Every time I see a new non-chain restaurant pop up in the Charles County area I get excited. So, imagine my delight when I found the old Great Wall location had been transformed into an Asian fusion restaurant called Joe’s Noodle House. I immediately did what any foodie would do which was grabbed my coworker and headed off to lunch.
At first glance I was extremely underwhelmed. The sign outside still says Great Wall, and there is a handwritten sign in the window that says cash only. This baffled me, so I looked at my coworker and said “This is 2012 right?” Luckily we had cash, so we ventured inside, and much to my dismay I immediately noticed they are using the same unimpressive furniture and décor from the Great Wall. However, even with the subpar décor, I was able to find a little glimmer of hope. There were quite a few people in the restaurant eating lunch. This is not a common occurrence for an ethnic food restaurant in our area, so it can only mean one thing…good food.
Then, my initial excitement quickly came rushing back when I began looking around at the mouth watering dishes on all the tables. We were seated promptly by a very friendly and welcoming hostess. A look at the menu quickly reveals that Joe’s serves more than just noodles. They serve a variety of Chinese, Thai, and Vietnamese dishes, making it a sure bet for almost any diner. Many of the menu choices can not be found anywhere else in the area. One such dish is the Vietnamese specialty called pho. For those of you that have never heard of it, pho is a rice noodle soup that comes topped with your choice of meat and a plate of bean sprouts, jalapeno’s, lime wedges and basil on the side.
After a quick glance at the menu we decided on the garden rolls ($3.00) and salt and pepper squid ($6.95) for our appetizers. The appetizers came quickly, and were prepared beautifully. Garden rolls are delicate rice paper wrappers containing a filling of leaf lettuce, cilantro, rice noodles and shrimp served cold. They were accompanied with a dipping sauce of hoisin and crushed peanuts. These rolls were amazingly bright and refreshing, and the addition of hoisin complemented them perfectly.
The salt and pepper squid was definitely not one the typical black pepper and salt items you see on Chinese restaurant menus. These lightly battered and fried pieces of calamari were tossed with slices of Thai bird chilies, and fried slices of scallion. They were any spicy food lover’s dream, so I found them to be extremely delightful, although my coworker found them to be far too hot for her.
My coworker opted to try the pad thai for her entrée. Her food came out steaming hot, and contained quite a few jumbo shrimp and slices of tofu. She had never had thai food before, but she is now a believer. She loved her dish and plans to return to try more.
For my entrée, I decided to order the pho topped with eye-of-round steak and soft tendon ($6.95). I know some are wondering what soft tendon is, so I will tell you that it is just as it says, soft beef tendon. I first tried the pho without any condiments, and I have to say it is rather flavorless. However, it was quickly brought to life with the additions of the jalapenos, lime wedges, bean sprouts and a couple dashes of fish sauce. I could drink that broth all day long. Although I loved the broth, I was unimpressed with the eye-of-round. It is just what one would expect from a very lean piece of meat, dry and flavorless. I also quickly found that I am not a soft tendon fan. It was just as it was supposed to be, very tender, but I had a really hard time getting past the texture. So next time I will opt for the brisket or flank steak topping.
The server was quite helpful and attentive. She kept our drinks full, and brought the food out at the perfect time. I look forward to visiting Joe’s again in the very near future. There are other dishes on the menu that I can not wait to try, and I’m going to have to satisfy this craving for their garden rolls fairly soon.
Jennifer Rudolph is an employee of the St. Charles Companies and is a lifelong resident of Southern Maryland. She loves all things food, whether it’s cooking, purchasing, or eating it; food is her passion. As a mother of two, she is very conscious of the food she feeds her family; therefore, she is a big advocate of the farm to table movement that has been sweeping the nation. She advocates buying local whenever possible, and supports sustainable agriculture. When she’s not working or searching for local eateries, she enjoys spending time with her family and playing softball.