Joe's Wings and Burgers
Joe's Wings and Burgers is a delightful little mom and pop shop that would fit in comfortably in any part of the city, though it seems perfectly at home on the East Danforth.
When you're going for a slimmed down menu, you better have confidence in your product, and fortunately for Joe's they manage to pull it off. Hamburgers ($4.59 or $7.59 with drink and fries) are no nonsense affairs - slender, char-grilled patties on a sesame seed bun with a standard array of toppings. The burgers are juicy and filling, and are better than what you might expect of a fast food joint, even though not quite in range of some of the city's elite burgers . Feel free to kick them up a notch with bacon (+$0.75), cheese (+$1.00) or an extra patty (+$3.00).
Even better than the burgers are the thick, hand-punched, skin-on fries ($1.99/2.99), cooked until they achieve an attractive amber hue. Throw in a generous heaping of curds and a plentiful amount of rich, runny gravy and you have yourself an absolute winner of a poutine, one that's worth the trip to Joe's alone. Better still: it's absolute steal at $3.99.
Wings (6 for $5.19, 10 for $8.34, etc.) are also good; hefty, meaty, and not overly breaded. Saucing is a bit of a let down, not so much in flavour as in consistency. The teriyaki (sweet and tasting heavily of, well, teriyaki) is better than the medium (vinegary, not too sweet and a little spicy), but both are thin, post-frying coverings. If anything, the wings end up tasting a little too much like regularly cooked, glazed chicken, as opposed to hitting that wing sweet spot where soft interior meets crispy exterior meets sticky sauce. The end result is, as mentioned, good, but your mileage may vary depending on your expectations.
A side Greek Salad ($2.50) is the only thing remotely healthy on the menu, and while it may not quite assuage any vegetarian companions, it's much better than it has to be, thanks to fresh and crispy lettuce and veggies, a solid dressing and a healthy sprinkling of real (albeit mild) feta. It's larger and better than many similar, often sad, side salads.
Meanwhile skip the pop and go with the absolutely dynamite house-made, southern style sweet tea ($0.99), something that Toronto restauranteurs often struggle with (the owners cut their teeth in Florida and the South). Desserts, in this case a stellar array of cookies (3 for $1), are also available courtesy of niece Melissa's Mella Bake Shoppe , an otherwise online-only presence.
A few technical issues worthy of note: our food doesn't quite finish at the same time, wings take a long time (we got our other food first) and a smoky grill results in a temporarily opened back door (not so fun in December). A steak sandwich listed on the menu is also out of stock on the day of our visit, which is tough when it's literally one-third of the menu. Nevertheless, service is extremely friendly and familial - Joe himself mans the grill, while his wife takes counter duty.
Small touches like bits of real blue cheese in the blue cheese dipping sauce for the wings, and free (and frequent) refills of ice tea further contribute to a warm and friendly atmosphere. It all adds up to a pleasant, very affordable meal with a couple of stand-out items.
Joe's is open Monday, Tuesday and Thursday from 10-8pm and from 10-9pm on Friday and Saturday.
Photographs by Miranda Whist.
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