Sunday, August 24, 2014

Finally Making a Trip to Cypress

Joe Schmoe's
5123 Ball Road
Cypress, CA 90630

This visit to Joe Schmoe's killed two birds with one stone. One, it brings the number of OC cities that I have yet to visit on this blog to two, and it also rounds out my lineup for my wedding, as this is the restaurant where I asked my buddy Erven to be one of my groomsman. It's a pretty good feeling to accomplish two things at once.

Our long awaited visit to Cypress is way overdue. More a result of geography, than a lack of restaurants in this landlocked, western OC city. Cypress is filled with lots of Asian restaurants, most notably Cafe Hiro and Vietnamese banh mi powerhouse, Sandwich House, which is the highest rated restaurant on Yelp in the city. These were both in the running to be our first Cypress restaurant, but Erven has four kids, and we thought a trip to Joe Schmoe's would be a little more kid friendly.

Joe Schmoe's has been open for just over a year now. Owners Mike Richards and Nick Harris, both of whom have lots of restaurant experience in places where they had staffs of over 50 people, wanted to try their luck at opening a simpler venture, a classic hot dog stand. Like any good owners, they did a lot of research on hot dogs, including traveling all over North America for tips, inspiration, and cooking styles. They decided to steam their natural casing hot dogs, and then put them on the grill hoping to provide that lucrative snap that almost all hot dog eaters desire. They also fell in love with frozen custard and had to add this to their menu as well.

We met up with Erven and his family at 5pm on a recent Saturday. Joe's is located in a strip mall that has definitely seen better days. There's a Walgreen's here, but lots of empty storefronts also dot the landscape. Joe's is located closest to Ball Road, in an A-frame building that brings to mind the nostalgic style of Wienerschnitzel's and Tastee Freez's of long ago. Most of the seating is outside, on a covered patio with picnic benches, but there's bar seating along the windows inside. Joe's brought in a steady stream of hot dog eaters to this dilapidated shopping center. There was a constant stream of customers ordering off of the rather large menu. Erven's kids were getting restless, and I was pretty hungry, so let's see how our first visit to Cypress turned out for us.

I know I promised hot dogs, and we will get to them, but first up was this Pastrami Reuben ($6.95). this is one of three kinds of pastrami sandwiches that they have here, but this is my favorite way to eat pastrami. They steam their pastrami, pile it on rye bread with Russian dressing, Swiss cheese, pickles, and sauerkraut. The pickles were a little too much here, so I took them off. This was a very good version of this classic sandwich. The pastrami was above average, but we needed a little more of it. The rye had a good crunch to it, and there was just the right amount of dressing on here. For a place known for their hot dogs, they also make a pretty mean Reuben.

Erven and I split four things, so we could get a good handle on this place. I did not want you to think that I ate all of this by myself. The first hot dog we tried was the Chili Slaw Dog ($4.45). This came with mustard, coleslaw, and a spicy chili. This hot dog had a lot going on with it. Even with all of the toppings here, I definitely got the snap on my first bite. The chili kind of was a let down. It really lacked spice, and it only added moisture to this dog. The coleslaw was very fresh, and the mustard did not get in the way here. It was good, but might have had too much going on flavor wise.

The LA Street Dog ($4.75) was up next. This was a bacon wrapped all beef hot dog, with mustard, mayo, grilled onions and peppers, and fresh fried jalapenos. This was my favorite hot dog of the night. It was not overly saturated with mayo or mustard, which allowed the bacon wrapped hot dog to shine through. The onions and peppers were nicely done, and the bun, which was nothing spectacular, did an admirable job of holding everything in place. This hot dog would have been helped with more jalapenos though.

Katie got in on the hot dog scene at Joe Schmoe's, when she selected this Blue Cheese Slaw Dog ($3.75). One of the simpler dogs on the menu, this one only featured mustard and blue cheese coleslaw, and she substituted the beef hot dog for a turkey frank. Katie liked the way the mustard and the blue cheese played off of each other. There was a nice texture component to the coleslaw. For being one of the simpler dogs on the menu, she could not have been more pleased with her selection.

Probably the best thing I had at Joe Schmoe's on this visit was this Bacon Cheeseburger ($5.75). The burgers here are a quarter pound, made of ground chuck, and hand formed daily. The meat definitely had a freshness to it, and the bacon was nice and crisp. This came with a big hunk of tomato, more than enough lettuce, grilled onions, and Joe's dressing, which resembled thousand island. A very clean tasting burger, I would not hesitate to get this again.

Here's a quick look at what the kids ate, the Build Your Own Dog ($2.95). With this base model of a hot dog you get to choose between mustard, ketchup, relish, onions, or jalapenos. Of course the kids went with plain hot dogs, and true to form, some of the kids liked it, and others were more interested in the fries and tater tots. I liked the scoring on this hot dog, it made it look better than your average store bought hot dog.

Whenever we are up in this part of OC, I always remember fondly the chili fries I had at Volcano Burger in neighboring Los Alamitos. Those were some of the best ones I have had, and I had similar visions when ordering the Chili Cheese Fries ($4.25) at Joe's. Those hopes were dashed though, because although these looked so good, the chili kind of fell flat. I did have the option of ordering the spicy chili, but Katie was sharing with me, and she's kind of skittish about spice. The fires were pretty standard, and I liked that they were very generous with the cheese. Next time I'm trying the spicier chili.

I've probably written it on this blog before, and I'll probably write it again, but I wish more places would serve Tater Tots ($2.25). These ones at Joe's were pretty stellar. They had a good crunch to them, and inside the potato was tender. It also helped that these came out scalding hot.

Earlier in this review I had mentioned that the owners had fallen in love with frozen custard while they were going around the country getting ideas for this restaurant. So it was natural that we try some. They offer this custard in cones, sundaes, floats, shakes, and these concrete concoctions. The Concretes ($3.50) are offered with your choice of mix ins, or you can just choose their top flavors which is what we did. Both Katie and I split the Reese's Mixer. This had plenty of Reese's pieces in it, but the custard was really melty. I think that is my biggest complaint about frozen custard in general, it's never cold enough. I'd rather have ice cream any day. Erven's family split the Cookies and Cream Mixer, which they had no complaints about. I liked this a little better than our choice.

Joe Schmoe's was a pretty good introduction for us to the culinary scene of Cypress. There have been so many closures of these kinds of places in OC lately. Pee Wee's and Game Day Hot Dogs comes to mind, so any welcome addition to the hot dog market here is appreciated. Unfortunately, Joe Schmoe's is not as good as these departed hot dog restaurants, but they are definitely worth a visit if you are in the area. I would say I liked Joe's food, but was not in love with it. Joe's will always be a favorite for myself since it's the place where I asked my friend to be in my wedding, and it also brings us closer to our goal of eating in at least one restaurant in every OC city. La Palma and Seal Beach we are coming your way soon.

Out of five surfboards, (because the city of Cypress is where actor John Stamos grew up, and he has frequently played with the Beach Boys during their concerts), five being best to zero being worst, Joe Schmoe's gets three surfboards.

For more information about Joe Schmoe's, go to their website here:

Joe Schmoe's on Urbanspoon

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