The name — the diner equivalent of John Doe — doesn't do justice to the treasured institution that is Eat at Joe’s (1473 S Green Rd., 216-381-3101).
This tiny, old-fashioned, cash-only diner can easily be missed owing to its odd location in the rear of a CVS building on Green Road. The story is that years ago, the diner was housed in a building across the street that was facing demolition. CVS stepped up and offered to include the beloved neighborhood diner into its building plans.
With both breakfast and lunch served all day, with a simple menu of diner staples listed on a table tent, Eat at Joe’s attracts customers from various generations, sandwiched in at the tables or elbow-to-elbow at the counter. A chalkboard lists daily specials like eggs Benedict, turkey Reubens and rice pudding. The quick, no-nonsense service and solid, filling fare make this a must-stop if you are in the area. Spaces fill up fast at mealtimes, when people line up for tuna melts, egg salad sandwiches and BLTs, each costing around $5. The price is right and the food hits the spot, to be sure.
But the real treasure at Joe’s is the clientele. The customers, many of whom have been coming here (and across the street) for years, are extremely friendly. I enjoyed one of those once-in-a-lifetime diner conversations with a fellow next to me at the counter — a conversation that was so intense, unusual and amazing, I wondered if I’d stepped into a Sam Shepard play. Waitresses bustle to grab food from the pick-up window, proactively offering extra napkins with the burger because it tends to be messy.
In fact, you look around Eat at Joe’s and notice vignettes that make you second guess the decade. An older couple smiles and waves at a baby in a carrier resting in a space between tables. A businessman reads the newspaper while sipping coffee. Frankly, what I saw the least of here were people using their cell phones. Folks were just hanging out, enjoying the scene and talking to one another other.
One experience while waiting in line to pay really sums it up. A kindly, elderly gentlemen offered, apropos of nothing, “When I got married, the rabbi said, ‘There are three things you need to know about your wife: she doesn’t cook, she doesn’t do dishes and she doesn’t do laundry.’ And he was right! 64 years later, these are still my chores.”