A quick pit stop

Inside Joe's Garage.
Inside Joe's Garage.

Yvonne Martin found Joe's Garage in Upper Riccarton excelled at making things snappy.

A quick pit stop

With the slow-food revolution gaining so much traction in the past few years, it's novel for a restaurant other than a fast-food chain to promote speedy fare.

Joe's Garage is one such place. Its simple, no-fuss menu is based on the "go fast" philosophy, which means Joe's offers more of a pit stop than a stare-into-each-other's-eyes linger over linguine. Judging by the crowd eating at Joe's Garage in Upper Riccarton on this Wednesday night, there is plenty of demand for speedy dining.

When old Joe's Garage in Hereford St was destroyed in last year's February quake, only the Sumner branch remained. A second Joe's Garage - tucked away in Leslie St behind the Church Corner shops - now serves the western side of the city with brunches and under-$20 dinners.

My partner and I swung on the giant silver spanner door handles and stepped into Joe's quirky restaurant with American model cars, retro milk bottles for water and Stray Cat Strut blaring on the stereo. Apart from a party of six and another of four, most tables were taken by couples, young and middle-aged. We headed for the comfy bench seats.

The drinks list isn't extensive, but offerings had been thoroughly road-tested and had made the grade, explained our helpful waiter. Heineken and Monteith's beers are on tap.

Over a Waipara Hills riesling for me and a Main Divide Waipara pinot noir for him, we sped-read the menu. While the day menu is packed with eggy, bacon rolls and pikelet treats, the after-5pm offerings are slimmer.

Our starters - tasty garlic bread, and tender peppered sirloin and red onion jam skewers - arrived within minutes.

The choice of mains pared down to a burger with hand-cut chips, spaghetti, salad or schnitzel. My partner went for the "Autobahn", a crumbled beef schnitzel with gravy and fries. For vegetarians such as I, the choice was simple: spaghetti or salads? I thought momentarily of work colleagues, before ordering a second garlicky dish: spaghetti with mushroom, spinach and onion, tossed in garlic, chilli and olive oil.

While it wasn't the best plate of spaghetti I have eaten, it was warming and had plenty of flavour from parmesan and the garlic. The portion was perfect. By then, my hungry partner had already ploughed through his soft, lightly crumbed schnitzel and delectable fries.

From the short-and-sweet dessert menu, Joe's sundae with two scoops of Kapiti vanilla-bean icecream and berry coulis topping was outstanding.

And there the night should have ended, except the wait man suggested a special Irish coffee. I was a bit surprised to be told it was a cold drink, but then a hot (Kahlua?) coffee materialised. It tasted pleasant, but the long, skinny glass with the low handle dripped coffee everywhere.
By the time we left, the neighbouring table had turned over twice. It's a fast game, but a goodie. We will return. Restaurants as reliable as Joe's are hard to find, especially if you are in a hurry, impatient, indecisive or all three.

Menu: Quality above quantity.
Service: Fast and friendly.
Prices: Reasonable.
Ambience: Buzzing and unpretentious.
Amenities: Clean and contemporary.