Do you ever end up at dinner and wish you could try a little bit of everything on the menu? West End staple Cafe Josie has done away with selection paralysis with its “The Experience,” an all-you-can-eat tasting menu experience that costs $45. While a la carte dishes are offered during the week, on the weekends, all diners participate in the choose-your-own-adventure dining experience.
The dishes are tapas sized, offering about four to six bites per plate. And, if you take a liking to the crispy Brussels sprouts glazed with a tangy Dijon and served with rum-soaked cherries, you can order another plate. Or two. On a recent visit, my dining companion and I selected six dishes and had them set in the middle of the table and ate directly from them. Of course, if you are not comfortable sharing, you can keep to yourself and if your friend’s sweet and spicy Korean fried chicken looks good, you can just order yourself a plate. The populist dishes are straight forward, comforting and don’t try and dazzle you with technique or plating.
The Experience is less about value than it is about options and variety. We were able to move from an umami packed farro risotto rich with parmesan and aged balsamic to a bright Texas peach salad with candied pecans and a smoky Asian-influenced meatloaf (with little binding, its texture more closely resembled a crispy burger patty) Our six dishes averaged out to $15 a plate, which is more than you’d probably normally pay for a dish the size of which is served as part of the tasting menu. If we had been hungry enough to finish eight plates, the value proposition starts to look more appealing. But the dining experience, which kind of resembled a mannered tasting session with a commendable catering outfit or a dinner party at an excitable and creative friend’s home, is a unique one that allows for an exploratory take on dining that you rarely find at this level.
Located at 1200 W. Sixth St. (just behind Clark’s Oyster Bar), the 21-year-old Cafe Josie is open Monday-Saturday for dinner and Sunday for brunch (where a $25 brunch experience is available). The dinner experience is offered for $10 off during happy hour, Monday-Friday from 5 to 6 p.m. And, though it should go without saying, no, you can’t take food to go.