After watching Anthony Bourdain’s always-fun adventures with David McMillan and Frédéric Morin of Joe Beef, a visit of my own seemed a fun addition to my recent trip to Montreal. Reading through the mountains of positive notes and reviews, I thought getting a table may be a bit of a problem, so once my crew was on board with what was sure to be an expensive meal, I started looking for a four-top during our five-day stay.
Booking a table at Joe Beef
If you’re hoping to eat at Joe Beef, book your table as far in advance as possible. Like I said, I wanted a table for four at a decent time in July, and by May, had only one option: Saturday night at 7pm. Book early, as soon as you book your tickets to Montreal, if not earlier. By far the easiest way to book a table is through Open Table, Joe Beef provides a direct link from their site. Be sure to leave a contact number, they will definitely call you the day of your reservation to confirm – they did in my case.
Getting to Joe Beef
We didn’t have a car, but we did have a three-day transit pass, so we got on the Métro, exiting at Station Lionel-Groulx on Avenue Atwater. It’s about a 10-15 minute walk to Rue Notre-Dame Ouest, where you will find Joe Beef among a busy neighbourhood of restaurants and upscale shops in Little Burgundy.
The Joe Beef experience
There is no (currently living) Joe Beef, but he is the stuff of Montreal legend with a thoroughly entertaining Wikipedia entry. Today’s incarnation is a nod to Joe Beef’s more “whimsical” leanings. The interior is relaxed and comfortable, with loads of interesting things on shelves and walls to hold the attention of diners. Don’t bother looking for a menu online. The menu and wine list change as often as they need to – I’m told daily – and diners are encouraged to walk up and study it, asking questions of any passing server. Ingredients are locally sourced and very, very fresh, right down to the vegetables grown in Joe Beef’s backyard garden.
Our server was wonderful and patient, tolerating several rounds of menu questions while we worked on some of Joe Beef’s own brew, Joe Beef Special Pils, brewed by Montreal microbrasserie Bierbrier Brewing. For the culinarily adventurous, welcome home. I wanted to get the foie gras Double Down for my starter, but none of my dining mates were up for a breaded and deep fried foie gras and bacon sandwich.
While I’ll have to save the Double Down for a future visit, I did get to enjoy one of the best meals of my life. Starting with a rich rabbit terrine served like marrow, followed by scallops simply prepared and served with mussels and clams in the shell. My mid-meal snack was Joe Beef’s special Bloody Caesar, garnished with a shrimp and a delicious raw oyster, which is garnished with horseradish.
The menu is hearty, go hungry. Our table had a 16oz steak arrive with a sausage on it, as well as massive steak-for-two. We shared a plate of Joe Beef’s special frites, which came with the condiment of the gods, sriracha mayo.
If you can manage it, take a walk back to the terrasse to take in the garden. It was a gorgeous summer evening and I wished I had been slightly more specific in my reservation request when I made it back in May.
Your tour may take you to the washroom. If the light’s off when you go in, prepare yourself for this:
All too soon, our meal was over and it was time to walk back to the Métro. It should be noted the walk was somewhat more challenging, owing to our rich, delicious meal, and not at all because of the Joe Beef Special Pils we consumed. It’s been a few weeks, and I’m still thinking about the meal, the environment and the timeline by which I can make a return visit.
Joe Beef is definitely on the pricier end of my food adventures, but it was worth every penny. My meal, with drinks, was equivalent to about 10 days’ groceries, so I certainly couldn’t make this a regular adventure, but one I would plan for in the future. If you budget can swing it and you’re lucky enough to secure a reservation, just go.
See for yourself:
2491 Rue Notre-Dame Ouest, Montreal