Joe Beef is on the wagon, but its personality remains oversized and intoxicating. The humble, 30-seat, back-to-basics culinary outpost that Allison Cunningham, Fred Morin and David McMillan opened on a sketchy stretch of Notre Dame West in 2005 has over the intervening years more than doubled its size, added a proper bar and patio and, against the odds, evolved into a culinary institution. But it has managed the transition with its original ideals and personality intact. Joe Beef ’s exuberant joie de vivre is resolutely contemporary—but it has one foot firmly and proudly planted in the past. The ostensible bric-a-brac of its decor is in fact quality stuff, a nod to the antique shops that for decades lined the local street. Its unpretentious culinary outlook is old school—and, above all else, Lyonnais. The portions are generous and the cooking hearty and luxurious. Think foie gras “Tatin,” pâté en croute and lobster pasta, enriched with lardons and scads of lobster- and brandy-infused cream. Or so it was, anyway. When it returns, this restaurant’s plan for “Surviving the Apocalypse” (this, the prescient subtitle of their 2018 cookbook) revolves around equally hearty but less luxurious comfort foods.
Photos: MATT PERRIN