Joe’s Farm Grill in Gilbert has been on my radar for quite some time. I have wanted to get out there for a meal since I started hearing good things about the atmosphere and the food.
So, I gassed up the Sethmobile and drove out to the far reaches of Gilbert to find this place. Let me warn you that a drive from Arcadia to Joe’s is quite the hike. In fact, it seemed like it took nearly 11 months to get there and back before I could write about it.
However, I did find the restaurant and was a bit overwhelmed by the surrounding. The restaurant itself was in the middle of several sprawling acres of land with plenty of farmland, shade trees, picnic tables and a few scattered buildings featuring a coffee shop and a refreshment stand. My target, however, was the main restaurant, a counter service locale featuring burgers, sandwiches, salads, and, during morning hours, breakfast. I parked the car and wandered into the building, passing groups of people with their dogs and large families enjoying the warm afternoon and chomping down on baskets of food.
It was a tad warm for me outside, so I was hopeful the restaurant had some interior seating with plenty of air conditioning. I wasn’t disappointed. Walking into the main restaurant, I was confronted with a group of stanchions guiding me to the ordering window. I had a chance to review the menu both from the hard copy I picked up on the way in and also from the digital menu beaming from the large video screen next to the ordering window. Several people were waiting to place their orders and I got a chance to look around and figure out where to sit.
The interior was cool and comfortable with an industrial edge. There was a community table in the center of the restaurant and then a room to the West with tables and chairs. Additional tables and chairs were just to the North.
I approached the order window and had made up my mind. I selected the Fontina Burger ($8.99), the Grilled Wedge Salad ($7.99), and a Diet Coke ($1.99). I handed over my payment and received my receipt, a vibrating pager, and a cup for my soda. I headed for the drink station but realized that it was actually outside on the north face of the building. I took my place in line and waited to get my beverage. I then headed back inside to the long community table that I had to myself.
About 15 minutes passed and my pager went off, beckoning me to the Pick Up window. On a tray, my burger and salad awaited me. The portion size was plentiful and I was pleased at the appearance of my meal.
I returned to the drink station to freshen up my drink and get some ketchup for my fries. Sitting down at the table, I couldn’t decide what to eat first, so I started with the Fontina Burger. More specifically, I started with the fries. In a word, the fries were fabulous. The cooks in the kitchen nailed these right out of the gate. Piping hot with a crispy exterior and a fluffy interior, the skin-on fries were a hit. If I had one quibble it would be that a gentler hand be used on the salt, but it didn’t mar the final product in any way. I was quite pleased.
The Fontina Burger itself was quite large. The big, soft bun held together a mix of the six ounce burger topped with roasted red peppers, grilled mushrooms, greens, a homemade pecan pesto and a nice bit of Fontina cheese. I was expecting it to be a bit sloppy, but I was pleased that it wasn’t. It was an excellent burger and the pesto really made the entire dish shine. The one failing of the burger, however, was the bun. It didn’t taste bad and it was a perfectly nice bread product, but I thought there was just too much of it and felt the flavors of the burger, mushrooms, peppers and mushrooms were fighting for equal billing with the bun. Still, I would order the burger again.
My next stop was the Grilled Wedge Salad. I have never really indulged too often in the Wedge Salad realm. Often, I find them pretty bland and paltry and they became somewhat cliche after a while (much like Grilled Radicchio). But the idea of a wedge of Iceberg Lettuce being grilled and then treated with the traditional toppings of a Blue Cheese dressing, tomatoes and bacon crumbles piqued by interest. Like the burger, the portion sized was large and a half head of lettuce split in two sat on a tray in front of me. I carved off a piece of the lettuce and took a bite. Suddenly, I realized that a wedge salad must be equally treated with all the toppings. The bite I had tasted of pure smoke. This was perfect for the salad, but on its own, it was quite startling and I grabbed my drink to quash a bit of the overwhelming taste. I spent the next minute or two carving up the wedge, tossing it all together and then sprinkling it with a good dose of black pepper. My second bite was heaven. The smoky flavor and the blue cheese paired well and I was so happy that the bacon was crisp and the tomatoes were fresh and not mealy. I took the liberty of squeezing on a bit of the juice from the lemon wedge that came with the salad and that only heightened the flavors. This was just a wonderfully refreshing and delicious salad. No doubt that I will be having it again.
I finished my meal and relaxed for a bit before heading to the car. I was quite pleased with my lunch and was very impressed with Joe’s Farm Grill. There were, however, two things that I thought could use a bit of improvement (besides the bun). First, a second drink station would greatly benefit the grounds. There were a lot of people having lunch and only one self-serve drink station. That led to a constant line and waiting just to so much as refreshing a drink.
The other thing was what I felt was an incessant reminder that Joe’s Farm Grill had been featured on Guy Fieri’s “Diners, Drive-In’s and Dives.” The flat screen TV, the digital menu and so forth constantly blurted out that this restaurant was visited by the Food Network. I understand the pride that Joe must have in being featured and I would never take that away from him, but the constant reminder around the interior of the restaurant was a bit overwhelming. The video screen playing the segment from the show over and over again was only captivating when I saw Joe and his staff out in the farm fields picking the veggies for use in the restaurant. If there was a documentary video with, perhaps, closed captioning or a little volume, I would have been much more interested in that than seeing Guy Fieri’s mug in the kitchen. I certainly understand the PR value to it all, but it just seemed a bit “in your face.”
So, I started my long drive back to Arcadia with a happy tummy and a desire to return to Joe’s Farm Grill.
I am just glad I had a big, satisfying lunch as that drive was killer.
Joe’s Farm Grill
3000 East Ray Road
Gilbert, AZ 85296
Dress: Casual. Overalls welcome.
Hours: 8 AM to 9 PM, 7 Days A Week
Notes: From Phoenix, take the 202 to the 101 to the 202 East and exit at Higley Road. If you get to Albuquerque, you just passed it.