6:15 pm at Jo’s. The hollow grounds is positioned perfectly to capture the last bits of afternoon sunlight. A couple patrons sat the bar at the front of the house talking business. This is the perfect spot for a quick, refined form of happy hour. The textured black wallpaper reminded me of its neighboring lounge-slash-eatery, Elizabeth, just sightly more rustic with wooden seats and paneled floors.
6:30 pm and the scene has changed.
Jay and I decided to sit up front in order to enjoy the $1 oysters. Between checking in and ordering at the bar, the room was suddenly jam-packed with a sort of artsy post-work crowd. Jay started with a light pilsner and I the special Purple Heart champagne cocktail. My fizzy drink was the perfect balance of gin, champagne, and cherry Heering liqueur, which came out to a beautiful pale purple.
So we started with the dollar oyster special. A bit small but as refreshing and juicy as we’ve ever had it.
Then we got the side of fries and crispy pork ribs to share. Maybe it’s just because I haven’t had plain old fries in such a long time, but these were simple and great. Salted just right and edges perfectly crunchy, I think I could probably live off fries with garlic chili mayo dip on the side.
The crispy pork ribs were visually stunning. They were stacked up like solid building blocks and shiny with candied coating. It’s definitely just for looks though – seemingly juicy but practically no substance upon bite. The sugary crust was indeed crispy, but masking mostly bone and no meat. The majority of the flavor was in the shell, much like the outer layer on candy apples that sticks to your teeth and fingers.
The most flavorful dish of the night was probably my garganelli. The penne pasta soaked in three cheeses was heavy – almost more like a mac and cheese – but undeniably scrumptious. There were crispy chunks of bacon and caramelized mushrooms floating around the gooey bed of pasta. The bacon bits were serious – thick, full cross sectioned slabs.
Between the two appetizers and garganelli, the dishes filled us completely. Nolita will always be one of my favorite neighborhoods to eat and drink in the city. And Jo’s fits right into all the charm and quaintness of the district. The food may not top the five-star restaurants, but the overall experience provides all the comfort and satisfaction needed after a long week of work.