It seems fitting that Original Joe's opened in the same year as the Golden Gate Bridge -- both have welcomed many, emotionally transcend their function, and are landmarks in their own way. Born in the post-Depression era, barely four years after the repeal of prohibition, Original Joe's old-school manners and charms are palpable in the portions, value at the bar, and service.
Pull up a stool and the bartenders will quickly turn you into a regular, with a menu of old and new classic drinks that feature an affordable regular Martini ($6, Gordon's Gin or Smirnoff Vodka, Noilly Prat Dry Vermouth) or House Manhattan ($6, Old Crow Bourbon, Martini Rossi Sweet Vermouth, Angostura Bitters). If you're feeling spendy, you can upgrade for $3 more to smaller batch liquor.
For the sake of, ahem, research and comparison, I ordered both the house and Joe's Manhattan ($9 Cyrus Noble Bourbon, Punt e Mes, Angostura Bitters) to go with my Joe's Famous Hamburger Sandwich ($11.50). For the money, the House Manhattan was great, but the special Joe's version had the drink's rougher edges smoothed out, as you would expect with an older bourbon. Silky, not too sweet, with a good kick of spice from the Punt e Mes, it made a great accompaniment to the juicy charbroiled hamburger sandwich.
Bar manager Adam Richey got his start at Kuleto's in 1991, working his way around town at other classic places like Enrico's and Tadich Grill. At Original Joe's, that old-school service is key. "The bartender's at Joe's will spend the time with our regular customers -- remembering their names, what they drink, while creating a great vibe for both the guest and the staff," says Richey. "I told my staff when we opened that I would rather have them know 50 people's names than some random drink made by a hipster mixologist."
At Original Joe's, the blend of well-made classic, inexpensive drinks along with the friendly service and a great burger makes it a perfect spot for everyone -- even hipster mixologists.
2 oz. Cyrus Noble Bourbon
1 oz. Punt e Mes Vermouth
2 Dashes Angostura Bitters
Combine all ingredients into a mixing glass with ice, and stir until cold. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a cherry.
Original Joe's, 601 Union (at Stockton), 441-0103