Joe Black Coffee Bar, located on Portage Avenue, just across from the entrance to Assiniboine Park, is one of those places that I have visited several times over the years without ever reviewing. It’s right at a bus stop, and a place to get away from the crowds when park traffic is really busy. I’ve been trying to get out and review some more restaurants in the St. James neighbourhood, and so finally decided to visit with the intent to review.
When I stepped inside Joe Black’s on my first visit, what caught my eye was the size of the place. It’s the same building, but it seems they’ve opened up the seating area, so that the whole coffee bar seems more spacious. Being a corner location, Joe Black has the advantage of having windows on two sides of the building. My first visit it was cloudy and so this wasn’t in full effect. On my second visit, even though it was early evening, the sunlight flooded the interior. You’ll see this reflected in some of my pictures.
Joe Black also has just about every kind of seating you might want. There is a counter running along the Portage Avenue windows. The are a variety of bar tables, and dinner tables. There are several larger, comfy chairs, and finally some couch/love seats. There is even a fireplace you can gather around. The seating is not only accommodating to a wide variety of groups, but even when visiting alone, offers seating to suit a variety of moods.
Joe Black Coffee Bar Visit One
My first visit was a mid afternoon one. It took me longer than I had planned to get there, so I decided I would go with just a beverage and a sweet treat. Despite that the place is called a coffee bar, I had drunk several cups of coffee during the day, so I chose the Mango Tango smoothie.
I really enjoyed my smoothie. It had a really solid mango flavour, and the consistency remained smooth and creamy right to the end.
Picking something to eat was a little trickier. When it comes to selection, the number of choices at Joe Black’s is far larger than at many coffee places. After giving a scan over the pastries, I decided on a cream horn. The cream horn was well filled and the pastry was good and flaky.
While I was ordering, I noticed that Joe Black offers flatbread pizzas, but only after four pm. So, I figured that I would make my return visit later in the day when I would be able to give one of them a try.
Back to Black
My second visit was an early evening one. The coffee bar was actually less full than it had been during my late afternoon visit. I wanted a pizza, and so I ordered the Joes Special. These pizza take about 20 minutes to make, and their is a sign to that effect on the menu. I was pleased though, that my order taker at the counter made mention of the fact to be double sure that I knew that I would be in for a bit of a wait.
The pizza comes with salad, and I added a cup of the chicken noodle soup which was the feature for the day. I also ordered an Americano to drink. The soup and Americano were prepared quickly and I was able to enjoy them while I waited for the pizza to arrive. The soup was one of those all thriller, no filler types. There was broth in the bowl, but there was also lots of chicken, plenty of noodles, and even a few vegetables.
The Americano, posted at the top of this post, was good and smooth. There was a nice, clean finish, and no bitter aftertaste that you can sometimes get.
I wasn’t sure what to expect from the pizza. When it arrived, one thing was clear, they don’t stint of the toppings at Joe Black. You’ll get some idea of how fully loaded this pizza was from the picture below, but the picture doesn’t really do it justice. The pizza certainly made the wait worthwhile. The ingredients were fresh, there was a whole pile of cheese, and overall it was a quite tasty concoction. There was one bit of disappointment however, and that was the pizza wasn’t hot when it arrived at my table. That first slice of pizza should be just below the burning point when you stick it in your mouth.
There was a generous portion of salad that accompanied the pizza. the salad came with a mix of tomatoes, cucumber, and carrot. The lettuce was crisp and the dressing was just enough to flavour the mixture without drowning it.
Not being in a rush to head home after eating, I went back to the counter to choose a bit of dessert. Again, there are a lot of items to choose from. In the end I went with a mango macaroon. I enjoy the chewy coconut in the macaroon, and mango is one of my favourite flavours. This made for a nice finish to my meal.
The service each time I visited was prompt, efficient and friendly.
In addition to the the prepared foods, Joe Black also offers chips and drinks in a read to go format. You can also find three or four books on the shelf. They may only be for decoration, but hey, books are meant to be read. There is also a variety of local magazines available for browsing, and few decks of cards, and what looks like a backgammon set.
I usually get up to Assiniboine Park a few times during the summer. I will definitely be stopping in again at Joe Black Coffee Bar when I am in that area. It’s a pleasant, relaxing, and tasty place to enjoy a break from the routine of your day.