Original Joe’s San Jose. Photo Credit: Victor H. via Yelp. Used with permission.
Introducing Original Joe’s
Original Joe’s is a beloved Italian restaurant, an institution located in the heart of downtown San Jose. It’s a holdover from a simpler time, a Bay Area tradition that dates back to 1937 when the first Original Joe’s opened in San Francisco. More locations and perhaps a few copycats opened over the years. They all followed the same successful model: Waiters wore tuxedos, kitchen staff wore “chef’s whites” and “toque blanche” (white hat). They served old-fashioned Italian-American dishes prepared in an open kitchen, the menu consisting of steaks and seafood cooked on a charcoal grill, Italian pasta specialties, soups, salads, side dishes, and desserts. And they had a piano bar where, back in the day, men wore suits and ladies wore dresses and you’d stop by for a cocktail and listen to someone tickle the ivories or play the organ. Real classy!
Original Joe’s in San Jose opened in 1956. It was a partnership of four men, at least two of which had a family connection to Original Joe’s in San Francisco. Surviving all these years through good times and bad, even through the exodus of downtown retailers to spacious air-conditioned malls in the 1960s and 1970s, Original Joe’s continues to serve favorite foods with a “traditional San Francisco flair” to locals as well as to visitors from all over the world.
The Famous Hamburger Sandwich
One of the signature dishes at Original Joe’s is the “Hamburger Sandwich”. Today they call it the “Original Joe’s Famous Hamburger”, but to those of us in the know, it’s still the hamburger sandwich.
The hamburger sandwich is simplicity at its best. The menu describes it as, “3/4 pound ground chuck tumbled in chopped yellow onion, Swiss cheese, grilled or broiled and served on our signature French bread.” You can add bacon or fried egg, if you like.
The chopped yellow onion is pressed into the raw ground chuck and formed into an oblong-shaped patty. I don’t care for the strong onion flavor, so I order mine without onions. You’ve got to have it grilled on the mesquite-fired charbroiler. It takes a long time to cook a burger this thick, but your patience is rewarded when it finally arrives at your seat at the counter. (You are sitting at the counter, aren’t you? Where you can watch the open kitchen in action?)
The hamburger sandwich comes with Swiss cheese; I add bacon. It’s served with steak fries and a little cup of ketchup on the side. I always wish they’d bring more fries and ketchup to begin with, but you can ask for more.
My Attempt To Make A Hamburger Sandwich
I decided to make a version of the Original Joe’s hamburger sandwich using my Weber gas grill. No mesquite charbroiler, to be sure, but quicker and easier.
I formed 1.5 pounds of good quality 80/20 ground chuck into two thick, 3/4 pound oblong-shaped patties, applied kosher salt and pepper, and let sit in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes, giving the salt a chance to penetrate the meat. Continue reading Original Joe’s 3/4 Pound Hamburger Sandwich