About a month ago, Mr. Harada and I traded in our hot air balloon for the latest model. We were promised a brighter future, but the good vibes were short-lived, as our new bag of hot air malfunctioned from the start.
It reacted violently to the smallest voices in the wind. The compass had no direction. There were illogical holes in every feature we were promised. And the appointed technicians were absolutely useless. We wanted to bail at liftoff, but Bar Fly is in it for the long haul, no matter how deflated our bag of hot air gets. The year has gotten off to a bumpy start and more storms appear on the horizon. In uncertain times, Mr. Harada and I generally set flight plans for familiar places, spots that have stood the test of time on their own terms. On a recent evening, we found refuge at Original Joe’s.
Always bustling, waiters are well-dressed men with an attentive demeanor and professional courtesy, underlined by a sense that they’ve been there and done that. Everyone has a good time at OJ’s and no one acts up. OJ’s is a place to remember the past and plan for the future.
Opened in 1956, Original Joe’s serves food in the style of one of the most hated immigrant groups to ever step foot on glorious American soil. No, I’m not talking about Finns—not this time. OJ’s is an Italian joint.
The raviolis are made in an open kitchen that faces a bar area where patrons can sit, dine and drink. The majority of the space is a large room full of comfortable booth seating. The decor is something you’d see in a Scorsese film. It’s familiar, cinematic and well-maintained. Mr. Harada and I decided to venture back, past the booths, and into the inner sanctum where people talk about important things in semi-privacy: the back bar.
We grabbed two stools and Mr. Harada ordered an Italian wine, while I settled on a California Pinot. The weather was stormy, but the warm interior of OJ’s smoothed out conversation. In time we switched from wine to hard-working Irish whiskey. The Jameson humbled our interiors and one of the servers walked over, called us by our names, shook our hands, and for a moment time stopped. All was well. OJ’s can and will do that.
It isn’t a place to find new trends. It’s not a place that has “disruptive” tendencies. It’s not a lot of things. But what it is, is timeless.
301 S. First St, San Jose.