It’s 1995 and you just stumbled out of Jack’s music after spending an hour at your guitar lesson. Now deaf from the headphones from listening to the wall of latest CD releases, your allowance has just been spent on mood rings and hemp bracelets. After all of this hard work and in celebration of your new finds, you decide it is time for a coffee. So, you head up to Broad St. to see what the daily brew is at No Ordinary Joe’s and hem and haw over Torani syrups and how your barista can make your latte taste like a milky way bar… Sound familiar?
If you are from Monmouth County, chances are you are just as nostalgic about this joint as I am about Red Bank as a whole. Whether it was the first town you could commute to at the ripe old age of thirteen via NJ Transit’s North Jersey Coast line for an afternoon of vintage shopping and coffee houses, or for the first venues you drank at when you turned 21 (cause lets face it NYC was just way too far away)… There is no denying that Red Bank had it goin on!
Whatever the case, we’ve grown up and so has this RB staple and its neighbors. No Joe’s Cafe, formerly known as “No Ordinary Joe’s”, has revamped their style and their offerings while maintaining (most) of its original “90’s Seattle Style” charm.
Opened in 1993 as a formerly purely coffee and dessert maison-du-cafe, they now have a full menu advertising their new “Beasty Burgers” along with a random mix of appetizers, salads, and mexican inspired entrees. Having frequented this venue since I was eleven years of age, I can’t really take The Beast very seriously. Does anyone? How did they decide that their new product would be The Beasty Burger? How do you transition from coffee to burgers? How does the Beast fit in with the rest of their seemingly Mexican inspired fare? Maybe it’s a Mexicano-Beasto-Burger?
I was able to revisit this establishment during Hurricane Sandy. They had electricity in Red Bank before Matawan, and it was a really nice chance to give back to the local businesses that took a serious hit. We arrived early everyday for “work” and left at closing time. No Joe’s had their wireless and all of their extension chords ready to go! The owner was impressed by our diligent work ethic, and of course my boyfriend’s Australian accent. He was curious as to how he made it all the way to Red Bank, NJ.
We started our work days at Joe’s with their brunch menu consisting of various egg based dishes. For my first brunch experience I chose their farmer’s omelette. I was not in the mood for anything fancy, and it did the job. It was a three egg omelette with cheddar, peppers, tomatoes and cilantro. Props to them for not requiring the salt shaker! For my second days selection, I chose their breakfast sandwich with eggs, fried green tomatoes, greens and bacon which came with a red pepper aioli. I had to ask for extra aioli because it was quite dry. Since I wasn’t in the mood for the bun I ate it open faced. This did not work out well for me with a foil lined basket. It was breaking off into my meal. Is it strange that I thought this dish was going to be served open-faced in the first place like eggs Benedict or Florentine? It’s always the most awkward moment when a plate arrives and it is not what you envisioned.
As the days progressed and our caffeine levels rose to new heights, I decided I needed some lunch since I was actually shaking. If you google No Joe’s you’ll find out that they are considered to have the best soups around RB. I had the tomato corn chowder which was exceptional. Considering we had two meals there, and coffees all day with the occasional bottle of Poland Springs, our tabs were tres cheap! They had other soups that I felt guilty for not trying such as a crab bisque, veggie chili and vegetable and brown rice. However, as they say you can have it all, just not all at once.
Finally, what you were all waiting for: dessert. There was no way I could leave this establishment without my last course. They have their old school variety of cookies, cakes and pastries, but they also have an extensive list of milkshakes available. Of course I gravitated to the first thing that had peanut butter in it, even though I was never a fan of Captain Crunch per se. Well hey, they knew better than I when they combined the two with peanut butter and vanilla ice cream. Our icy friend is served with a nice long sundae spoon to make sure you get all of the crunch out of this experience and leave no man behind.
Well Joe, whomever or whatever you are, you can try to fool us with your Beasty Burger, but you’ll always be “No Ordinary Joe’s” coffee shop. In spite of RB’s inflated parking meters and infiltration of upscale snooty and unattainable shopping boutiques, I’m just happy this town has held onto one of its original gems that still smells like “Seattle Style coffee” that we all loved so much.
In spite of its short lived reputation as “Dead Bank” the town’s spirit has certainly been revived. If you’re looking for the ultimate 90’s flashback experience, don’t forget to visit the Doc Shoppe located on River Road www.docshoppe.com and your friends at Backward Glances vintage store now located on 43 Broad Street. We must not forget the people that put Red Bank on the Map, Jay and Silent Bob: We thank you for the phenomenal comic book store, Clerks 1&2, Chasing Amy, Mallrats, Dogma and for Striking Back. Your 90’s legacy lives on.