Not Your Average Joeâ€™s: Creative, Casual Cuisine is, admittedly, quite a mouthful.
Just wait until Kentlands residents take a bite out of this new neighborhood restaurant. Head chef Scott Martin thinks it will take just one visit for area residents to realize the restaurant was worth a try.
â€śItâ€™s chef-driven food. Itâ€™s local. Itâ€™s seasonal,â€ť Martin said.
The first Maryland location of this Massachusetts-based restaurant chain, occupying the former Chicken Out and Oreck store retail spaces, officially opened on July 4, with a ribbon-cutting set for July 9. It features food with an American-Italian-French flair, focusing on creative twists on classic recipes.
With a dynamic menu that changes seasonally, patrons should expect anything but the expected with foods they think they know. Additionally, the chefs are happily willing to tweak a menu item for special dietary needs â€” or even for an appetiteâ€™s whims.
â€śIf we can make it, we will make it,â€ť said general manager Erik Larson with confidence. â€śAnd we can make it.â€ť
With an attitude like this, customers who have time for custom-tailored cuisine can almost see the menu, including the monthly specials, as a jumping off point for whatever they want or need for their meal. And that meal falls in capable hands.
Martin has worked in the restaurant industry his entire adult life, from the ritziest, four-diamond restaurants to â€śmom and popâ€ť diners. He spent several years in rural New Hampshire but decided he and his family needed a change from long winters in the quiet countryside. So he hired an agent to find a unique restaurant in an exciting location for his next job. He has now been with Not Your Average Joeâ€™s (NYAJ) for five years and won the companyâ€™s Last Chef Standing competition three years ago.
With this unwavering commitment to unique dishes, it would be understandable if service was slow and food arrived following a considerable wait time. But NYAJ aims to have your food out in 12 minutes. Of course, Martin said, if the chef is customizing the ingredients of a meal to cater to an allergy, vegan diet or other reason that may take research â€” and possibly a trip to the next-door grocery store â€” â€śIt is going to take some time.â€ť
Thanks to handheld, touch-screen order pads given to all servers, drink orders can arrive even before oneâ€™s entire table has finished ordering each meal. Electronic orders are sent instantly to touch screens in the open kitchen, as well as the bar, to enable swift service and fresh, hot food.
The restaurant will offer “car hop” service for those ordering takeout, bringing food orders curbside to customers’ vehicles.
Despite being part of a chain of restaurants, NYAJ wants to be a neighborhood eatery in all other ways, from its unique dĂ©cor to its locally grown produce and an affordably priced wine list. The company wants to steer away from the look and attitude of a cookie-cutter-style restaurant with no roots or friendly regulars.
Larson hopes that the â€śdynamicâ€ť yet humble location nestled between the Good Fortune CafĂ© and Bark! Pet supply shop will aid in this cause.
â€śI donâ€™t like the corporate restaurant scene,â€ť said Larson. â€śI donâ€™t want my main concern to be The Bottom Line.â€ť
Larson knows some locals are skeptical that NYAJ can succeed, considering the failure of former tenant Chicken Out and the recent closing of 44 Sports Bar and Grill in Market Square. But he isnâ€™t worried. The chain has 15 successful locations in Massachusetts alone, starting from the first NYAJ in Dartmouth, which opened in 1994.
â€śAsk anyone in that town what their favorite restaurant is, and they will say Not Your Average Joes.â€ť
Larson thinks that, while some are wary of chains, NYAJ is different because â€ś[it] evolves.â€ť
The restaurantâ€™s business hours may evolve, too. While the plan is to start with an 11 a.m. – 10 p.m. schedule, NYAJ will stay open if itâ€™s busy. â€śIf guests are still coming in,â€ť Larson said, â€śwe wonâ€™t close.â€ť
One caveat, which will probably come as a relief to nearby residents, is that customers who come in around and past closing time must order food.
â€śWe are not a bar,â€ť said Fritz Schneider, public relations rep for the Gaithersburg location. â€śWe are a restaurant with a nice bar.â€ť
Furthermore, NYAJ will never rent the entire space to one party or event. â€śNot even for enormous amounts of money,â€ť said Larson.
The company believes word of mouth is the best possible form of advertisement for a restaurant. The company had a booth at Kentlands Day in May and has already become involved in local charities, including the Kentlands Community Foundation. Additionally, every week on Tuesday, one half of the will go a charity of the month.
With people talking about the philanthropy of NYAJ before it even opens its doors, word should spread fast if the food is good to boot.
The company hopes that, with a friendly vibe, fast service, fresh food and cool atmosphere (with chairs made from anything from reclaimed wood to Italian leather and industrial-chic dĂ©cor throughout the bar and dining room), as well as large TVs featuring local sporting events and an extensive carryout menu with separate entrance, Gaithersburg residents will come to see NYAJ as a local institution.
â€śWhen people see the restaurant they will know itâ€™s for real,â€ť Larson said. â€śWe plan on being here forever.â€ť