Eat at Joe's

Family-friendly fare at Fauntleroy.

In the middle of his huevos rancheros ($7.75), my friend Ford commented to the rest of us at the table, "You know who makes really good huevos rancheros? The Coastal Kitchen," and then went back to plowing through his black beans, pico de gallo, corn tortillas, and sunny-side up eggs. Ford's funny that way; sometimes you have to explain things to him. See, Joe's is Coastal Kitchen's kissing cousin, the latest from local restaurant conglomerate Chow's mission to put a comfort-food-style upscale dinereach with its own exotic, regionally themed, rotating add-on menuin every neighborhood in the city. Since last spring, West Seattle has had a check mark next to its name. Out near the Fauntleroy ferry, where the old West Seattle streetcar used to terminate, is a neighborhood that only old-timers still call Endolyne, and that's where you'll find Endolyne Joe's. Most of Chow's locations (Coastal on Capitol Hill and the 5 Spot on Queen Anne come immediately to mind) have the market cornered on their neighborhood's weekend brunch (or in their parlance, "blunch"). Ford feverishly finished his entire plate of festive eggs (although another friend found them in desperate need of quite a few dashes of the special jerk-flavored hot sauce we found on our table). The pancake-and-eggs aficionado loved the sour cream cloud cakes ($5.75 with blueberry syrup), and my migas ($8.25)a Mexican dish of scrambled eggs, spicy chorizo sausage, tortilla strips, and wonderful, salty cotija cheesewas great, although I'd be remiss not to mention the rather unfluffy quality of the eggs themselves. But breakfastor brunch or blunch or whateveris more than just the food and coffee refills (which, honestly, we could have stood a few more of); it's about being lazy and staying in your pajamas as much as possible while still being presentable to the outside world. On Sundays at Joe's, there are a lot of comfy neighborhood folks and toes in socks wiggling around outside their discarded Birkenstocks. And, it should be noted, a whole lot of kids. The cozy, family-friendly atmosphere that pervades all of Chow's locations is undoubtedly one of their most celebrated charms. For instance, in our sturdy woodblock table that morning, we discovered a drawer containing coloring books and crayons. And because my overall impression of Endolyne Joe's evening meals is that they err on the side of the least daring, least inventive flavors (even as they aspire to bring you global cuisine), I can certainly see why families flock here every night. I just don't think it's the best place to, say, impress a date. When we went for dinner on a recent Saturday, it was a doubledate, that is. Those can be the best; as long as you're all good friends, you get twice as much taste testing done. Of our group's appetizers, only the jerked shrimp ($7.50) from the special Key Largo menu (this quarter's culinary pit stop) and the onion rings ($5.25) from the regular menu were worth having again. The crab cakes ($7.25) and tostones (plantain chips served with a guacamolelike salsa, $5.25), despite their hyperbole-drenched, literaturelike descriptions, were bland and filler-full. I hate filler. The wine-o among us was dismayed by the almost complete lack of Italian and French reds on the wine list. Management says they play around more with the wine-by-the-glass list and adjust it, rather than the entire bottle menu, to match their regional specialties. And that's fine, but the next quarter's menu will reflect Little Italy, so I'll be disappointed if their bottles aren't up to snuff by then. Speaking of snuff and being up to it, it's a good thing our friend Drew ordered the cheapest entrée on the Key Largo menu, the croquettes à la Cubana ($10.75), because the rest of us were entirely underwhelmed by our main dishes. The croquettes, corn and sweet potato fritters swimming in red and black beans, chard, and onions, were wonderfuland we all four partook. The Snook's snapper ($12.50) was perhaps the least satisfying. Its nearly tasteless main ingredient sat beached and boring on a bland pile of rice that was supposedly a congri of coconut and curry. From the regular menu, the grilled rare ahi bread salad ($15.75) lacked the proper portion of toasted bread, and although the thoughtfully grilled tuna was delicious, it was also rather scant. Huge crescent moons of cucumber made for very unsatisfying salad filler. (You know how I hate filler.) The ancho chile prawn tacos ($12.75) were something of a sleeper hit; after we polished off Drew's croquettes, his girlfriend graciously shared her marinated shrimp and soft-shell taco fixings. Actually, it seemed as if everyone around us was sharingmothers dipping into children's sauces and friends passing plates around like old stories. All the wait staff were friendly and very pleasantly dutiful. Everyone there (including us, despite our disappointments) was clearly having a good time. Joe's is alive with chatter, shouts, and celebration. I only wish the food were as lively as the atmosphere.

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