By George Humphries
“Not Your Average Joe’s” got its name from the owner’s attempt to set it apart at the earliest possible instant. The food philosophy, according to general manager Erik Larson, is “American food with a twist.” All the basics are represented – seafood, steaks, pastas, chicken, salads, burgers and sandwiches – each with something unique.
The first thing you will notice at Not Your Average Joe’s is the bread – warm, crusty, herbed, freshly-baked – bread as it should be. Served with a saucer of olive oil, cheese, and herbs for dipping, it’s hard to restrain yourself from just filling up and then asking for the check.
There is a lot more to enjoy at Not Your Average Joe’s. Joe’s is in the Lansdowne Town Center off Belmont Ridge Road between Route 7 and Riverside Parkway. It’s a restaurant with reasonable prices that embraces families while still offering a sophisticated enough menu and wine selection to attract singles and both younger and older couples.
atmosphere is friendly and relaxed, a place you can drop in on in casual clothes or you can make an occasion of it. Birthdays are celebrated here with benefits – check the website at www.nyaj.com.
A Massachusetts guy named Steve Silverstein decided that if he wanted a place in the suburbs to get good food at a reasonable price and something a little unique, he would have to create it himself. He planted the first NYAJ in the Boston area in 1994. Today there are 14 Massachusetts locations and one in Lansdowne/Leesburg.
The menu is extensive and creative. There are 13 appetizers, plus variations, and pizzas which can be ordered as appetizer or main dish. There are seven items under soup and side salads, and salads can be augmented with optional shrimp, salmon, or sirloin tips.
Joe’s Creations and Joe’s Favorites total up to 14 different dishes, including Haddock crusted with falafel, Vietnamese salmon, rosemary-skewered scallops, sirloin tips,
A pork tenderloin lived up to its descriptive name and was crusted with spices, glazed with a mango mojo sauce, and placed on a bed of sweet potato hash full of chopped mangoes and onions.
A dish of balsamic-glazed salmon was cooked to my wife’s order and served with a rice pilaf and asparagus that was grilled without being overdone or too au point.
There are 10 entrée salads as well as nine burgers and sandwiches. The almond crusted goat cheese salad had a generous serving of warmed goat cheese served over organic greens dotted with raspberries, caramelized pecans, and raspberry vinaigrette. The tomato basil soup was seasoned and salted to an appropriate level without being overpowering.
There are at least six chicken dishes, including cranberry-teriyaki, farfalle with fresh mozzarella, piccata with fettuccine, mustard-crusted, Mediterranean, and even a chicken enchilada. They also recommend the grilled black Angus sirloin meatloaf – not your average meatloaf, with chipotle peppers, mozzarella, corn and red peppers.
The Kid’s menu has nine choices, including the always favorite burger, chicken tenders, or mac and cheese, but some also venturing further into more adult cuisine. Five desserts, including special inventions of the chef, round out the meal along with multiple drink choices from the ordinary to “mocktails,” smoothies, and “frozen comforts,” as well as wine at very reasonable prices.
Joe’s is a chain but doesn’t act like it. Attention by the staff is really good, not only do waiters frequently check to see if all is well, but the manager visits each table.
We’ve enjoyed several really good meals at Not Your Average Joe’s. The ambience is nice, the service good, the menu extensive and innovative, and the food excellent.
The Blue Ridge Grill at Brambleton is half of the Blue Ridge Grill family, the other located in Leesburg in the southwest corner of Route 15 and Edwards Ferry Road and tucked in behind the McDonalds, Sheetz, and The Tire Center. The Brambleton restaurant, opened two years ago, also is planted deep in a busy retail center – but it’s worth the effort of finding it.
The Brambleton Plaza, in case you are not a near neighbor of the massive development, is located off Northstar Boulevard where it intersects with Ryan Road. The restaurant sign is located high on the building to the right of the Regal Fox Cinema. While there is limited on-street parking, there is a large parking garage that is easily accessed behind the shops and cinema.
The restaurant faces the fountain in front of the theater and has outdoor seating that will be very inviting in good weather. Inside the spacious restaurant are comfortable booths and tables as well as a bar the length of the high-ceilinged dining room. It is a pleasant and well-arranged space, and features brilliant large photographs of steeplechase racing, kayaking, and other scenes of Loudoun County country life.
And the food is the best part of this attractive and inviting place.
The lunch menu consists of a surprisingly long list of tempting offerings in groups labeled Appetizers (8 different offerings $4.50 to $9.50); Entrée Salads (6 at $8.50 to $14.50, three of which were available in smaller portions with an entrée); Seafood and Pasta (5 from $12 to $17); Chicken (3, $10 and $11); Sandwiches (8 $7.25 to $13.75); Burgers (3 all at $8.25); and Steaks and Ribs (5, $15 to $18). In addition, there are eight sides ($3 and $4) and three dessert choices ($6 and $7). The dinner menu is slightly expanded with entrée prices just a little higher.
We started a recent lunch with the soup of the day – a deliciously-flavored Chicken Mushroom Soup that turned out to be almost a stew – hearty and satisfying enough to be a main course. In addition to the soup of the day, the Grill offers a “Homemade” Lobster Bisque, both at only $4.50.
The sliced Prime Rib sandwich ($13.75) was plentiful and tender and served on a French baguette with au jus for dipping. It also had a layer of Monterey jack cheese, and was served with some of the best French fries we’ve had anywhere – thinly cut and subtly seasoned with BRG’s special blend.
My wife chose to combine an appetizer and a small salad for a meal, which turned out to be a good choice. The Asian Chili Shrimp consisted of some 8-10 fried shrimp ringing a mound of Asian peanut slaw topped with tempura-style fried green beans and chopped peanuts.
The Mixed Greens Salad was adorned with chopped tomatoes and mangoes and tossed in a classic vinaigrette. Excellent. The Grill offers a small version of this at $4.50, as well as small versions of its Caesar Salad and its Blue Ridge House Salad (romaine, tomato, corn, cucumber, and croutons tossed in a ranch dressing).
At another lunch, we chose the Barbecue Ribs ($17.75), which turned out to be an entire rack that almost hung over the already large serving plate. They were juicy and the sauce was tasty without being too sweet. They were served with fries and a side of Blazin’ Saddle Beans, a BRG recipe. We highly recommend the dish.
The Prime Rib dinner was all it should be, tender and flavorfully rubbed with some BRG special blend of seasoning. Prime Ribs go for $15 at lunch, and are available at larger sizes at dinner for $19 and $24. The Grill also offers several steaks and chicken dishes.
The wait staff is well trained and refreshingly, they pitch in to help one another. When a glass of ice tea starts to reach bottom, another magically appears handed by a different waiter even when our waitress was not immediately available.
Blue Ridge Grill Manager Kevin Weitz tells us that the restaurant blends all its seasonings and sauces onsite with its own recipes. He also is particularly proud of a dessert that he created –Dulce de Leche Chocolate Cake – a thick dark chocolate cake baked with a dulce de leche center and served with vanilla bean ice cream and whipped cream, then drizzled with chocolate and caramel sauces (like it needed it!) Other desserts are a Catoctin Mountain Apple Walnut Cobbler and Banana Pudding.
The Grill serves wine, beer, and a full range of alcoholic drinks.
George Humphries is a retired Navy aviator who began cooking at the age of 10 and has managed several large restaurants. He has lived in Loudoun Country since 1984.