When it comes to burger joints, divey Mexican cantinas, Thai, moderately-priced Italian, Indian, bistros, delis, and donut shops that sell egg rolls, lottery tickets and smokes, the Inland Empire can more than hold its own against LA or Orange County. In regards to fine dining, though, the options narrow considerably, much like a bar at closing time.
One of the fine dining mainstays in Redlands is Joe Greensleeves, an Italian-American restaurant on Orange Street in downtown. Located in the Phinney Block Building, the exterior of the place is all old-world charm with its red brick façade, while the inside is more . . . interesting. With a nautical theme and a ship’s hull attached to the right wall, there’s an odd sunken feeling to the room you get, plus wacky add-ons like tube lighting and a framed industrial waste magazine, which hung in our booth nestled snugly up against the kitchen. Funky and fun, sure, but hardly elegant.
A stiff vodka martini took my mind off the room and back to the food. The bread at Greensleeves is delicious, crunchy, crusty goodness, with a soft inside that’s only enhanced by the olive oil-based sauce accompanying the bread. When pondering whether the Joe Greensleeves experience is worth the price—because it is rather pricey, folks—I keep going back to that sauce with bay leaves, garlic and chiles, and can only conclude: hell yeah it’s worth it.
The salads are also outstanding. The spinach and arugula is garnished with shaved Parmesan cheese, which is buried under delicately cut slices of Parmesan, which mixes well with the tart lemon dill dressing (tangy, with a hint of spiciness to it. Chef/owner Umberto Orlando has a real flair for olive oil-based sauces and dressings. Like the amazing bread, the salad went a long way toward making up for the décor of the place.
The staff also helps—they know their stuff, and are attentive, but not annoyingly so. They also didn’t sniff their noses in the air when my buddy and I went with Heinekens poured into frosted Pilsner glasses (rather than wine) for dinner. I never felt hurried, either—an absolute no-no when dining, but one some formal to-be-nameless IE restaurants actually practice.
I wound up ordering the pork medallion, which comes, like all the entrees, with mashed potatoes. But to call these simply mashed potatoes is to say Salma Hayek is a cute girl. No, instead, they’re mashed potato nirvana, with a creamy texture that paradoxically contains small nuggets of spud, and seasoned simply yet perfectly with salt and garlic.
If the pork medallion had only lived up to its mashed counterpart, it might have been a meal for the ages, but alas, no. While served up with an amazingly sweet raspberry sauce (again, great sauces), the pork itself on this night deserved plaudits like “okay,” “serviceable” and “fair to middling.” The seasoning was uninspired, and the cut of meat itself was a bit rough and tasteless—not the end of the world, but one expects a bit more from a $25 entrée, a slightly disappointing end to an overall fantastic meal.
Joe Greensleeves is a satisfactory choice when looking for fine dining in the IE, yet it has the potential to be even better. When it comes to wine lists, interesting food combos (Greensleeves serves elk) and attentive staff, it ranks among the top. Now if they’d only ditch the décor and Christmas lights . . .
Joe Greensleeves, 220 Orange St., Redlands, (909) 792-6969.