August 9, 2012

Quick Bite: The Lunch Special at Papa Joe's

Truth is, as much as I've loved working on Catfish's Dishes, I haven't had much time lately.  Big changes have been transpiring at the job I'm actually paid to do, and sneaking in some editing during shift hasn't been an option.  However, I knew I needed to get out my camera as soon as I decided to eat lunch at Papa Joe's.

One of the transitions at work has been that for the last three weeks, I've been coming to work in the daytime, after eight years of working the graveyard shift.  So while my goal is to always brown-bag it, on the days that I need to eat out my options have exploded a hundred fold.  I'm no longer stuck between Burger King, Los Betos, and the WinCo deli.  There are tons of options, even within walking distance.  So last Friday when I forgot my lunch in my haste to organize my Dungeons and Dragons maps for the weekend, I decided to give one of those options a try.

My intended was Thai Naylin, a Thai (duh) restaurant that had opened on the corner of University and Capitol the last time I was on the day shift.  It had taken out a Chinese place I loved, but I was willing to forgive.  Figuring I had the time, I walked there, only to find out it had quietly gone out of business when I wasn't looking.  With time rapidly evaporating, I knew I had to pick one of the places off of that intersection.

Pizza Hut

Pro:  7$ lunch buffet sounded pretty good.
Con:  Giant national chain.


Pro:  Healthy, filling.
Con: I rarely get to go out for lunch, so why buy a sandwich?  Also, giant national chain.


Pro:  Um...they bought a toaster before Subway?  Help me out, I really don't know.
Con:  Paying more money for Subway's cons.

Papa Joes:

Pro: Local business, good smells emanating from the premises.
Con: Knew it would cost more than fast food.

Despite the fact that Wife and I had managed to turn our summer without children into a financially tight time anyway, it was payday and Papa Joe's just sounded better.  Hoping that they at least had a lunch special, I went inside.

Instantly I was struck by the look of the place.  There were wooden booths, and wooden floors, and little wooden tables by the windows.  Yet there was also a couch by a table with a chess board and magazines, and a TV showing the Olympics.  The place was a perfect mix of class and casual.  My waitress sat me at a little table by a window and I got to work studying the menu.  It wouldn't have been that expensive to get a personal pizza, but if you've read this blog before you know that all I have to do is blink and Wife will want to go for pizza--just like the lunch hour time frame made me want to bypass sandwiches, the mere fact that I was treating myself to a meal made pizza a no-go.  I briefly considered pairing up items from their appetizer menu before choosing the half-sandwich and soup option from the lunch specials. (You can see which specials I bypassed here.)  Since I tend to be slow with menus and I didn't have much time, I chose the predictable Reuben for my sandwich and the cheddar bacon soup as my side.  All specials come with a fountain drink, and to my delight plain iced tea was an option.  It was bracingly hot outside, and I downed my first glass in seconds.  Although I knew I was supposed to be eating on the cheap, I couldn't resist and got an appetizer on the side:  grilled jalapeno poppers wrapped in bacon.

Since I viewed these things as one whole meal that needed to be eaten, I told her that everything could just come out at once, but this ended up meaning my meal arrived before my appetizer.  I started in on the soup.  It was pretty good, but since I was going beyond my wallet's comfort level I hoped the rest of my meal would be better.  There was plenty of smoky bacon in it, and it was rich and creamy with just the right amount of heat, but the chunks of celery populating the bowl were huge.  Luckily, they were cooked completely through, but it still threw me each time a piece dominated a bite.

The glare doesn't do the cross-section justice.
Thankfully, the sandwich was far better.  The marbled rye had a good, pronounced flavor, the sauerkraut was plentiful and seemed to be of a better quality than I get at the grocery, and the thin sliced corned beef was piled high, but most important was the Thousand Island.  I asked the waitress if the dressing was homemade but she only told me she was new and didn't offer to ask anyone.  Still, whatever they are using, whether it came from their own kitchen or if they are buying some gourmet brand I'm unfamiliar with, it really made the sandwich.  It was slightly sweet, but not in a cloying way.  The whole sauce was just filled with little notes of flavor; it wasn't an afterthought.  I would go as far as to say that the dressing may have even caused Papa Joe's to supplant Westside Drive-In as my favorite place to go for a Reuben in Boise.

My sandwich done, I waited for my appetizer.  And waited.  Luckily, the every present work radio I carry during my shift didn't have any news for me, so I contented myself to make up little stories about the group of very elderly people taking the large table and immediately ordering several pitchers of beer (war buddies, naturally) and the guy banging away angrily on his laptop over on the comfy couch (frustrated novelist?  Student?  No....trying to break up with his girlfriend via e-mail.)  The one saving grace in all of this was that the waitress did make every effort to keep my tea full, and apologized numerous times.

These will make you forget all of your cares.
When the appetizer did arrive, all of my irritations fled out the window.  I knew I was looking at perfection.  Four grilled jalapenos were arrayed on a bed of mixed greens, stuffed with cheese and wrapped in bacon, flanked by lemon slices.  I don't know if these are any healthier than traditional poppers, I can't say where bacon ranks on the fat scale versus breaded and deep fried.  But they certainly tasted fresh.  They weren't spicy, sadly--not even a little bit--but they were wonderful, so I forgave them.  The bacon and pepper both took on added complexity from the grill, and each bite was amazing.  Furthermore, the lemon that dripped off of the poppers, as well as the cheese that oozed out, collected to make a little dressing for the mixed greens, and my lunchtime desire to eat salad was sated without even having to order one.  Even though I hadn't really had the time to wait, it was completely worth the wait.  I felt palpable sadness as I made the bold decision to stick a pepper in a to-go box for Wife, and headed back to work.

Well, pizza and Bloody Marys.
So my initial impression of Papa Joe's is this--despite the sloppy knife work on the celery for the soup, the food is wonderful.  I'm not going to hold a new server's mistakes against her, especially during a fairly busy looking lunch rush.  I can't wait to go back and try some of their other items; maybe I will even take Wife for pizza, and I recommend you go as well.  If you try the grilled jalapenos, let them know Catfish sent you. Papa Joe's Pizza on Urbanspoon


  1. Catfish, Thanks for the great review...Hope to meet you next time your in. Papa

  2. Sounds good. I can't wait to try those poppers. This is available all day, or just lunchtime?