MoJoe Lounge is a coffee shop, bar and restaurant all rolled into one. The newest MoJoe, the fourth such venture of the Cup O' Joe group, is just across High Street from the Columbus Commons, on the ground floor of the renovated Lazarus building.
To my taste, this MoJoe has the best and most interesting menu of the group. More than that, some good cooking can be found here, which makes me happy, since my office is not far away.
The physical space is simple, clean and bright, with floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking High and Town streets. Though this is a bar/lounge, the menu was much more than bar food.
Oddly, the lunch menu was more extensive than the "evening" list, though everything on the latter was available on the former. Small plates at lunch included a bit too soft potato gnocchi in an unctuous Parmesan cream sauce and some tasty truffled housemade potato chips with blue cheese dipping sauce. The pretzel bites-shaped like snail shells-were fine, but the cheddar cheese sauce was thin and a little bland.
I liked the house salad of "coffee roasted" beets and local goat cheese on greens; the cooking method added richness more than coffee flavor. I also recommend the classic (non-creamy) Caesar salad. And the ingredients in the good ahi tuna salad (slices of seared raw tuna crusted with black and white sesame seeds accompanied by greens, carrots and radishes) were unimpeachable.
At lunch, the "between the bread" menu of sandwiches was 13 or more items, but only seven in the evening. Common to both was a MoJoe burger-locally raised, grass-fed beef, which has a different, but delicious flavor. It was quite a bit leaner and had fewer minerals than the usual product (in part owing to the fact that the animal was raised in a pasture rather than a pen).
The salmon melt was worth ordering-a chunk of cedar-smoked fish with crisp red cabbage slaw on toasted brioche. I also enjoyed the braised short rib sandwich, with shreds of the long-cooked meat highlighted by Gruyère, onions and mushrooms on a hoagie roll. On the lunch menu only was a take on a Cuban, which substituted slices of roasted pork belly for the normal roast pork and ham. It was rich, but not an improvement on the original. Better was the crispy beer-battered fish sandwich, also for lunch only. Grilled cheese (on both menus) was yummy and buttery, using three local cheeses. All of the sandwiches were hefty.
There were several side dishes, from sweet potato fries to sautéed asparagus with Parmesan. Both of those were quite good, but I really liked MoJoe's improvement on the fruit cup. It featured a nice local honey and shreds of fresh mint. It made for a great little (and healthful) dessert.
Of course, the place had beer, wine and cocktails. I did not sample them at lunch, but there were some good local beers on tap. Service has been bar friendly-you know, the bartender who's willing to be your friend, within limits. Of course, you always can share some good Cup O' Joe coffee with your buddies here, even if your only friend stands behind the bar.
149 S. High St.
Atmosphere: Modern bar/lounge.
Recommended dishes: Fruit cup with mint and honey, potato gnocchi, ahi tuna salad, Caesar salad, house salad, MoJoe burger, salmon melt, fish sandwich, grilled cheese.
Price range: Sandwiches $7-$12; small plates $5-$7; salads $4-$10; sides $4.
Hours: Lunch menu 11 am to 4 pm; evening menu after 4 pm till close; brunch on Saturday 10 am to 2 pm, abbreviated evening menu after that.
Service: Bar friendly.
Reservations: Not accepted.
Rating: *** 1⁄2