Joey’s Bar & Grill: Still the Go-to Place

Joey’s Bar & Grill: Still the Go-to Place

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WORCESTER – I was a good deal younger when I first went to Joey’s (i.e., Joey’s Bar and Grill), which was over on Mill Street.  This is by way of saying that I’ve been going there a long time. I’ve been going to lots of other places in and around Worcester, too.  Rare is the day I’m asked about this or that restaurant and can’t provide an answer. So it is that I’ve become something of a “guide” for friends and co-workers.  And so it is that I decided a little while ago that I might as well get down some thoughts in print.

But enough about me.  Joey’s: Why the long-standing love affair with this place?  What keeps bringing me and mine back again (and again)? It’s pretty close to home.  That’s hardly a reason for you to go there, I know! It’s also become a place that provides as close to a Cheers-like welcome (“Norm!”) as we have here in Worcester, thanks to the welcoming hosts who greet us at the door, the bartenders, the waitstaff, and, occasionally, Joey himself.  This may not matter a whole lot to you either! “Get to the food, dude!,” some of you may be saying. Soon.

Let’s start with drinks.  Despite being a semi-serious wine-drinker, I hardly ever drink wine at Joey’s.  Beer either. There’s plenty of both available; no problem there. But the fact is, they make some fine cocktails.  Nothing too wacky, mind you (though there’s a pretty craft-y cocktail list that changes with the seasons), just a solid array of liquors, ample pours, nicely fashioned by the excellent bartenders and nicely presented by the excellent waitstaff, a number of whom have been there as long as I can remember.  

Joey's Bar & Grill: Still the Go-to Place 1

All told, great place for drinks and a great place for drinking them, whether at the bar, the high-top tables adjoining it, or the regular dining room tables.  Not surprisingly, the place is hopping much of the time, especially Thursday through Saturday night. Familiar faces, there through the years, from all walks of Worcester life.  Good vibe. I might also note that Joey’s is adorned with original artwork by host and multi-talented artist Rose LeBeau. Really adds a nice touch to the place, as does Rose herself, who’s been at Joey’s since the Mill Street days.   

And now the food.  I don’t know where to begin.  My wife and I did go there this week, so I could just begin with the fairly modest salad-centered meal we had then (big lunch; needed to eat light).  But because that particular meal was relatively low on the gush factor (through no fault of Joey’s; we weren’t seeking gush), I’ll just take a brief spin through the menu, almost all of which I’ve sampled at some point.  In some cases, multiple times.

Quick story:  One year, one of our daughters said to me, “With all the money you spend on restaurants, you could have bought me a car!”  Poor kid. “So . . . ?,” I said. I think she understands now. Hard to know where they got it from, but both of our kids are food-hounds and fledgling critics.  With so-so cars.

Back to the food.  Appetizers:  Wonderful options—from the light and delicate (e.g., sesame encrusted ahi tuna, with wasabi, pickled ginger, Asian slaw, and soy sauce) all the way to the dense and intense (e.g., volcano shrimp, crispy fried, buffalo sauce, with citrus buttermilk ranch).  

And then there’s the marvelous middle:  baby back ribs, crispy fried local oysters, classic fried calamari, Tuscan fried calamari, sautéed mussels, caramelized shrimp, crab cakes, pulled short rib flatbread, lobster rangoons, chicken wings with sweet and spicy chili sauce, crispy fish tacos, burger sliders, pulled pork sliders, bruschetta.  And daily specials, to boot.

Why have I listed every appetizer here?  Because with the exception of maybe two, I’ve had every blessed one!  Highlights? Sauteed mussels, pulled short rib flatbread, wings, tacos, shrimp.  There I go again, listing almost everything! (She could have probably had a nice car.)  Terrific appetizers; not unusual to feast on these alone.

Just in case anything needs sopping-up, there’s always the gratis basket of focaccia with herbed olive oil.  Hard to resist early dipping; but I wouldn’t want to forget what those mussels are bathed in: white wine, garlic, basic, tomatoes, a little cream.  Yow.

Joey's Bar & Grill: Still the Go-to Place 2

The salads are great too; had the arugula (with tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, Kalamata olives, feta, in a lemon mint vinaigrette) the other night, with a nice piece of salmon on the side, lightly crisped on the outside, tender and moist on the inside.

But let me not linger there; time to move on to the mains.  So, what have I had of these?  

Here’s an abbreviated list:  grilled sliced steak with a red wine demi glace and herbed chimichurri; Asian-style Atlantic salmon brushed with a chili glaze; chicken Frangelico (chicken medallions in a hazelnut cream sauce with spinach and spiced pecans over butternut ravioli); braised short rib in a horseradish and brown sugar glaze;  wild mushroom ravioli and sausage with roasted peppers, spinach, and shallots in a vodka cream sauce; blackened swordfish steak, hoisin jumbo shrimp, marinated steak tips, eggplant napoleon (fried, layered with provolone and homemade sausage in a plum tomato sauce, baby back ribs, and a bunch of other stuff too.  And daily specials. And burgers. Had ‘em all. Scary. I’m getting full just remembering. Happy, too.

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Shrimp Scampi at Joey’s/Photo: Worcester’s Food Guy

Room for dessert?  Generally, no.  Don’t make us have anything, please!  Owing to my burgeoning maturity, I rarely indulge these days.  But when I do, I’m reminded, once again, of how good this place really is. (Some wicked desserts.)  

There are slicker places in Worcester.  I like some of them too. And there are places more up on the latest hipster trends.  But Joey’s isn’t either of these, and doesn’t try to be.

End of a tough week at work?  Head over to Joey’s.

Want to show visitors some local color?  Joey’s.

Don’t feel like cooking; want something close by where we’re guaranteed to get a great meal for a reasonable price with a classy cocktail or two to wash it all down?  Joey’s.

Still the go-to place.  May it live on.

Joey’s Bar & Grill is located at 344 Chandler St. For reservations, call: 508-797-3800. Hours are Monday-Friday 11 AM to 9:30 PM, Saturday 4 PM to 10 PM. Closed Sundays. 

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