Homestyle Classics Come to Homewood Thanks to JoJo’s on Broadway
By Jamie McFaden
It’s always a bit of a challenge to decide on a place to go for dinner after work on Friday. Not because Birmingham has a lack of amazing cuisine—in fact, the dilemma stems from too many places from which to choose. With an array of amazing cuisine in nearly every neighborhood and a varied selection of price points, I find myself making lists constantly of where we really need to try and then even more time narrowing down that list when hunger actually strikes and a decision must be made to fuel this hungry body. Birmingham Restaurant Week exacerbates this happy dilemma as now there are participating establishments offering three-course options prix fixed and posted on the website (bhamrestaurantweek.com). I arrived late to the party for Restaurant Week. It was the last Friday of this celebration of local cuisine, and I felt the pressure to make the perfect choice before being forced to wait an entire year for Birmingham Restaurant Week to return. After scanning the website tirelessly and repeatedly for options and then rapid-fire texting my husband to get his input on this weighty decision, we decided to try something new. JoJo’s on Broadway caught my eye for being located in an area of Homewood with which I was not familiar and immediately received bonus points for not requiring a reservation on a Friday night. With our minds made up and our stomachs growling, we ventured out to sample the special Restaurant Week offerings at JoJo’s on Broadway.
JoJo’s in nestled off Broadway Street in a residential neighborhood in Homewood. It looks easily like it could be the Cheers-style setting for locals to go enjoy a drink and a hot meal (where everybody knows your name kind of thing). Though the restaurant’s appearance has a simple, old-school diner feel to it, little touches like the bright neon of the bar lining the back wall and metal beer signs peppering the walls next to the booths gave it a homey charm that sold me immediately. Our server brought out both the regular menu and the Birmingham Restaurant Week prix fixe menu when we were seated (which, by the way, was immediately. Score one for a Friday night dining out with no line, no wait!). I shouldn’t have even looked at the regular menu since I had planned specifically to try the Restaurant Week one. This made me want twice as many things to stuff into my mouth. Luckily, my husband and the friends we brought with us made it easy and ordered items off the regular menu so I had a smattering of food to steal from them. The prix fixe menu offered a choice between two appetizers, two entrees, and either a dessert or side salad ($20 excluding tax, tip, and beverage). I chose the Sauteed Tiger Shrimp as my appetizer. This dish consisted of six massive tiger shrimp sautéed in white wine with garlic and shallots and then sprinkled with fresh herbs. These shrimp tasted incredibly fresh, and the sauce was very light and lemony. The whole thing was an ideal summer meal-starter: not overly rich and just enough to leave you wanting more. My friend, Melissa, ordered the other prix fixe option, the Black & Blue Tuna. This was a good hunk of tuna seared medium rare and served with a soy ginger sauce that complemented the peppery tuna steak by balancing the salty to sweet ratio without overpowering one way or another.
Melissa and I ordered the Citrus Herb Pork Loin while my husband ordered the Chicken Piccata off the regular menu and Melissa’s fiancé selected the the Big Joe Burger. These were dishes that tasted like something your momma would make if she were an excellent cook (mine is). The Citrus Herb Pork Loin was dry rubbed with spices and grilled, then covered with plenty of carmelized onions and served in a honey Dijon burre blanc. The dish was served with fried smashed potatoes and grilled squash (a little healthy stuff to balance out the oh-so-sinful fried wonder). The pork loin was not over-seasoned, nor was it drowned in the burre blanc, allowing for the meaty goodness of the pork flavor itself to shine through. It should be noted that this was a very large hunt of meat (which will always score extra points with this girl, especially considering the incredibly reasonable price). The smashed potatoes were fried in a thick, slightly salty batter that crisped up and elevated the deliciousness of the rich homemade mashed potatoes. This side item got smaller and smaller as my dinner dates kept pilfering bites (an obvious testament to how delicious they were) throughout the meal. My husband’s Chicken Piccata ($13) was served on a big bed of JoJo’s burnt butter pasta. The name doesn’t do it justice, though. It should be called JoJo’s noodles straight from heaven. They are served al dente and have this rich, buttery flavor flecked with just a bit of Parmesan. They make for both a wonderfully decadent side dish or as the foundation for entrees such as the Chicken Piccata. Crazy good. The Big Joe ($10)
that Melissa’s fiancé ordered was INTENSE. This bad boy is composed of two quarter-pound burgers covered in cheese and then topped with thick-cut tomatoes and fresh lettuce. Not for the faint of heart or those with tiny little baby stomachs, it is a serious burger that they cook to perfection so that it maintains the juiciness that any good burger should have. Order it for dinner when you’ve skipped lunch so you can polish it off and impress all your friends with what a total beast you can be.
Of course, we were all stuffed when our dessert came. But I would not have missed trying the perfect punctuation to our JoJo’s experience and highly recommend you do the same when you go (even if you’re wayyyyy full from that massive burger).
The dessert of the evening was S’mores Pie. It came out and was this beautiful melding of milk chocolate and roasted marshmallows that looked as if they’d been flambéed. I’m talking marshmallows that were fluffy on the inside and lightly crisped and browned on the outside (which is the way God intended them to be in my opinion). The pie had a graham cracker crust and also had graham crackers sprinkled on the top, providing a good crunch all the way around. This dish was essentially a s’more for grown-ups. Again, this was undeniably homemade and amazing. Just as we were licking our fingers and trying not to lick the bowl, a woman who had previously been behind the bar mixing up martinis and pouring beers walked up to our table to ask how we liked everything. She introduced herself as Zelda Resha, the co-owner and resident baker at JoJo’s. When I marveled aloud at the dessert, she told me that she makes each sweet treat from scratch daily, noting that she does not use box mixes or pre-made crusts in anything. Zelda Resha also makes a mean martini (especially for those of you who, like me, are all about the dirty variety). Her desserts are guaranteed to make a good meal even better, and you would be remiss to pass them up.
With friendly service, a lively-yet-comfortable atmosphere, and food that will take you back to sharing supper at the family dinner table, JoJo’s is a must for any food-lover. JoJo’s on Broadway is located at 903 Broadway Street in Homewood.