By Clare Myers
When we pulled into the Joe’s Coffee Shop parking lot just after 12:30 p.m., I was sure we were going to be disappointed. Trying to herd a very large group of hungry college kids into a restaurant in the middle of the Sunday brunch rush was going to be a nightmare. The slogan on the menus reads “Where Irving Meets and Eats,” and walking in during the post-church madness, it did not seem like much of an exaggeration. The place was packed with families, older couples and of course, University of Dallas students.
I know I am very late to the party when it comes to Joe’s, but I had never managed to make it to this Irving institution until just recently. When I walked through the door and saw the Sunday bustle, I immediately doubted that we would be eating anytime soon.
But when Carol came on the scene, I knew we were in good hands.
The well-known hostess welcomed with open arms what might just be a restaurant employee’s worst nightmare: a few dozen ravenous and possibly hung-over college students converging on an already busy place. She promised she would find a place for us as soon as she could, and in a surprisingly short time, we were all seated.
Having never been to Joe’s before, I was eager to try the food I had heard friends raving about. The menu was filled with stereotypical American diner food: sandwiches, burgers, expected entrees like chicken fingers, and sides, such as fries and onion rings, with very few items over $10. What mattered, however, was brunch, so I flipped to the breakfast side of the menu to find no surprises there either.
I settled on a vegetarian omelet ($7.25) with toast and hash browns. Oddly enough, rather than the usual mix of spinach, tomatoes, peppers and the like usually found in a veggie scramble, this omelet featured carrots and celery, among other add-ins. It was a decent breakfast, if unremarkable. I found myself adding liberal amounts of the sauce.
A friend ordered the Eastern Scramble ($5.75), with a choice of bacon or sausage and onion along with hash browns or grits and toast or a biscuit and gravy. The combo received a definite nod of approval, a much better reception than the Belgian waffle ($4.50 with the addition of strawberries for $2.25) received from another friend. Her reaction was rather ambivalent, although we were all more than a little amused at the waffle’s adornment: a scoop of what appeared to be whipped topping and turned out to be butter.
The service, however, was phenomenal. In addition to the friendly Carol, who stopped by the table periodically to chat and check that everyone was satisfied, there was a team of servers who made sure we were constantly resupplied with water and (no-frills but noticeably good) coffee, which was a mere $1.75 for unlimited refills. All of the servers were genuinely friendly and efficient. Upon learning that we were UD students, they gave us a discount, although it was not exactly clear to me whether this is an official restaurant policy. Regardless, it was a nice gesture.
Had I not gone to Joe’s, and had a friend simply brought back my order, I might have dismissed the place. The brunch was not exactly impressive, but that was not really the point. Joe’s is homey and familiar, even to a first-timer. It brought back pleasant memories of breakfasts with my grandfather after Mass on countless early Sunday mornings at the local equivalent of Joe’s in small-town Ohio. The restaurant in Irving is much like any other American diner, and that is not at all a bad thing. The menu holds no surprises, and the staff members make you feel at home. And sometimes, that familiarity is exactly what you need.