Josephine’s revamps, rolls out lunch menu

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For as long as I’ve known about Josephine’s, it’s been on the short list of restaurants in Greensboro that I convince my parents to take me to when they visit.

Even though there are a few dinner entrées that are within my budget, such as the butternut squash and cauliflower spaghetti for about $13, most of the items come in just shy of $30. It is here that I remember trying a tower of fried green tomatoes as an appetizer and where I first tasted marrow.

On some level, Josephine’s is trying to escape that perception, or at least expand it. Gone is the word “bistro” from the name, replaced with the more pedestrian “kitchen.” But the biggest change is the addition of a weekday lunch menu, a pivot that allows people to obtain food of the caliber they’ve come to expect at a more affordable lunchtime price.

The lunch menu is a hearty one, stacked with sandwiches of serious substance — a po boy, a burger, fried chicken and pimiento cheese, a bistro steak. On Monday, the pulled pork wasn’t ready for the Cubano, so Josephine’s doubled up on the pork belly alongside gruyere.

The "favorite" arugula salad
The “favorite” arugula salad

There are other things on the menu, of course, including the cheap “favorite arugula” salad that Josephine’s unveiled on its original menu but later removed, only to have it return by popular demand. Served with a sunny-side up egg, bacon lardons and fingerling potatoes, it’s like a breakfast dish with a generous helping of arugula. It’s bigger than a normal starter unless it’s shared, and would make a better light lunch.

I almost ordered the roasted turkey sandwich, particularly because it comes on a croissant with an herb-garlic boursin cheese, orange-habanero cranberry compote and arugula. And I probably will some time.

The oyster po boy. Top: the buttermilk chicken  and pimiento cheese sandwich.
The oyster po boy. Top: the buttermilk chicken
and pimiento cheese sandwich.

But reading out the ingredients of the po boy, I didn’t feel like I had a choice: cornmeal-crusted oysters, juajillo-pepper black-garlic romesco remoulade, pickled red onion and cherry peppers, and Baja slaw. The fried oysters — which can come instead as cornmeal-crusted shrimp — gave the sandwich some crunch, complemented well by the Baja slaw in particular.

The highlight of the meal, however, was the buttermilk chicken sandwich with butternut-squash mustard, a little bit of honey-Texas Pete glaze, sharp-cheddar pimiento cheese and local Swiss chard. I’m the kind of guy, maybe because I grew up in the North, who generally avoids pimiento cheese. It’s usually just too much. And that’s one of the perks of having friends, especially ones who will give you a bite of their lunch.

The slight kick of the mustard balanced out the pimiento cheese masterfully, making it not only more manageable for someone who veers away from the Southern cheese, but a main component of a truly fantastic sandwich.

Punchy, contemporary indie-pop music playing and brighter lighting also distinguished the affair from its dinner counterpart, contributing to a more relaxed feel for diners. People filled about half the tables, some for lunch meetings and a table of eight well-dressed women having a gas.

In some ways, Josephine’s maintained the aura of its dinner service — after all, it’s the same restaurant and a few of the menu items, including the pei mussels and burger with lamb chili, carried over.

But it would be more accurate to say the fine-dining establishment successfully made the jump to incorporating midday, albeit with fewer seafood options. It’s easier to park there during the day too, making in-and-out lunch trips feasible. Even while offering more affordable prices to match the meal, Josephine’s provided a selection of filling options without skimping on quality or portions.

Visit Josephine’s Kitchen at 2417 Spring Garden St. (GSO) or at josephinesbistro.com.