Not Your Average Joe’s and Baker Books

I was starving.  He was not hungry at all.  But we had to seize the moment to have a quiet dinner, just the two of us.  We were sure it would not happen again for at least a week.  The thing is, when you’re starving, you’re in the mood for everything and when you’re not hungry at all, you’re in the mood for nothing.

Solution: Not Your Average Joe’s, a local chain restaurant of “creative cuisine.”   Surely, we could find something here for the both us – something to appease my rampant desires and something to rouse my companion out of apathy.  The problem with Not Your Average Joe’s is that every Joe is there.  We hardly ever visit because the wait time is always 40 minutes, even on a weekday night.

But as I said, it was our only option for happiness.  We sat in the cold, small breezeway and jumped every 10 seconds or so when the door slammed open and squeaked shut.  After a minute, I suggested we walk over to Baker Books, a local bookstore.

When we guessed our time was nearly up, we sat in the breezeway of the restaurant again. Finally, our pager told us that our table was ready.  We were pleased to be seated in the back of the restaurant, away from the bar, kitchen, hostess podium, restrooms and the blasted door and settled down to look at the large list of daily specials and unique menu.

While our waitress set down our basket of fresh Ciabatta bread and poured olive oil into a mound of Parmesan cheese and sprinkles of red crushed pepper, we ordered our usual drinks.  They came just when we had just settled on an appetizer, Crispy Asian Chicken Rolls.

While we waited for those, we deliberated on our entrees.  Not surprisingly, I settled on a creative dish , barbecue chicken pizza, while Micah chose a classic, cheese pizza.  Again, we had barely settled before our waitress was ready to take our order, which was a relief to my now famished-to-the-point-of-survival-mode-self.  Overly grateful, maybe.  But I also have to admit that at some restaurants, you are seated soon enough but end up waiting a lot during your meal.

Finally, we dug into the bread that had been tempting to distract us from our immediate task.  Caramelized onions baked into a golden crust atop fluffy yet almost gooey goodness did not disappoint.  And did the Parmesan actually melt into the oil, turn the oil dip into a rustic type cheese dip?  Savory.

Before we could finish the basket (thankfully, because it was too good to stop eating but filling) our Crispy Asian Chicken Rolls arrived.  Deep fried egg rolls were sliced in half and sitting atop Asian slaw.   I helped myself to a scoop of slaw and a half roll, pouring peanut sauce over the noodles cradled inside.  I love any kind of slaw and really enjoyed the different kinds of vegetables in this one but my enjoyment was eclipsed by the chewy noodles and crispy, flaky shell of the egg roll.  Our waitress told us they were very spicy but I have a high tolerance for heat and thought there was enough tang to balance it.  Satisfying.

We finished our appetizer but didn’t wait long for our pizzas.  I took a bite of mine and thought it tasted rather plain and remembered it was supposed to come with red onions and scallions.  We found our waitress and inquired about the description on the menu.  After she confirmed my memory, she brought the rest of the pizza back to the kitchen and came back to explain how the onions were left off  (no onions were the number one request and I had already made a request) and how long I could expect to wait.   In the meantime, she could keep my companion’s pizza warm.

When my pizza finally was topped, it looked and tasted much better.  The crust was as savory, thin and crispy; the barbecue sauce was spicy and tangy; and the onions added the sweetness it was missing while the scallions added a slight green bitterness.  Flavorful.

I could eat only half my pizza but was tempted to get dessert.  After all, if the meal was this good, the dessert had to be worth pushing myself.  Instead I got an espresso drink called Mocha Madness – espresso, chocolate, steamed milk, Kaluha and Bailey’s topped with whipped cream and garnished with a piece of cinnamon biscotti.  I lingered over the biscotti and sipped a couple of ounces of the generous portion before I had felt like I had eaten a box of liquor-filled truffles.   Rich.

Savory, Satisfying, Flavorful and Rich.  I hadn’t gotten that in one meal in a long time.  We were both happy with our experiences, also something that hadn’t happened in a long time.  More than 40 minutes time.  So by the end of the night, we were glad we had waited only such a short time.

Baker Books is located in a huge, building in the German architectural style that immediately captures the imagination.   Inside, along the walls, books climb all the way up to the ceiling on shelves accessed by rolling ladders.  In one corner, wrought iron tables and chairs in the French style are arranged in front of a pastry case.  On the opposite end of the store is a little wing dedicated to the children’s section and in between are shelves at head height donning stimulating and educational categories such as “Our picks,” “On NPR,” “Local Authors” and “Irish” (in recognition of St. Patrick’s Day).

I found a magazine of interest but did not find the second Harry Potter book. However, the latest, still a bestseller, was 20% off.  And the store stocked books by all kinds of independent and small publishers, making it a great place for browsing and either the latest and bestselling or hard-to-find but not so much the in-between.  Apparently, it, too, is not so average.

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