Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Joe's Bar and Diner - Excellent Smokey Ribs and Buffalo Wings

I've visited Acland street a number times for dining, but always in the South end, and never in the North end past Carlisle Street. However, when I was invited to visit Joe's Bar and Diner, I knew I had to pay a visit to the other end of Acland street as the menu was full of wonderful looking American dishes. I had tasted a lot of awesome American food on my holiday in the US and wanted to taste more of it here in Melbourne. Unfortunately, most American style diners in Melbourne serve rather sub-standard food that they wouldn't get away with serving in the States.

Joe's Bar and Diner is part bar, part diner. Funny that. A big bar area dominates the room while tables to one side of the room serves as the diner. Big open windows lets through the sunlight and funky (think Pulp Fiction soundtrack) music fill the room at just the right loudness. Hipster staff take a relaxed attitude when serving, which is good, although at times a bit of urgency doesn't hurt.

I attended the dinner with my work mates Ross, David and Joe. We ordered (or more accurately they left me to order) a selection of food that we shared. For starters we tried the Southern Fried Chicken, Carnitas (pork taco), Arrachera (beef taco), Fried Calamari and Buffalo Wings. The fried chicken was pretty good, not dry and had pretty good flavours. However, it was all chicken breast pieces, which I always find a bit boring. The pork tacos was really good, while the steak one was ok. The fried calamari was really nice, crispy yet still succulent. Squeezed with some lime, it was zingy and addictive. Lastly, the buffalo wings was awesome. It was already good by itself, but combined with the Creole mayo, it was freaking amazing. Joe really loved the Creole mayo and ate it with every other item on the table, and swears that it works with everything. I believe him.

Next we got to the main event of BBQ Pork Ribs, which we had with Sweet Potato Fries and Poutine (curly fries with gravy and cheese). The BBQ pork ribs were so crazy delicious. The sauce was so good and the ribs were juicy and had this beautiful smokey flavour. Everyone loved the ribs, and it went really well with the sweet potato fries for me. The other liked the sweet potato fries, but loved the poutine. The poutine (see above right photo) sounds and looks so wrong, but tastes oh so right. David loved it the most and finished about half of it himself. The salty cheese works so well with the fries and the gravy.

We were so full by the time we got to desserts but I convinced everyone to have some dessert as I really wanted to try the Beignets. Unfortunately they were not available so we tried the Chocolate Waffles and Pecan Pie. The pecan pie was ok but nothing like I tasted in New York. The chocolate waffles were rather bad as the waffles tasted like dry pancakes. The sauce was quite good but didn't really help to cover the bad waffles.

After dinner, Rob the owner came over to talk to us. We were chatting and talked about how great the ribs tasted and what a great authentic flavour they had. He then told us they had a proper smoker out the back, which he was happy to show us. Being engineers, everyone eagerly jumped at the invitation. When we got to the back and he showed us the smoke, we all went "oooh, so sexy". Then when he opened it, the smelled that wafted towards us was what I imagine Heaven to smell like. Smokey, meaty goodness. I learned that some places "smoke" their meat in electric smokers and then they're left there to be steamed just before serving. This gives the meat this soppy texture where it falls off the bone so easily. Also, the smokey flavour disappears rather quickly. They may also use artificial smoke liquids to amp up the smokey flavour temporarily. But it was surprising how we could all taste the difference in this properly smoked meat and commented how much nicer it was. Nothing beats doing it properly, using different woods to create different flavor profiles and time to ensure the meat is tender but still retains some texture.

Overall it was a really good meal and I'll definitely go back again. The two highlights were the amazing buffalo wings and the BBQ pork ribs. I'd love to try the beef ribs next time as I'm sure they'll be excellent as well given it's cooked properly in the smoker. Price wise, I think it's good value as you will get far inferior food for the same price. There's also a good beer and wine menu and the setting is very nice. Highly recommended.

All food was covered by Joe's Bar and Diner. Drinks were covered by ourselves.

Joe's Bar and Dining Hall on Urbanspoon


  1. Obsessed with smoked foods, and I agree, you can't beat the real McCoy. I agree. That's one helluva sexy smoker!

    1. I love smoked food too. The real stuff is just so amazing. I want that smoker for myself.

  2. That sounds amazing! I love great smoked barbecued meat - you just can't beat it for taste or texture.