - a true rarity for happy hour deals. On Sunday nights, they offer a $21 three course Sunday supper. However, these offers and the charm of the restaurant are ultimately a success because of what is going on behind the kitchen doors.

While the vibe and setting are casual, the menu is a cut above - offering everything from casual comfort food to upscale, gourmet creations. Check out the soup of the day as I most recently was warmed up by the sunchoke and apple bisque. I highly recommend starting with the grilled octopus salad tossed with frisee, celery leaves, basil, almonds, vinegar and chili oil. This was an extremely unique preparation of octopus, highlighted by the use of the almond slivers and spice in the oil. If offered, do not miss out on the truffled farm egg baked over white polenta with cured ham and a balsamic drizzle - the ultimate example of adding luxe to basic foods. The only dish I was disappointed in was the crispy pork ribs in a garlic-glaze with shiso and peanuts. With a little less sauce, the dish could have been right on par with the rest of the options - aka, I'm willing to give it another go.

The main courses are offered "a la carte" or "old school" - meaning as a simple protein or with accompaniments. The chef does such a great job pairing the sides that I highly encourage you to stick to the recommended combinations. While the free range chicken and shell steak seemed to be in high demand throughout the restaurant, there are several other main dishes that, while a touch or two more gourmet, can still offer this same level of comfort. The seared scallops were served with a smoked mango puree, yuzu gelee and jalapenos - the smoky and spicy fruit creations truly brought unique flavors to this shellfish. For a heartier dish, I recommend the garganelli pasta - a three cheese blend with mushrooms, truffle oil, and cured ham. I cannot imagine any one who would not inhale this rich blend of flavors. But, the ultimate dish that I was completely (and unexpectedly) blown away by was the seared striped bass with potato puree, snap pea emulsion, and sopressata topped with a grilled red onion. The fish was perfectly crispy, embracing the emulsion and flavors of the fresh ingredients.

That's the fun of Jo's - you can order the basics or you can go straight for the bells and whistles. Either way, you aren't breaking the bank, just possibly your waistline. So instead of trying to figure out what the catch is, it's time to realize there isn't always one - a concept that will probably shock most New Yorkers. It's time to let our guards down and embrace a restaurant that is still a little under the radar. At Jo's, there are no strings attached (at least not yet). Yup, life really can be that good!

Jo's Bistro on Urbanspoon

264 Elizabeth St.
New York, NY 10012
(212) 966-9640
FOOD RATING (Out of 5):


Miss Meat and Potatoes said...

Ooh exciting - LOVE catching an under the radar one in NY. Thanks for sharing.

Gilmer said...

Will definitely go to Jo's the next time I am in NYC....sounds like I will have a hard time choosing what to eat...YUMMMMMM

ECR said...

Oh wow!! Everything you've described sounds incredible. I'm definitely moving this to the top of my list! Thank you for another amazing recommendation!

GAR said...

This place sounds perfect. I love the flexibility idea. I usually believe that simple can be amazing...Although, bells & whistles sounds like fun. I might have a hard time with this menu, so I'll need to go several times.

claiborne said...

Nice to know about your blog! I look forward to reading more and checking out some of these eateries.

lisa said...

Jo's is fantastic!! I was lucky enough to dine with the Hungry Roach herself at this wonderful spot and it was definitely a highlight of 2010!!