Lunch the other day found me at Not Your Average Joe’s at The Loop in Methuen, MA. The restaurant was not as crowded as I would have anticipated at lunch time and we were seated swiftly. I’ve eaten many times at Joe’s over the years, and have also eaten many dinners at the Acton and Newburyport locations. I enjoy their menu, particulary the fact that it is an allergen-friendly restaurant offering many gluten-free options. They have a varied menu that includes pizzas, salads, sandwiches, meat and seafood, and a few pasta options. They are inconsistent in quality at times although I have found the salads to be consistently great.
Our server was quick to arrive and greet us, but clearly perturbed that we weren’t going to eat and run. After a few hasty attempts to take our order before we’d read the menu, she abandoned us for a long while before returning (which was preferable to the table-stalking). Luckily, she left us with Joe’s addictive focaccia bread served with a dipping sauce of olive oil, parmesan and red pepper. I could easily have eaten just bread and oil for lunch.
My friend and I each decided on the soup and 1/2 sandwich combination offered on the lunch menu. Oddly, the soup selections weren’t on the lunch menu (I have noted them on the dinner menu in the past). After inquiring about the soup options, we each chose the Tuscan sandwich and I added a sweet potato soup to my order, while my friend ordered the chicken noodle. I also ordered a hot coffee.
The Cup of Joe was not average, it was in fact quite a good cup of coffee, especially on a cold day. My sweet potato soup was creamy, but not too rich, with a nice sweet potato flavor. However, the finish was overpowering due to too much black pepper which quickly overwhelmed all of the other flavors in the soup. I was also surprised to find chunks of meat in my soup, which my server had not mentioned. I couldn’t be sure what the meat was, but my best guess was that it was ham. It didn’t add anything to the soup, nor did the unidentifiable white chunk which may have been a flavorless piece of mozzarella. The soup would have been wonderful had they not tampered with it so much and masked the nice sweet potato flavor in the soup. My friend’s soup was also chock-full of black pepper, including peppered wide noodles. My Tuscan Chicken sandwich was decent, although it could have used more pesto. The chicken was tender and the sun-dried tomatoes added a nice flavor. Overall, it was an average lunch that I could have gotten cheaper at a deli or coffee shop (the combination was about $9, not including my coffee).
Lunch was good, but probably not worth the nearly $30 it came to (including the tip). I would recommend Joe’s for dinner when the prices are more justifiable, or for lunch when in the mood for a full entree (an order of Crab Cakes or Not Your Average Chicken Oscar is only a few dollars more, if even). Joe’s also offers many specials including a fixed price couples’ menu including wine on Wednesdays (Winesdays), Happy Hour food specials, and an “insiders” e-mail listing that includes coupons on your birthday. All in all, Joe’s may not be average, but it is a mixed bag.