Julio’s Cafe (Clarksburg)

For her birthday, I took Missy to one of her favorite restaurants in the state, if not her very favorite, Julio’s. Julio’s doesn’t look like much from the outside; it’s a simple brick building across from Clarksburg’s train station, so you have to drive into the Glen Elk section of town to get there. The address is 501 Baltimore Avenue.

The restaurant has two rooms: a front bar with booths and Lava brand motion lamps (the Lava company gets mighty testy if you just call them lava lamps) and a back dining room. Both rooms are getting what sounds like Frank’s Place on Sirius XM, which is highly fitting. Julio’s is open for lunch for the usual (but exceptional) pasta and sandwiches with menu service and for dinner where your server reads you the day’s offerings. The latter results in the one fair criticism of Julio’s, that I will discuss in a moment.

While Julio’s features many fabulous appetizers, I keep coming back to the simple tomato plate. Simple in that the ingredients are straight-forward: ripe, red tomato slices, rings of red onion, strips of bell pepper, slices of provolone cheese and wedges of fontina cheese, all drizzled with a basil dressing. It’s like a caprese salad, but so much better. The key is that Julio’s has never failed in having exceptionally flavorful tomatoes. I don’t know where they get them, but they seem to have an inexhaustable supply. We chose not to take photographs while we were there, but here is photo from their facebook page (I hope they don’t mind):

tomato plate

I’m not saying not to try the mussels or roasted red pepper plate, only that you will kick yourself if you don’t get the tomato plate as well. (I don’t think they have a website, but the facebook page is at https://www.facebook.com/JuliosCafeWV).

Dinner includes both soup and salad and fresh garlic toast. The soup seems to be a chef’s choice fagioli. It’s often been a near perfect onion fagioli that was robust without being overpowering. Missy and I have gotten quarts of it to go. For our last visit they served a hearty pasta fagioli that would have been great as a meal by itself. Salads are traditional salads in an Italian restaurant, though very fresh.

On our last visit, Missy ordered the 10 oz. filet. She’s normally not a fan of the filet, preferring the flavor of a ribeye or strip, but she commented that her filet had much more flavor that she is used to with that cut of meat. It was served with carrots and a side of Spaghetti Aglio e Olio. Again, simple olive oil and garlic but it was perfectly prepared; there is a reason this style is so popular in Italy.

filet

Again, from the facebook page, and if you know Missy you know she didn’t get the mushrooms, but this is a good depiction of their filets.

I ordered the veal picata, which takes veal scallops that have been pounded thin and cooks them in a sauce of butter, wine, capers and lemon. It’s a very traditional Italian dish and Julio’s version allowed you taste the brightness of the lemon, the smoothness of the butter and the saltiness of the capers without any one flavor overpowering. From the, well, you know:

vealpicatta

Also served with a side of Spaghetti Aglio e Olio. I’m not sure I’ve had a better veal picata (Thankfully my mom did not make this dish so I should be safe in saying that). Our friends ordered the crab cakes, which I’ve had and loved, and the lasagne, which looked large enough to feed a small army.

Dessert was entirely uncessary, but we soldiered forward. Julio’s does some magnificent homemade desserts, including some insanely good chocolate eclairs. I chose the raspberry gateau which is a melange of raspberry puree, custard-like cream, cake and a crunchy meringue. It is a wonderful combination of flavors and textures, if you can stand having a non-chocolate dessert. From facebook:

raspberryguateau

though I have always had it in a large glass. It’s a great way to end a meal.

Julio’s has consistently been one of my favorite places in the state. The meal is slow, intentionally so, as you are supposed to enjoy your meal and company. Do not run in for dinner expecting a half hour meal. This is a place to savor the experience.

If you read the criticisms of Julio’s they often talk about the dining room, which I grant you is well-used. I find the place charming, but if you need the sterile feeling of a modern chain you may not care for Julio’s. The other issue is the price. As I mentioned, the dinner menu is read to you (without prices). Most non-pasta entrees are going to run you nearly $40. I had a bit of price shock at my first dinner. That said, the food is exceptional and the dinner comes with garlic toast, soup and salad. Many restaurants would charge you for the toast and soup on top of the meal. I’ve always felt I got my money’s worth, but you should be prepared for the bill. Exceptional meals do not come cheap and Julio’s has been consistently exceptional for me. If you haven’t been there, you should. Why Julio’s has never made the 101 list remains a puzzle to me, especially when you think of some of the ordinary places that have made the list.

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