Winterlicious 2014 Restaurant #4: Joe Mama’s Bar & Grill

Located at 317 King St W in Toronto
They have live bands playing and featured specials every day!

Ohh, get ready for a really heated review on this next restaurant:  The last restaurant that I visited for the Winterlicious 2014 season was Joe Mama’s Bar & Grill.  My friend Daphne selected this restaurant and because we both enjoy Soul and Southern food, I was quite excited to try this place out!  It was also a wonderful night to hang out and catch up since I hadn’t seen her in some time. 🙂

A reservation for 7 p.m. on a Wednesday night was easy to book at Joe Mama’s.  When I walked in, the hostess was able to lead me to a table where I could see that there was already a live band playing for the night.  There weren’t a lot of customers at this time, but it took some time for my server to come around to serve me a drink and provide me with the menu.

Both Daphne and I already knew what we wanted to order.  It was clear that we wanted some clear classics like the Pulled Pork Plate and the Pork Back Ribs!  Our dessert choices differed which ended up being a good thing.

barbequed smoked pork served with chipotle mayo and grilled house made ciabatta bread

The Pulled Pork Plate was delicious!  It was a nicely presented plate of two slices of house made ciabatta bread, a more-than-enough small mountain of pulled pork goodness, and some radish coleslaw on the side.  It was pretty much a DIY appetizer where you could slather on as much of the barbequed smoked pork onto the bread as you wanted with as however much chipotle mayo you wanted too.  We actually weren’t sure if it was to be eaten as a sandwich or with the pulled pork on top of the bread as two servings.  Either way, it was SO delicious and also very filling.  The pulled pork was smoked perfectly; not too strong and not too weak.  This is an appetizer that I highly recommend trying!

That first picture of the plate doesn’t do it justice. After I put everything on the piece of bread, it was a huge portion of food! So delicious though 😀

PORK BACK RIBS (Jack Daniel’s bourbon sauce)
half rack of slow cooked fall of the bone ribs served with grilled vegetables, garlic mashed potatoes and your choice of signature sauce

For my main dish of Pork Back Ribs, I chose the Jack Daniel’s bourbon sauce while Daphne chose the Honey Garlic option.  We were at first at little fearful that the portion wouldn’t be enough, but we were very impressed when it was served to our table.  One problem I had with the service was that the food runner served the main before I was even done my pulled pork plate.  I know I may not be the faster eater in the world, but I found it rude that they didn’t consider that I was still eating my first course and brought the second course out.  In any case, the ribs didn’t disappoint either.  A good-sized rack of juicy ribs sat on top of a mound of mashed potatoes with vegetables on the side.  Although the ribs were ultra juicy and succulent, I found that the Jack Daniel’s bourbon sauce was too strong and vinegary.  It soaked into the rest of my broccoli and mashed potatoes.

PORK BACK RIBS (honey garlic)

Daphne’s honey garlic ribs were tasty for her at first, but by the time she reached the end of her plate, the overwhelming sweetness of the honey sauce was a bit too much.  I feel like for this meal, if you have tooth sensitivity to strong acidic sauces, you will likely get a sharp, tingling pain in any exposed root of your teeth.  The sauce was just too intense! 



When dessert arrived, we were both very full.  I loved that the desserts were huge!  It was really worth our money… (or so we thought; more on that later).  Daphne’s Red Velvet Cake was a big, big portion!  It was a big, tall slice of cake.  Very impressive.  However, she was too full to finish it.  The cake tasted deliciously chocolatey yet I would have liked to see it be a little more moist.  Moist cakes are the best. 🙂


rich and hearty bread pudding served warm with caramel sauce

My dessert was a bread pudding.  I’ve tasted many bread puddings up to this point in my dining adventures.  Some are passable, some are delicious, and the rest are forgettable.  This one was authentic in the sense that it was a big chunk of well made bread pudding with salty caramel sauce.  It was so hearty and rich that I also wasn’t able to finish it.  The first couple of bites were heavenly.  It was also a little too sweet though as I continued eating, so I left it to rest since I could stuff no more into my stomach.  RIP, little bread pudding.  I hate wasting food, but this was too much and near the end, it also didn’t taste great enough for me to overindulge.

Lastly, let me talk about the horrible service we experienced.  Throughout the night, the server came to our table several times to ask us how things were going.  However, you could tell that she merely just came over for the sake of walking over.  When she asked us how the meal was going, she hardly looked us in the eye or waited for us to reply before turning away.  What kind of service is that?!  It doesn’t matter how many times you come to our table to inquire about us if you actually don’t care to know how we’re doing.  It was so obvious.  She barely cared to fill up our empty water glasses too.

The worst part of the service came at the end of the night:  On the site — seen here — the price of the Winterlicious prix fixe dinner at Joe Mama’s is $25.   However, when the bill arrived, it showed that a $35 prix fixe dinner was counted.  We inquired about this to the obviously not-so-caring server and were blasted with the fact that apparently made a mistake and that the prix fixe dinner actually is retailed at $35.  We were not pleased.  If they had known that the website had made an error about their menu pricing, why didn’t the server bring this up at the beginning of the meal?  It was the second-last day of Winterlicious — why wasn’t this error corrected at the first sign of being detected?  Obviously, we should have double-checked the pricing of the meal before we decided to continue dining, but the attitude that the server had regarding this situation was unacceptable and just plain rude.  We made sure that our tips reflected what we thought of the restaurant.  There are so many other more acceptable and customer-friendly approaches that the server could have appeased us with that night (like some friendly banter, some understanding, and apologies), but the manner in which she explained to us was definitely horrendous and unprofessional.

Too long and didn’t read this whole review through?  The food here at Joe Mama’s is decent.  I highly recommend the Pulled Pork Plate and the pork back ribs (if you can stand some strong flavours), but I definitely do not recommend coming here for the service.  It absolutely ruined the night and turned a potentially great night out into a sour experience.

Joe Mamas on Urbanspoon

About stenoodie

I'm a stenographer, foodie, avid traveller, and new mom who loves to share her experiences with the world.
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9 Responses to Winterlicious 2014 Restaurant #4: Joe Mama’s Bar & Grill

  1. Jay says:

    Looks delicious! Making me hungry now 🙂

  2. Daphne says:

    Hi Karen!

    I agree with all your points about the food here. The food was definitely tasty and exceeded my expectations- I too was particularly impressed with the pulled pork platter and the ribs. Up until the end of the meal, I would have actually rated the evening (food, atmosphere, live music, etc) extremely highly (a solid 9!) despite the service throughout the meal. HOWEVER…

    The service with regards to the end of our meal was abominable. I was extremely unhappy with the way we were treated, especially when they told us we should have called in to check the prices first (?? I’m pretty sure no one calls in to check prices when a reliable site like should be correct, especially on the second last day of Winterlicious- if this was an issue before, they had over a week to correct it!). Further, I have never been to a restaurant where I, as the customer, had been blamed for something beyond my control. I had heard about the restaurant and popped it into Google along with the “Winterlicious” tag, with the as the first link that popped up, and apparently, we shouldn’t be trusting websites anymore. Then the excuses of how a lot of other restaurants also had issues… combined, we have been to a bunch of other restaurants for Winterlicious, which did not have any issues of the sort. As you said, there were plenty of other more professional ways this could have been handled- ways that wouldn’t make us have a sour taste in our mouths when leaving the restaurant. I’m pretty sure I was visibly dissatisfied, and this should have been recognized and mitigated on their end and escalated to the proper management. I would have been happy to pay despite the misunderstanding, if a manager had come to us to explain the situation, offered apologies, or even offer us a discount for next time- this would have associated positive feelings towards the restaurant AND built up a positive reputation and business, instead of letting us leave with negative feelings. Because of this, even though the food was delicious, if this restaurant were brought up to me in conversation, the anecdote I would share would only be regarding the service.

    Given a choice, I’m not sure if I would want to go back.

  3. andy1076 says:

    Don’t know why on earth wordpress app has to be such a pain, I followed right off the bat and it said that I did, then I check that I didn’t *grumble*

    On the other hand, The food looks incredible! 🙂

    • stenoodie says:

      Aw, hopefully they are working out the kinks of this wordpress app problem! Thank you for checking back with my blog though! ^_^

      Haha, thank you! The food itself was really to be commended. Very delicious. 🙂

  4. Mike Gee says:

    I like your review…you would think they would just let it slide to generate some good will so you would come back. Oh well…

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