Sunday, October 19, 2014

Joe Squared Review

Although I'm a pretty dedicated pizza lover, Joe Squared is rare exception from the rule for me because I went there with the intent of ordering something other than pizza. Never one to pass up an opportunity for a slice (or the whole pie) Joe Squared is a locally renowned pizza place that serves up a variety of gluten-free and vegan offerings, but has no pizza option for those of us who don't do wheat.

Nevertheless, I decided to give Joe Squared a visit after reading through what menu options were available to me as a gluten and dairy free diner. Soups, wings, salads, and risottos were all available to me and I had a hard time narrowing down exactly what I wanted. After a busy day shopping, doing some chores around the dorm, and visiting a local dog park with Locke, my aunt and I arrived for dinner with our appetites peaked. Battling the whipping winds of an incoming cold front, we were craving true comfort food to warm us up as the setting sun was quickly dropping the temperatures lower and lower.

Once inside off of the hustle and bustle of North Ave, we were quickly seated and given our menus. Lengthy, but well-marked as to each dish's gluten-free or vegan status, I quickly identified possibilities (see a pdf of their menu here). The minestrone, Old Bay wings, among other dishes caught my eye, but I gravitated towards the 22 different varieties of risotto. Sorted into vegetarian, meat, and seafood varieties, each and every flavor is gluten-free and they all can be made dairy free by substituting coconut milk for cheese. After some consideration, I selected the shrimp risotto seizing the rare opportunity to enjoy seafood off campus. The risottos come in 8oz or 16oz portions and I went with the larger one.


Sorry for the poor picture quality! Low light does not play well with my iPhone camera. 

When it arrived, I was impressed by the generous portion size and nice presentation. After tasting my first spoonful of the rich, creamy rice dish, my instinctual alarm bells were going off in fear of dairy contamination. The dish was just so rich and indulgent- could it really be dairy free? After checking and double checking with the waiter and the kitchen as to it's dairy-free status, I could rest easy and fully enjoy every wonderful spoonful. I loved the velvety smooth texture of the carnaroli rice that is known as the "caviar of rice" which was flavored with the distinct and delicious taste of saffron. The shrimp was cooked to perfection and was accompanied by green beans to fully complete the dish. As I neared the bottom of my bowl, I was completely satisfied and stuffed by the dish. My aunt ordered their scallop risotto with dairy and also really enjoyed her gluten-free meal.

I must give Joe Squared full credit because the risotto was truly delicious. Despite my questioning of the dish's gluten/dairy free status, the staff were very helpful and willing to go the extra mile to assure me of its safety. Though we dined early for dinner at 5:30, a steady stream of patrons were rolling in and a local band was setting up to play as we left. I bet the atmosphere only amps up as the night wears on and is a fun place for a night out on the town or dinner with friends. I know I will definitely making a return trip to check out their other offerings and risotto flavors. 

The Basics

Address: 133 W. North Ave, Baltimore, MD 21201
Website: joesquared.com
Cuisine: Gluten and dairy free soups, salads, wings, potato skins, fries, fried calamari, risottos (other vegan- but not gluten-free- options such as pizza are available)
Price: My risotto was $16. GF/vegan menu items range from $5-16. 
Accessibility: The restaurant was wheelchair accessible
Special Features: Catering is available.

Disclaimer: This review is based upon the information I have at the time of the review and does not reflect changes in ingredients or availability of items. Please contact the restaurant directly for up-to-date information and feel free to contact me with any questions or comments. I was not compensated for this review and it is a reflection of my personal opinion.

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