Joe’s Garage

5 Mar

Joe’s Garage
Visited Wednesday, March 2nd, 2011


First, I must say this was our most controversial restaurant visit. Controversial in that we received extremely poor service, left a tiny tip, and later complained to management. However, management’s quick and satisfactory response erased my feelings of hostility. Now to relive the story of our visit to Joe’s Garage on Wednesday night.

This week is Restaurant Week in Minneapolis, where a lot of places give customers the opportunity to eat lunch or dinner from a special menu for flat rates of $15 or $30. Lauren suggested Wednesday night that we take in one of the $15 dinner restaurants, and gave me the list of her five finalists. From that, I selected Joe’s Garage due to its largely American menu, just what I was in the mood for.

We arrived and were seated at 6:55 near the kitchen. Lauren wasn’t thrilled with where we were seated, so I asked the waitress if we could move to a booth. The waitress said that shouldn’t be a problem, at which point Lauren changed her mind and insisted she was fine with where we were. I don’t know if this little exchange somehow rubbed the waitress the wrong way or not, but it’s the only possible reason I can come up with for the events that soon unfolded.

The waitress returned at 7:05 and we placed our drink and dinner orders. There were five selections from each of the three courses: appetizers, main courses, and desserts. At this point, a pair of ladies were seated near us in a booth, and another couple was seated beside us. Lauren and I were chatting and enjoying each others’ company when I noticed the ladies in the corner were receiving their drinks and appetizers. “Ours must be coming soon!” I thought, finding it odd that people who sat down well after us were getting their food and drinks before us.


Time continued to tick off the clock, and we were getting confused and impatient. Now the ladies in the corner were being served their main courses, and the table to our side was getting their appetizers. A third table behind us was seated during this time, and I thought “if these people who sat down at least twenty minutes after us get served first, I definitely have to say something.” A few more minutes went by, and they were served before us.

It was now 7:35. I was getting downright angry. We tried to get the waitress’s attention, but she avoided us and wouldn’t even make eye contact. Now we suspected that the wait was not an oversight, but intentional. But why would she do that? Because of Lauren’s tiny little two-second scene about seating? I told Lauren that if we weren’t given some sort of attention by 7:40, we were walking out. Lo and behold, at 7:37, our wine arrived and the waitress informed us the apps were on the way.

bulgogi tacos

Apps were out soon after, and they were good. We split orders of Korean tacos and wontons. The ladies in the corner were now waiting for their check, and the table to our side was on to dessert. The table behind us was finishing off their main course. We had now been at Joe’s Garage for over an hour and were still waiting on our main courses. Clearly it wasn’t backed up because others were being served in a timely manner, just not us. We couldn’t figure it out! It was 8:15 when our main courses arrived, and the tables near us had all paid and left. I had the jerk chicken and it was decent, had a little kick to it. The fries were not very warm anymore, but Lauren was kind to share her hot fries with me.

jerk chicken

The rest of the night, the service was good. Our dishes were cleared, our water glasses stayed filled, and dessert and the tab were out quickly. Dessert was the highlight of the meal for me. The warm chocolate tart and ice cream was excellent.

chocolate tart

I had such high hopes for Joe’s Garage. The food was fine but it was such an afterthought to me after the worst service we’ve received since last summer’s Moto-i debacle. Clearly the poor service had me forgetting about the rest of the night. The food was decent, prices were great, portions were reasonable. Ambiance wasn’t great in the kitchen area, but not awful.

So anyway, for the first time since a similar experience at a local D’Amico & Sons restaurant a couple years back, I wrote a letter to management and let them know we did not enjoy our experience. Within only hours I had heard back from the owner, who apologized and offered a gift card to make up for the poor service. That made me feel a lot better that management is working hard to ensure customer satisfaction. No ill will towards Joe’s Garage; we’ll try it again with our gift card this spring and hope for a much more pleasant experience!

Gah. Well, Ryan has already said plenty about the service we received at Joe’s Garage, so I’ll just add this: We would have left much happier about the whole experience if our waitress would have acknowledged some kind of mistake or made some sort of apology. Any indication that she realized that she had messed up would have gone a long way with us.

When we got to Joe’s we were led to an area that I am a little shocked that they seat people in – was this to accommodate extra MSP Restaurant Week traffic? I don’t know, but I did not much care for being shoved into what seemed like a service area. To my point, this was the scene to my right:

ugly ugly ugly

And that’s why Ryan wanted to ask to move tables, but what I would have really preferred was to move sections and I don’t know how I would ask a server to put me in someone else’s section without coming off like a jerk. Having said all that it was kind of fun to watch the cooks do their thing, since I was directly facing the window where the servers picked up orders. Open kitchens are cool and I was liking watching them but you would think that Joe’s Garage could do something to make this space a little less horrid. I would think that for a relatively small investment they could make this into a much nicer space so that people stuck back there didn’t feel like they were secondary citizens, smashed between a service area and storage.

waited 30 mins for wine

Now that I’m being honest, after waiting 30-plus minutes for house wine I was in such a mood that I really wasn’t going to have anything positive to say about the experience, and the wine backed that plan up. I know house wine is by definition not the best stuff, but this tasted halfway to vinegar.

shrimp wontons

The shrimp wonton appetizer I had was good. Chopped up shrimp that was seasoned with curry and a coleslaw that was dominated by toasted sesame oil flavor. Dipping sauce is what you’d expect, some kind of Ponzu sauce.

lamb sliders

The lamb sliders were surprisingly meaty, although they were done more pink than I would have liked, as I have a natural aversion to underdone ground meats. They had a generous slathering of chevre and roasted red peppers which were both slightly warm, but also ice-cold strips of portobella mushroom which were unpleasant against the warm burgers. My fries, in contrast to Ryan’s, were still hot and I was happy to share them with him — I didn’t want to fill up on them when I had a dessert coming anyway. Priorities, people!

coconut creme caramel

For my dessert selection I went with the coconut crème caramel. I had checked out the menu online for Restaurant Week, which turned out to be abbreviated as online it was Banana Cream Pie, and when we actually got to the restaurant it was listed at Chocolate Banana Cream Pie. Bah!

During our extended wait that evening I saw many of the crème caramel being brought out with lots of lovely blackberries and raspberries, so I was disappointed when mine had mostly sad-looking blueberries. Outside of that, the custard itself was very good and was also the highlight of my meal, but that’s not surprising given my love for pretty much all custard desserts.

Ambiance – Bad. Ryan didn’t hate it but I have never been seated in such a terrible area of a restaurant. I don’t understand how they can justify seating people next to an overflowing storage area.
Service – Well, it was just plain terrible. We were ignored, our order was obviously forgotten but there was no attempt to address the situation or even recognize that the server screwed up. It doesn’t even take 40 seconds to pour a glass of wine, much less 40 minutes. However, Ryan and I both appreciated the response of the manager to our email complaint. He knew where we sat and who our server was and said that he was going to address the situation with her.
Food – It was fine. Considering the three courses were a total of $15 the value was there, but when you’re waiting over an hour for a chicken breast, mini burgers and fries it’s impossible to muster anything but the very faintest of praise.
Overall experience – Very bad. If we had not been offered a gift card by the manager I would not plan on going back, ever. We will give it another shot, perhaps in the summer on their rooftop patio overlooking Loring Park.

The Necessities
Joe’s Garage
1610 Harmon Place, Minneapolis, MN

Have you eaten at Joe’s Garage? We’d love to hear what you think in the comments section below!


4 Responses to “Joe’s Garage”


  1. Jottings of Recent Events | Blog of Ryan Glanzer - March 10, 2011

    […] special flat rates on lunches or dinners. We had a really bad experience at Joe’s Garage, which we reviewed on our Eating in Minneapolis blog, but an e-mail to the manager seems to have rectified the situation. We also ate at Fogo de Chao […]

  2. Minneapolis, MN Joe's Garage Ugly Ugly Ugly | Minneapolis, MN - March 19, 2012

    […] Joe’s Garage Ugly Ugly Ugly Image by lauren glanzer […]

  3. Eating Out: A Final Hurrah! | Ryan Glanzer Blog - August 10, 2014

    […] poor. I always hate it when someone who sits down after us gets served first (see our visit to Joe’s Garage, Minneapolis for an extreme example). This was a pretty similar experience. A table who was seated […]

  4. Eating Out: A Final Hurrah! | Ryan Glanzer Blog - August 10, 2014

    […] poor. I always hate it when someone who sits down after us gets served first (see our visit to Joe’s Garage, Minneapolis for an extreme example). This was a pretty similar experience. A table who was seated […]

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