Saturday, May 25, 2024

The Cali Club Wrap at Joe Sent Me in North Cambridge. (Photo: Marc Levy)

When you step back and think about it, north of Porter Square is a bastion of old-school charm, with well-rooted spots such as Newtowne Grille, Frank’s Steakhouse, Andy’s Diner and Shine Square Pub (and Sligo in Somerville’s Davis Square). Frank’s is more than 75 years old; Newtowne and Andy’s are over 50 and counting. Newer entries such as Shine make the list by verve and vibe. One place folks may overlook is Joe Sent Me, a watering hole with a name that smacks of the speakeasy but has classic movie and rock concert posters on the walls. It’s really your classic neighborhood pub with a cozy, intimate layout, reasonably priced cocktails and a wide-ranging menu of sports bar comforts. Joe’s has been at Massachusetts Avenue and Alberta Terrace for almost 25 years, with a sister restaurant in Waltham preceding it in 1995. 

Besides basic bar offerings (wings, sliders, nachos and burgers), the menu has a clear Mexican slant. I spied sizzling fajitas and swordfish tacos to try on a later visit; the fajitas made me nostalgic for the shuttered Border Cafe in Harvard Square. But on my last drop-in I had Joe’s homemade soup of the day, a big bowl of chicken noodle (the noodles are the shells known as conchiglie) and the Cali Club Wrap, a pleasing blend of grilled chicken, smoked bacon, lettuce, tomato, guacamole and Sriracha mayo. The guac was good, and the chicken wasn’t dry, as sometimes happens in the making of salad wrap sandos. Like the soup, it was hearty in size, and it came with a mound of fries that I made only a small dent in. Other items on my radar are the Moroccan chicken salad (yogurt marinated breast, mixed greens, feta cheese, Kalamata olives, cukes, tomatoes, red onion and roasted chickpeas with a housemade harissa dressing) and fried haddock sandwich. As far as beer and spirits go, Joe’s price point is easy on the wallet.

It is also in the now controversial stretch of Massachusetts Avenue from Dudley Street to Alewife Brook Parkway where parking was removed last month in favor of a protected bike lane, part of a city Cycling Safety Ordinance. Several area businesses have been outspoken about the removal’s impact and process, and City Paint and Fast Phil’s even have signs up to call the city manager to complain. At Joe’s, the reaction is more a shrug and wait-and-see. Joe’s outside dining space on Alberta Terrace is designated to become four metered parking spots as part of the project.

Joe’s opens at 4 p.m. weekdays and serves brunch on the weekends, hosts trivia nights on Tuesdays and has a perfect layout for sports viewing. No matter how you get there on a cold winter night, Joe’s provides homey comfort, or a place to see the Pat’s hopefully crawl into the playoffs.

Joe Sent Me (2388 Massachusetts Ave., North Cambridge)

Cambridge writer Tom Meek’s reviews, essays, short stories and articles have appeared in WBUR’s The ARTery, The Boston Phoenix, The Boston Globe, The Rumpus, The Charleston City Paper and SLAB literary journal. Tom is a member of the Boston Society of Film Critics and rides his bike everywhere.