Joey's Only Seafood 

There are benefits to eating at a chain restaurant. Regardless of where it's located the food is about the same from one location to the next. A Domino's Pizza restaurant in Boise, Idaho, will have recipes similar to those of a Domino's in Escazu, Costa Rica, or Geneva, Switzerland. To get customers in, a franchise needs to find a way to stand out among the hundreds of other choices diners have. With this in mind, The Artist and I went to Joey's Only Seafood, a franchise restaurant, for a Saturday post-thrift-store-shopping lunch.

When we arrived there were a dozen or more customers, which was a good omen. But from the moment we walked in the door, the lack of cleanliness set off some internal alarms. Wooden high-chairs were stacked near the front door and each one of them was covered in black marks--scuffs from the shoes of tykes who'd dined in the chairs. It was a little unappetizing. Understanding the difficulty of cleaning up after children, we decided not to be deterred, but did hope our actual dining space would be less messy. Immediately after being seated, our very friendly server was table-side giving us menus and taking our drink orders. Pleased to see lunch specials offered on a weekend, I took advantage of the lower priced menu items and ordered the seaside combo number one: a piece of fish, popcorn shrimp, coleslaw and fries. The Artist ordered a bowl of clam chowder and a fish sandwich. While we waited for our lunches, I went to wash the thrift store dust off of my hands. The restroom would have benefited from a bucket of hot water, cleanser and some serious elbow grease. The Artist took her turn in there and, returning to the table, we both commented on how we hoped the food would be so delectable that we would forget about our less-than-spotless surroundings. Sigh. It wasn't to be.

When our food arrived, our still-friendly server informed us that squeeze bottles of ketchup and tartar sauce were on the table. Yes, they were. The tray of condiments that the bottles were in was quite dirty and both the tartar sauce and ketchup had been on the table when we arrived. Both were warm. I don't mind room temperature vinegar or ketchup, but warm tartar sauce makes me nervous. The Artist's clam chowder was hot and tasty, but an unsettling shade of gray. Her fish sandwich came on a delicious roll and, like mine, her fish was hot and crispy. My popcorn shrimp were crunchy and quite good. We both had fries with our meals, and while they looked appealing, they had an unpleasant aftertaste that we attributed to old oil. Leaving some of our food untouched, The Artist and I paid the $20 lunch tab and left feeling less than satisfied. For whatever reason, the day and time I chose to go to Joey's, things just weren't up to par. Maybe the next time, things will be a little better. Joey's Only Seafood has franchise locations all over the United States and Canada. They must be doing something right.

--Amy Atkins is an out and proud AC/DC and AYCE fan.

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