200730CASUALJOESPIC

Helene Ramsdell, a member of The Gazette’s restaurant review team The Four Dishes, enjoyed this pulled pork sandwich that came with cranberry slaw and ‘real mashed potatoes’ during a recent visit to Casual Joe’s restaurant in Whitewater.

WHITEWATER

We have long wanted to visit Casual Joe’s, a barbecue place in Whitewater with a recent change of ownership.

Meats are wood-smoked on site, and we were excited to give them a try.

We recently learned the place is now open for breakfast on weekends, but by the time we got our act together, it was a late lunch for us. We’ve already decided to go back to try their breakfast.

We ordered takeout and brought it home, but there are picnic benches out front where diners could stay to enjoy their meals. The restaurant also is located right next to Cravath Lakefront Park, which would be an ideal place to have a scenic picnic.

Inside is a small area where you order your food and watch as your order is being made. While I was waiting for the finishing touches on our order, a woman stopped in just to say the previous night she had ordered the ribs and they were outstanding.

We all thought maybe she was a ringer, but once we finished our meal, Jennifer happily verified her claim to be true. The ribs really were outstanding.

There are definitely items on the menu that stood out as “have to try” selections for us.

We started with a half-order of Korean barbecued pork nachos ($5.95). This came as a normal-sized plate just right for a taster, featuring delicate, homemade tortilla chips topped with shredded barbecued pork, feta cheese, pickled onions and green onions drizzled in a savory, homemade cheese sauce. Some of the unusual flavors that sounded so good in the description—feta cheese and pickled onions—were not as pronounced as we had hoped, but the cheese sauce was great, and the pork was the star of the show.

Once again I went for my favorite—the brisket ($16 for a 1-pound serving and $11 for a half-pound serving). I think I am searching for that perfect one I can return to when I get the craving. Casual Joe’s brisket is good: smoky with a crispy, peppery outside and a tender center.

The platter comes with two sides, and the real mashed potatoes were a hit for all of us. There were bits of potato—with skin—held together with a super creamy base. The golden corn bake was wonderful, too, featuring a cross between a corn muffin and pudding. Be sure to try it.

I’m not certain if Casual Joe’s makes its own barbecue sauces, but there are several options including spicy, tangy, sweet and Carolina Mop sauces. We had the sweet sauce, which was almost too sweet, and the spicy sauce, which had a slight kick but was a little bit too thin. I found if I combined the two, it created a taste and consistency that was just right for me.

Helene tried the pulled pork topped with cranberry slaw ($9.95) with “real mashed potatoes” as her side. Served on what looked like a hoagie roll, the pork was tender and plentiful. The slaw was crisp with a mayo base and cranberries that lent a sweetness to the mix. The mashed potatoes were very creamy with chunks of potatoes incorporated throughout.

Casual Joe’s offers 10 different versions of smash bowls—some with a mac ‘n’ cheese base, some with mashed potatoes, some with the corn bake, and all with a flavorful combination of smoked meat and toppings.

Nikki ordered the buffalo chicken smashed tater smash bowl ($9.50), which featured buffalo chicken, ranch and blue cheese. The dish was tangy and spicy and had a perfect combination of meat and potatoes.

Jennifer selected the 1-pound platter of ribs ($11.95), which came with two sides. She chose the seasonal coleslaw and cornbread.

In her opinion, the ribs were some of the best she’s had. Scrumptious and char-crusted with moist, fall-off-the-bone meat, the ribs had a subtle smoky flavor added to the tender, perfectly seasoned pork. The seasonal coleslaw was prepared with shredded cabbage, carrots, red cabbage and plenty of celery seed. The dressing was smooth and creamy and just a bit sweet.

Jennifer also was quite impressed with the cornbread. Slightly more dense than most cornbreads, it was on the sweeter side with a true corn taste. Simply moist and delicious.

With authentic barbecue at its finest, Casual Joe’s in Whitewater is at the top of its game.

The Four Dishes—Nikki Bolka, Helene Ramsdell, Jennifer Spangler and Beth Webb—review regional restaurants for The Gazette.

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