The Joint Bar & Grill: Pinecrest Gastropub Is a Family Affair

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A year ago, Jorge Ramos Sr. and his son Jorge Jr. were in the real estate business. The industry had undergone a massive downturn, and the father-and-son team was looking for a new endeavor. Without any formal restaurant experience, they decided to open the Joint Bar & Grill in Pinecrest.

The two men had never been inside a restaurant kitchen before this endeavor, let alone run one, but they immediately set out to make this restaurant work. Jorge Sr. took over the back of the house. For years he had been cooking for friends and family, and he took those recipes and worked to translate them from a home kitchen to an industrial kitchen. "It took me about a week and a half of just working on the recipes. I had to make sure the kitchen could follow them exactly," Jorge Sr. explains.

Meanwhile, Jorge Jr. contacted local brewers and distributors in search of the most unique beers to serve. The collection changes, but more than two dozen beers are on tap on any given day. Choices range from the familiar (Sam Adams, Coors Light) to the uncommon (Cigar City Maduro, Dogfish Head Midas Touch). The Joint is also one of the first "Bacardi Perfect Bars," a designation the liquor giant bestows upon only a few establishments.

The Joint encompasses about half of the space previously occupied by Hooligans Sports Bar. Not much has changed by way of decoration -- plain wooden tables and chairs lead to a corner bar area. The menu, however, reflects a complete turnaround.

Taking the "gastropub" concept to heart, Jorge Sr. has tweaked traditional bar food. Oversize burgers, such as the Hangover and the Latin, are made with a half-pound of Angus beef and served on pretzel buns. Almost a foot tall, the Hangover boasts a beef patty topped with applewood-smoked bacon, a fried egg, American cheese, lettuce, and tomatoes.

Smoked tacos are made with pulled pork marinated in the Joint's own barbecue sauce. That same pulled pork is served over sweet potato fries, along with melted cheese and ranch dressing, for an appetizer that might not be popular with the diet set.

Also, the restaurant hosts five-course beer-tasting dinners, with the next one scheduled for April 13, featuring selections from the Victory Brewery. Five dishes, two appetizers, two main courses and a dessert will be paired with various brews. The company's brewmaster will be on hand to explain each selection.

Since the two Jorges opened the Joint a few months ago, business has been good. "People come in three, four times a week," Jorge Sr. says. "Ninety percent of our customers are word-of-mouth referrals."

Would the father-and-son team ever go back to real estate once the market turns around? Jorge Sr. doesn't think so. "It's been a big change in life, but we're fully committed."

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