December 16, 2012

Dine out Maine: Joseph's By the Sea, for a taste of nostalgic dining


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Joseph’s By the Sea in Old Orchard Beach is open Thursday to Saturday, and also for brunch on Sundays.

John Ewing/Staff Photographer


JOSEPH'S BY THE SEA, 55 West Grand Ave., Old Orchard Beach. 934-5044;

HOURS: 5 p.m. to close Thursday to Saturday. Sunday brunch, 7:30 a.m. to noon


PRICE RANGE: $6 to $32, with most dinner entrees in the $25 range. Brunch offerings in the $10 range.

BAR: Full bar, includes special coffee and espresso spirits


KIDS: Children's menu



BOTTOM LINE: Joseph's By the Sea offers a nostalgic dining experience, especially in the off-season. It is banquet and wedding reception food, but it is banquet and wedding reception food done well. The staff is friendly, and if you are looking for a night (or brunch) that's just off the beaten food trail, try Joseph's. The ride through Old Orchard Beach in the off-season is fun, and I suggest ordering from Joseph's long list of signature, warm espresso cocktails.

Ratings follow this scale and take into consideration food, atmosphere, service and value:

*Poor **Fair  ***Good ****Excellent *****Extraordinary.

The Maine Sunday Telegram visits an establishment twice if the first dining experience was unsatisfactory. The reviewer dines anonymously.

The lobster potato pancake ($12) arrived on a pool of chipotle creme fraiche, and because I love potato pancakes and lobster, the concept of large pieces of lobster stuffed, whoopie pie-style, between two thin, fried potato pancakes seemed sound. It was tasty. The lobster was ample, the potato pancake crispy, and the dish exactly as described.

As was the semolina-crusted calamari ($9), where ample portions of perfectly-cooked calamari were coated in a semolina flour to give the squid a unique, if somewhat mealy, texture.

The Caesar salad ($8) had crisp-fresh lettuce and large shavings of Parmesan with thick, briny white anchovy filets. If I was served any of these dishes at a wedding reception, I would feel lucky.

None of these menu items were bad at all, but neither were they designed for distinction. Again, the menu was lovely to read, but the delivery seemed to lack a certain passion.

Of particular interest, though, is the list of hot espresso beverages, each deliciously vintage. (I half-expected to see Harvey's Bristol Cream.) I appreciated the seasonal appeal of the graham cracker coffee -- Frangelico and amaretto mixed with coffee and garnished with whipped cream and cinnamon ($8.50), and cafe a la Borgia ($8) that combined apricot brandy and espresso with a twist of lemon.

My choice, the Dark Angel ($8), mixed amaretto and espresso, whipped cream and slivered almonds. On a cold and blustery night, what a lovely warm-up.

For dessert, I chose the chocolate truffee, billed as a rich chocolate pate with raspberry puree. The idea of chocolate pate was somewhat unsettling, but the dessert was just that -- an unusual pate texture with a cloying raspberry syrup drizzle. Worth a try for sure, but too sweet for my palate.

Would I put Joseph's By the Sea at the top of my must-dine list on the basis of the food alone? Maybe not. But as part of a broader off-season adventure? Or for a seasonal warm-up espresso liqueur drinks? Or possibly for breakfast in that funky retro space? Absolutely, and without hesitation. 

AUTHOR'S NOTE: In researching this review, the author discovered a Facebook posting by Joseph's By the Sea, dated after the restaurant visit, that indicates it will be closing for the season on Dec. 23.

Shonna Milliken Humphrey is a Maine freelance writer.

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