Joe's Bar and Dining Hall is part of the recent Melbourne development of selling diner style food in a non-diner setting. From the outside it's quite non-descript, with a black tiled frontage and a big Joe's sign (who is Joe by the way?). When you go in though it's more like a fairly nice mid-level bar, with wooden tables and chairs, wine and cocktails on the chalkboard and assorted beach related photos hanging off the walls. It sits in that middle smartly casual ground, not necessarily normally my kind of place but certainly comfortable and unobjectionable.
Ms Counting her Calories is a huge fan of diner style food, and when she knew she'd be in the area with several hours to kill invited me along to give the place a try. The dishes come in a variety of sizes, some obviously suitable for sharing but the burgers and mains more a one person dish. With MCHC going for a slider only, I decided on the Joe's Burger with complementary drink and a serve of the southern style fried chicken to share.
The fried chicken was good, lightly coated and deep fried so that it combined a slightly crunchy outer shell with nicely moist tender chicken on the inside. It avoided what to me is the major problem with much fried chicken, the batter soaking up too much oil, and while I might have preferred a little more crunch on the outside both of us would have happily shared another plate.
Next up were MCHC sliders. These are small, maybe two bite sized rolls filled with beautifully tender meat. Kind of like diner finger food. While not in enough of themselves to provide a filling meal, a pretty good snack if looking for something to eat with a couple of beers.
The most important dish though was my Joe's burger, which on this particular day cost $15 with an accompanying drink. A bit of a deconstructed job, with the salad sitting on the top part of the bun which was laying on the side of the plate, and the sauce served in a bowl on the side, I thought it was pretty good. While the meat was slightly over done it was full of juicy beef flavour, and the bacon was perfect. Could easily have been improved too, because while the bun had nice grill marks on it, it had gone a little cold. And MCHC returned later in the week when again in the area and proclaimed the Habanero excellent.
To finish off we shared a slice of the Oreo and chocolate cheesecake. While it looked like something only a mother could love, and I'd hardly describe it as light, delicate or subtle in flavour, it was definitely rich, tasty and filling.
So, if you want to eat pretty decent diner food in a more upmarket setting Joe's is a good option. If you want a side of authentic diner atmosphere to go with your meal, well then you might be better off somewhere else. For me it is somewhere I'd be happy to go back to try more of the menu. And btw, hats off to our friendly Californian waitress.
Food - 8
Ambience - 7
Service - 7.5
Price - 7
64-66 Akland Street
St Kilda VIC 3182
Tel: (03)9525 3755