JoeDoe Becomes Joe & Misses Doe; Joe Dobias Talks the Devolution of the Restaurant Industry
On the reputation of its gussied up gastropub fare and owner Joe Dobias' inclination toward provocation, JoeDoe firmly established itself in the East Village five years ago, and it's done a brisk business for brunch and dinner ever since. That is until it closed up shop a couple of weeks back to make way for Joe & Misses Doe, a second iteration of the space that Dobias says will focus on more casual fare. JoeDoe, in the meantime, will relocate as a dinner-only joint sometime in the near future.
So why the switch?
"We kind of felt like we were running two different restaurants," Dobias explains. "One for brunch and one for dinner. We had two completely different crowds and feels." He blames that on his attempt to push dinner further and further into the fine dining realm, a mission he says has really maxed out the parameters of the space, which has a tiny kitchen with no walk-in.
Add to that the fact that he just married his long-time girlfriend Jill Schulster, and he wanted to create a restaurant more representative of them as a pair. "When I started the restaurant, it was really Jill helping me see my dream come true," he says. "Now, we've really evolved into a restaurant couple. The new restaurant is really a representation of the both of us. I've had a staunch, opinionated way of doing things over the last couple of years, but I've really softened."
With those factors in mind, the pair will scrap fine dining in the East Village space entirely, installing instead what Dobias calls a "fun, ambitious update on a bar and grill. We're not going to gild the lily here. We're going to make what we go out and eat at everyone else's places."
He cites French dip soup dumplings, an injected wedge salad, gringo tacos made with duck confit and garlic-radish, and a Monte Cristo with smoked syrup. "We're doing classics that aren't straight up the gut, but I don't want people to eat them and not understand what to do with it," he explains. He also says the menu will showcase seasonal produce, though not in a "fluffy, pretentious way." And he hopes the new menu will fall in line with the spot's popular brunch, which is to say that it will be approachable. "I don't want people to feel intimidated," he says. "We survived on approachability and flavor. I want to step back from the esoteric stuff and go with the riff on the blue plate specials and the classic Americana kind of stuff."
Even with what's ostensibly an expansion of his concepts--Dobias also owns Joe Dough Sandwich Shop--the owner insists that he has no ambition to become an empire-builder, not least because he thinks it's important for owners to be in their own restaurants and chefs to be behind their own burners. "Restaurants have devolved back into the pre-90s sort of mentality," he explains. "That's when you'd watch the grand dame restaurant families build opulent restaurants all over town. We see the same castle-building syndrome now. Amazing stuff happened in the late 90s when chefs started going back and running their own kitchens, but that's gone. Chefs my age are opening three, four, five places within months of their first one. The cheffing game is about ego--you do it because you want to be in control and put your name on the menu. But I don't know how many menus you can put your name on when you've never put touched a pan in the kitchen."
Dobias and Schulster are applying a fresh coat of paint to the new iteration of their restaurant; look for it to re-open sometime around September 19. And as for the fine dining concept? Dobias says it will take about six months to a year to get it built.
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