Dine Like It's '59 - Page 5

12 California restaurants that savor dishing up the mid-century experience
Retro Dine
Retro Dine

4 I Original Joe's

San Jose

It may occupy a corner of a strikingly handsome, early 20th century high-rise version of an Italian palazzo, but Original Joe's in downtown San Jose is a classic, mid-century modern restaurant.

There are the requisite vinyl-clad booths, sophisticated yet somehow cheesy recessed ceiling lighting, an open diner-style kitchen, and all the classic menu items you could desire—braised lamb shank, a chicken parmigiana sandwich, spumoni for dessert, and, of course, the 'Joe's special,' a scramble of ground chuck, onion, spinach, and eggs.

Original Joe's of San Jose is descended from the first Original Joe's in San Francisco. It opened in San Jose in 1956. Over the years, several other 'Joe's' restaurants have opened in the Bay Area, some with roots in the first Joe's, some just inspired by it.

Like all the real Joe's restaurants, a signature at Original Joe's of San Jose is that the food is prepared in plain view of the patrons. So no funny stuff can take place.

Today, Joe's might be in the middle of Silicon Valley, but there is little that is trendy or tech about the place.

"This 44-year-old fixture reeks of authentic authenticity—and smells, pleasantly, of the steaks sputtering over a grill just feet from our faces," journalist Bob Sipchen wrote after visiting a few years back. "Tuxedo-clad waiters waltz about, calling out orders. The cooks, in their tall white hats, grudgingly oblige."

Besides the hearty food, Original Joe's is also a great place to pass the time and meet—well, who knows who you'll meet? "You don't have to like the food to like Original Joe's," wrote a Metroactive.com columnist, who does like the food. "It's the best show in town."

• 301 South First St. originaljoes.com