A friend and I, while doing some quick shopping a few weeks ago in the mall in Burlington, Massachusetts, knew we had to eat some lunch. We first popped into one location (whose name I’ve mercifully forgotten — mercifully for them, since it means I can’t review how inattentive their wait staff were, and perhaps drive business away…) At any rate, the place wasn’t full, and it didn’t seem short-staffed — they just didn’t want to look at us and do anything remotely resembling hospitality. So we up and left and went to another cafe. (To attempt to be fair: maybe Sundays are bad for them. Maybe they have great wait-staff the rest of the week. Maybe I don’t care enough to go back and find out.)
The place we ducked into, “Not Your Average Joe’s”, we first feared would be just a coffee joint, from the name. (Joe. Java. You know.) Nothing against coffee, but we were interested in food. (Biscotti is NOT food… Sorry, Starbucks, you don’t Know Food…)
Hospitality was rampant at Not Your Average Joe’s. And it wasn’t just java, although I think they serve coffee, too. The focus, though, is on food. They have a great menu, and although both of us were hungry, we weren’t starving. I was intrigued enough to order two appetizers, and my friend ordered a soup and a salad.
Turns out, when I went to check the menu on-line for Not Your Average Joe’s, it’s a chain. A relatively small chain, but it is a chain none-the-less. This place certainly does NOT feel like a chain. The menu does not read like a chain.
At the moment, they appear to have 15 locations in Massachusetts, and for now, one or two in each of New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia.
Their tag line on the website defines their food as “Casual American”. I guess that works.
I chose to eat vegetable spring rolls and ahi tuna won-tons, with the cucumber option instead of the “crispy won tons”. (They have a good-sized gluten-free set of choices, and I would rather have real veggies over “crispy won tons”, anyway.) The ahi tuna dish was superb! The vegetable spring rolls were rolled up in rice wrappers, a la my far FAR preferred Indochinese style — but they had too many rice noodles inside as a ratio to actual veggies. There were shredded carrots and some fresh basil leaves, and a strand of asparagus, but the other advertised veggies for this dish were a bit too sparse. HOWEVER, that peanut-based dipping sauce was truly awesome, and was mixed with a variety of spices of Asian influence (and I think, some lime juice) that made this dish worthwhile. Or, at least, the SAUCE.
I wasn’t able to eat my second spring roll — I was “riced out”, or something — when they wrapped it “To Go”, they added more of that wonderful peanut sauce to the supply from my meal that I’d diminished. In other words, they didn’t just pack up what I hadn’t eaten, but added in more of the thing I seriously appreciated this dish for! (Without knowing they were going to do this, actually.) Kudos!
My friend noted that her tomato-basil soup was awesome, and that the basil flavor was indeed present. Her salad looked good, too. It was a poached pear spinach salad, composed of (direct from the menu) red wine poached pears, blue cheese, candied pecans, dried cranberries, baby spinach and crispy onion strings, with warm maple vinaigrette.
I believe our rating for this eatery was 4.0 — or, it might have been 3.75 (we ate there a month ago), but the service was spot-on! And it is good to see a chain not behave like a chain!