WEST CARTHAGE A little more than a year ago, Keddys restaurant in Carthage quietly changed its name to Josť OConnors.
New owners took over with the idea of upholding Keddys tradition of treating every guest like family.
Josť OConnors is owned and operated by Carthage native Amiee OConnor and partner Josť Alvarado. Both gained professional experience at noted restaurants in New York City. The duo migrated back to the north country in 2010.
Josť is a native of Mexico. Much of the menu reflects his heritage as well as his ability to showcase his culinary talents.
At first when they took over, there was an attempt to upscale the dinner menu by offering sophisticated nightly specials. It wasnt long before they realized they had to cater to the majority of their clientele, who were after more simple, basic fare.
So out with the seared duck breast over soba noodles and in with prime rib and mashed potatoes.
We stopped by on a Friday night. A friendly young lady at the bar greeted us. It was 6 p.m. and there were no patrons at the bar and only one table occupied. Good weather drives people out of town to the river or their camps on the weekends, she explained.
We grabbed a table for four in the dining room, a comfortable space with walls of brick and dark-stained knotty pine. One wall was a floor-to-ceiling blackboard with the entire menu written in chalk as well as the nightly specials.
Menus are also at each table, printed on one side of sturdy stock. They call it their All Day Menu, with soups and salads, burgers and sandwiches, artisanal pizzas and homemade favorites like hand-cut potato chips with barbecue sauce, bacon-wrapped chicken wings, truffled french fries and Josťs salsa with pico de gallo or salsa roja.
Our server, Jamie, was always right there for us even when the dining room started to get busy. She was willing and able to answer our questions and checked with the kitchen when necessary. Like the other waitresses, she wore a black top with an intricate pattern of colors embroidered across the shoulders and around the neckline striking and tasteful an elegant rendering of Mexican dress.
We decided to order a few items from the regular menu as well as some of the evenings specials.
Truffled fries ($7.50) were a good place to start. Hand-cut shoestring fries were drizzled with truffle oil and sprinkled with salt and Parmesan cheese. These were obviously fried in fresh oil to a light golden brown, then served with a side of herb mayo that seemed to be prepared with a touch of Dijon mustard.
They went well with a beer from Mexico, a Modelo Especial ($3.75). Theres a good selection of beer on tap as well as by the bottle.
Mexican corn was on the blackboard, and for two bucks we just had to give it a try.
It was a grilled ear of corn with a light coating of mayo, then rolled in cayenne and cotija (a hard cows milk cheese from Mexico), and finished with a squeeze of lime.
Youd better like heat if you order this little morsel, because it was HOT.
Wed heard a lot about Josťs pizzas. We ordered one to share as an appetizer, Josťs margherita pizza ($12) layered with fresh sliced tomatoes, fresh basil and a zesty homemade sauce with a crust that was exceptional crisp and light with occasional dots of sea salt. Definitely made from scratch. Very enjoyable.
We were tantalized by the soup of the day, summer squash and sausage ($5.50).
It was a rich autumnal soup, a tomato base with ground beef, onions and peppers, slices of sweet sausage and large pieces of yellow summer squash, dusted with Parmesan cheese. A very hearty soup with lots of flavor.
There are 10 different burgers on the menu. We chose the pub burger ($8.50), a char-grilled burger served on a toasted bun with two large-cut battered onion rings and homemade barbecue sauce. It was a great presentation, too, with a paper napkin carefully wrapped around half of the creation, most likely to hold it together to get it from the kitchen to the table.
Southwestern chicken wrap ($7.95) was freshness in a wrap, chunks of tasty grilled chicken breast, lettuce, generous slices of avocado, pico de gallo, sour cream, chipotle mayo and salsa roja. It was served with thick, crispy fried tortilla chips. This was an excellent wrap.
Shrimp basket ($12.50) was one of the specials, and it was certainly special. Nine noticeably large shrimp were tempura/beer battered, lightly fried and served with crisp fries. The basket came with both tartar and cocktail sauces, both clearly made right there.
Another special, available every Friday night, is prime rib. We got the king cut ($20.50), which was, for lack of a better word, massive. It had to be two inches thick and must have weighed well over a pound. It arrived as requested, a perfect medium-rare and a choice cut of meat, tender through and through and perfectly seasoned.
It came with corn on the cob, yummy horseradish mashed potatoes with just enough horseradish to enhance rather than overpower and a small house salad that was anything but small, a pile of fresh greens and assorted veggies with a tasty housemade balsamic vinaigrette.
Possibly the most intriguing thing on our table was a side of Josťs homemade sauerkraut. It was mild and not overly sour, with rich, complex flavor slightly sweet with just a touch of smokiness. A unique and delicious realization of a familiar staple.
Williams Sonoma, a company that sells specialty foods and professional cookware, has highlighted Josťs sauerkraut recipe on its website and in its catalog.
There were four desserts available, all made right there and all really good, priced at $4.50 each.
Blueberry fritters were a real treat, four little balls of goodness loaded with berries, deep-fried and dusted with confectioners sugar, served with real maple syrup for drizzling.
Rice pudding was extraordinary homemade, custard based, served warm and dusted with cinnamon. Remarkably flavorful. An exceptional version of a classic dessert.
Chocolate molten cake was very rich, made with top-quality chocolate, served with equally rich vanilla ice cream. The intensity of the chocolate was nicely cut by the ice cream.
Blueberry tart was perfect for summer, a light custard-filled shell served with a generous portion of fresh blueberries.
Dinner for four including two beers was $119.58 before tip.
All of the food was well prepared and well thought-out. Josť takes ordinary food to another level. What could be ordinary becomes extraordinary.
Our server was continually changing out used silverware and filling our water glasses. Competent and attentive.
You can check Josť OConnors nightly specials on their website, www.joseoconnors, or their Facebook page.
You can contact restaurant reviewer Walter Siebel via email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
17 Bridge St.
At Josť OConnors, ordinary food becomes extraordinary
HOURS: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Friday
4 p.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday
OUR PICKS: Truffled fries, margherita pizza, Southwestern chicken wrap, prime rib (Friday only), Josťs sauerkraut, blueberry fritters, rice pudding.