Taking it Slow: Café Joe
If it ain't broke...
Café Joe is not a diner per se. Granted, it does have one of those gumball machines which, should the stars align, expels a little black ball shaving a few bucks of your bill. And bar stools at the counter. Oh, and they carry Stewart’s Root Beer, which is sort of meta-diner. But it also has lots of plants, a wide variety of teas, and board games. Not to mention a clientele that looks more likely to be reflecting on their year in Thailand than their morning on the construction site.
In a neighborhood marked by steep contrasts between traditional greasy spoons and ambitious yuppie hang-outs, this warm, inviting resto feels somewhat out of place. While its décor and patrons leave it vulnerable to caricature, its actually quite idiosyncratic. Despite having the look and feel of a vegetarian bistro in Mile End, its menu features a lot of meat. In fact, one breakfast option is simply a plate full of the stuff. That’s not to say the place isn’t packed with aging hipsters and dred-locked small children, it’s just that they share the space well with the less storied amongst us. This peaceful coexistence is no-doubt facilitated by the fact that there’s nothing off-putting or intimidating about its carefully crafted coolness.
For those accustomed to the decadence of Bagel Etc. or the breadth of Dusty’s menu, Joe’s might seem underwhelming. On the other hand, unlike the aforementioned breakfast favorites, the prices here are reasonable and there’s an appeal to its relative obscurity. As a case study in the trade-offs economists constantly refer to, however, the laidback feel translates into extremely slow service; it took about half an hour for our food to be prepared. That being said, it was fresh and plentiful, and the atmosphere is perfect for drawn out conversations with friends. They even let you pick the music. I myself have been tempted to sit around long enough to order from the lunch menu, which features delicious burgers worth a trip themselves.
Before she took off for New Zealand, a friend of mine and I would stroll into Joe’s on a relatively regular basis. Sometimes I’d grumble about it, wanting to save a quarter (plus about fifty steps) and settle for G-Spot. My annoyance would peak when the water I’d so politely asked for inevitably failed to arrive. But then, without warning, the miserly laziness would disappear, leaving me to my eggs (drowning in hot sauce, of course) and delicious potatoes. While it's far from the only place in the city to have a pleasant breakfast, there's something very Huck Finn about Joe's, and that's what brings me back.
3068 rue Saint-Antoine Ouest
Photos by Chase Moser