When Good Organs Go Bad: Original Joe’s in San Jose


Organs are so simple, it would be hard to screw them up, right? It’s generally the case that if you treat them with reverence, cook them simply and carefully, that they come out perfect every time, especially if you wash them properly.

But even the Organ Meat Society sometimes stumbles on organs that are not worth eating. Such was recently the case when I was scouting organ-eating venues in the Silicon Valley. On my list was an ancient, red-sauced Italian joint called Original Joe’s, right in downtown San Jose.

Where the offal eater meets her Waterloo–Original Joe’s in San Jose.

I was humming the song, “Do You Know the Way to San Jose” as I stepped into the huge, air-conditioned dining room, upholstered with so much red naugahyde that they must have killed an entire herd of naugas to accomplish the feat. The waiters were resplendent in their cutaway jackets, and the large lunch crowd barely made a dent in the seating, so large was the place.

I was pleased to see that sweetbreads and liver were still on the menu, and immediately ordered the liver, reflecting, the classic dish of liver and onions was first invented in Venice, and remains a staple of northern Italian cooking. How would it be executed in an Italian-American restaurant on the West Coast, 6,000 miles from its true home?

An entirely unsatisfactory organ at Original Joe’s.

The short answer is: badly. While the original dish excels with baby calves live sliced thin and fried crisp on the edges with caramelized onions, this dish deployed the liver of an old-timer, cut into giant dense cubes that were like eating a dog’s rubber toys. The onions were not even slightly caramelized, though they were cooked somewhat. And the whole thing had been deglazed with what tasted like balsamic vinegar and maybe some red wine. Yuck! I ate an obligatory three bites and abandoned the rest, and it’s now just a case file in the upcoming TV series, When Good Organs Go Bad.


Archive Highlights