It always feels strange to walk through the front door at Joe’s Bistro. From the earliest days, I’ve spent my time there in the kitchen, with some big personalities and legendary locals. While working as executive chef at another local establishment, I would moonlight on nights off as a dishwasher at Joe’s just for fun. The crew at Joe’s is tight-knit, and while people come and go, the atmosphere and quality at Joe’s Second Street Bistro has never faltered.
As fond as I am of the old days, I am equally enamored with owner, chef, and native talent Ricky Pigg. Ricky and I studied at Johnson & Wales University in Charleston, South Carolina at the same time. My travels took me to the Caribbean, and Ricky made it to Music Row, making a name for himself on the restaurant scene in Nashville before coming home to Fernandina with his wonderful wife, Mari.
On a recent Saturday night, my wife, Allie, and I had the chance to visit with Ricky before things got busy. I checked out the menu before we went in and I was looking forward to the Chicken & Andouille Wontons. The homemade barbecue sauce and crisp slaw were perfect with the creamy and crunchy wontons filled with chicken, sausage, leeks, and cream cheese. We also had a bowl of Joe’s famous gumbo, with tender chunks of prime rib and sweet local shrimp. The spicy finish and ripe berry of the Trapiche Malbec paired wonderfully with both starters.
I asked Chef Ricky what he wanted us to enjoy, and he didn’t hesitate. He suggested the New York Strip with Palmetto Cheese, his own guilty pleasure. For the uninitiated like myself, Palmetto Cheese is a Pawley’s Island, South Carolina take on pimento cheese, with a little extra soul and chunks of chili. The Palmetto Cheese was melted on top of a perfectly grilled strip steak and served over beer-braised collard greens.
These greens were amazing. They had a flavor I hadn’t experienced before, a sweetness the chef attributed to the beer, with just the right amount of bacon. Allie loves a good steak, and I cannot resist a lot of things Allie won’t eat, duck being at the top of the list. Braised, roasted, seared; you name it, and I love duck prepared that way. Tonight, it was crusted in macadamia nuts, served medium, and finished with a creme de cassis glaze. The dish was rich, but the Concannon Cabernet Savignon from California had just the right blend of arid flavors to slice through the richness of the duck and the delightfully sweet sauce.
When we could take no more, the siren song of dessert beckoned us on yet further, but rather than crash upon the rocks of gluttony, we opted to split a slice of the Tiramisu Cheesecake and Allie enjoyed a nice cup of coffee. It was a beautiful end to a lovely meal, and a fine way to celebrate the fifteenth anniversary of our first date.
If you’ve got someone or something worth celebrating, let Joe’s 2nd Street Bistro do all of the hard work, and you take all the credit. Joe’s is open Wednesday through Monday for lunch and dinner, happily accepting reservations.