Pickled pork butt and lobster spaghetti: Joe Beef's menu for survival
“A lot of important restaurants are kind of terrible places to eat,” David McMillan, co-owner of Joe Beef, one of Canada’s top restaurants, shared with SalonTV’s Manny Howard on “Salon Talks.” McMillan’s new book, co-authored with his Joe Beef partner Frédéric Morin, “Joe Beef: Surviving the Apocalypse,” is a fun spin on the restaurant’s French and Canadian cuisine that you can DIY, make and grow on your own, and when doomsday arrives, survive on.
In 2005, McMillan and Morin opened Joe Beef in a canal neighborhood in Montreal, known as Little Calcutta (née Kolkata) before it was christened Little Burgundy. The promotional chatter about Joe Beef — named for the storied Irish-born tavern owner whose business was once located on the wharf less than two miles away — locates their restaurant in Little Burgundy, but McMillan is inspired by the ungroomed industrial past and much more excited to talk about it.
The vibe and cuisine at the 35-seat hideout, dedicated to serving the neighborhood, according to McMillan, “was a little bit Anglophone, a little bit Francophone, a little bit Jewish, a little bit Italian, a little bit Greek.” He continued, “We tried to focus the way that the menu lands on the table, that would satisfy all of those families eating there.”
Word about the unfussy eatery spread, and in 2011 the dining room doubled in size and McMillan and Morin published their first book, “The Art of Living According to Joe Beef.” Oh, and Anthony Bourdain visited (for the first time) with his show “The Layover.”
The first book included 125 recipes, still, you’d be forgiven for mistaking it for a manifesto. You’d be accused of being obtuse if you mistook book two, “Joe Beef: Surviving The Apocalypse,” as anything but. Both are written with Meredith Erickson.
In the opening paragraphs of “Surviving the Apocalypse,” McMillan and his collaborators breathlessly identify the imminent dire threat as a plague of self-satisfaction and superficiality in food culture, the restaurant business and beyond. They also highlight the distractibility in all of us and all the edifices that encourage our daft and giddy shambling through life.
Watch the episode above hear why McMillan is now focused on his farm, and why you should stock up on Melon Liqueur, smoked confit gizzards, dried verbena and pickled deer necks.
Cover image courtesy of Frédéric Morin