RoCK savors North Avenue
Robert of Cross Keys sheds his preconceptions about North Avenue in this week's Free Market Friday post. Full disclosure: When RoCK ate at Joe Squared, I was not present. And I didn't put him up to the Sheila Dixon reference either. Honest. As for Rob Kasper ... Looks fishy. He'll have to account for himself. Here's RoCK. LV
So last week I said that this week I would be talking about how I was wrong about North Avenue. It was probably pretty obvious that I intended to talk about Joe Squared.
Anyway, what do I see in the paper this week? A review of Joe Squared by Rob Kasper.
See, this is why I need to start getting invites to the staff meetings. Now people are going to see two stories about Joe Squared in the same week. It's going to look like when all those hack bloggers write a slew of rave “reviews” about Milan.
Well, I’m still going to write about Joe Squared as well, because I can’t see myself coming up with two ideas in one week. Also, I think it is a really great place, a place that I really should have visited years ago.
I lived in Mount Vernon for years, but I normally wouldn’t venture past Tapas Teatro. The exception was the one time my car was towed to some part of North Avenue that seemed more like Northern Ireland or Beirut than America. That experience, plus all the talk I would hear about the dangers, allowed me to dismiss Joe Squared. Sure I heard they had good pizza, but I figured I could get good pizza in another neighborhood.
A few months ago -- and years after I moved away from Mount Vernon -- I finally got over myself and went to Joe Squared. Yes, the pizza is really good there: a thin, sourdough crust with loads of fresh toppings that run from the familiar to the unique is cooked in a coal oven. I wish the crust could be a little crisper, but that is a small quibble. The important thing with a pizza is that quality ingredients work together to produce good flavor, and that’s what I’ve found, from a basic Margarita with fresh, buffalo mozzarella to a mushroom pizza that I augmented with some seasonal morels.
This attention to flavor is also present in other items I’ve tried, including a carrot, fennel and sausage risotto and an avocado and shrimp salad. I expect an avocado and shrimp salad to taste good if the shrimp is fresh and the avocado is ripe, but I didn’t have a good feeling about the carrot risotto. I thought it might be too sweet, but it ended up being well balanced and quite tasty.
As far as beverages, the bar features an extensive rum selection. Rum, how cool is that? Scotch is for snobs. Vodka is for tools. Rum, however, is for swashbucklers.
The biggest surprise about the place was how much I like the vibe of the place. I was expecting a rough neighborhood on the outside with a bunch of aloof hipsters on the inside. Instead I found a neighborhood that has more to offer than I thought, and an atmosphere that was devoid of attitude and pretention.
I’m struggling with how to describe the scene without sounding pejorative, but it is the kind of a place where it is OK to be a dork. Where else can you find events like an art show featuring works about Sheila Dixon, a drunk spelling bee competition, and a mustache and mini-skirt costume party? Now, wouldn’t you rather be sporting a mustache, eating some pizza, drinking some rum and spelling some words than say sitting at a table in a Ed Hardy t-shirt with a bottle of overpriced vodka and some cans of Red Bull?
Hawaiian Pizza with crushed tomato, bacon, Canadian bacon, coppa, mozzarella, provolone, cilantro and pineapple at Joe Squared. Sun photo by Algerina Perna