"Hands down the best fried chicken I have ever eaten" - restaurant review, Jojo's Kitchen & Bar
PUBLISHED: 19:00 13 June 2019
Our food and drink editor took a trip to the East Anglian coast, and this award-winning American diner.
Sometimes after visiting a restaurant I want to run around and tell everyone to stop what they're doing and go there.
Jojo's Kitchen and Diner is one such place. It's not refined dining by any stretch of the imagination, but by God the guys in that kitchen know their flavours.
Granted, Lowestoft's high street isn't the most glamorous of locations, but the more we support the little guys and use them, the better. Apparently Lowestoft is earmarked for regeneration - well let's hope that happens so Jojo's and other businesses like it get the surroundings they deserve and need to thrive.
Visiting on a Saturday night we entered to find Jojo's thronging with customers (it's obviously popular) and were surprised at how tiny it was. Booking ahead was definitely sensible. We accidentally arrived half an hour early but despite being busy they acknowledged us and managed to grab our table in a jiffy.
A glance at the menu made me decide straight away I'd need an extra 'low calorie' day that week (I'm doing the 5:2 diet) because there's no way I was holding back…although, for balance, the menu did say you could swap a bun and fries for salad and jacket potato.
Anyway, over a pint of Ghost Ship (£4.10) and a Woo Woo cocktail (£6) we made our selections.
From the starters (all under £6) there was the choice to pick three for £14.95 or five for £23.95. There were four of us so naturally we had to go for the bigger option.
Presented on a board were addictively dark, tender chicken wings in a glaze so thick and gloriously gloopy the others had to slap my hand to stop me devouring them all. We all agreed the sauce wasn't too sweet, having more of a molasses vibe.
The bourbon glazed pork belly pieces were a bit fatty for some, but I rather liked that. The meat was fall-apart tender and I think deep-frying would have destroyed the texture.
Halloumi fries with pineapple, mango and chilli dip weren't rubbery (bonus) and kept their crunch. And the chicken tenders with blue cheese sauce were so perfectly cooked they oozed juice as you bit into them.
The only thing I would say is our choice of hummus (although delicious) was a massive portion and there wasn't enough bread to mop up the lemony-tahini chickpea dip.
As the parade of main courses travelled upstairs towards our table we realised how utterly stupid we'd been with the starters, because dainty and delicate these plates were not.
Let's start with the 911 burger (£13.95). I'm not sure how my husband managed to get it in his gob - but he did! Tucked into the locally-made bun, was a burger patty crafted with coarsely ground meat which managed to retain its succulence and hadn't been condensed into a shot put.
It was layered with cheese, pulled pork, hash brown, pickled red onion, Jojo's house burger sauce and Jack Daniels barbecue sauce with fries (we upgraded to chilli and cheese dirty fries) and homemade coleslaw on the side. There was a lot going on in this combo, but the medley of bits and pieces riffed off each other in harmony, with every bite being a bit meaty, sweet, spicy, treacly, sharp.
The loaded burrito (£11.95) had a choice of filling options and was, quite frankly, so big we had to bring half of it home in a box! The tortilla bulged with delicious shreds of pulled pork, molten cheese, spicy rice and kidney beans, exploding with flavours. On the side were loaded tacos and a salad.
The chicken skewers (£11.95) came as a pair, and again, this dish was no wallflower. It was big and meaty and hearty and generous. The chicken (marinated in garlic and paprika) had a wonderful Deep South flavour but was just a little over-cooked and dry in places. And while we like the spicy rice, it tasted similar what you get out of a packet, with all the little dried pieces of pepper and onion flecked through.
I think I had the star dish of Southern fried buttermilk chicken and waffles (£12.95). If I had my teen metabolism back, this is something I'd happily dive into every single damn day.
The base was a plate-filling homemade cheddar and chive waffle, all puffy and encrusted with cheese at the edges. Topping this were five ridiculously juicy pieces of chicken, with not a speck of grease, in an outrageous, savoury, mouth-wateringly good, crunchy coating. But they don't stop there. The whole thing is then deftly drizzled with a devilishly sweet and spicy honey hot sauce, tempered by bourbon maple syrup. I've had chicken and waffles before but they've been so sucrosy they've beaten me. This plate was another story. It really was finger-licking good.
A cursory glance at the website showed us they rock when it comes to freakshakes here but they looked way too much for us, so we settled on a classic of waffles (£5.50) with strawberries, cream and chocolate sauce and a Baileys mocha sundae (£5.50).
The puds didn't blow us away as much as the previous courses which is where I suspect they put all their love and attention. The waffles (the Belgian variety) were pleasant enough, served warm but not dried-out with enough sauce to flavour each mouthful. But the sundae had gone a bit melty and samey by the time it got to us so it was hard to distinguish the vanilla ice cream from the salted caramel, and the sauce felt more like a shot of Baileys and a swirl of chocolate sauce. Altogether it had a good flavour but it just didn't blow me away. It would have been nice to have a cohesive, thick boozy chocolate sauce running through.
Overall though a cracking meal.
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They've got American and continental lagers on draught as well as local Adnams Ghost Ship and an impressive collection of gin and Fevertree tonics. We liked the fact they could turn the cocktails into mocktails too.
The interior has a simple, edgy industrial feel to it without feeling overly themed. There was a palpable buzz throughout and rock music played in the background- we were singing along.
Really chatty and friendly. The staff seemed proud to work at Jojo's and also proud of the food they were bringing out.
There are cheap car parks within five minutes walk but we managed to park on the street nearby on a Saturday night visit
Spotless. And they smelled really fresh (well the ladies' loos anyway). There was baby changing on the wall for families. However it's up two flights of stairs so no good for disabled folk.
A starter platter to share, four main courses, one side, two alcoholic drinks, three non-alcoholic drinks, a mocktail and two desserts came to £109.50.
The waffle and chicken. Enough said.
If we're in this neck of the woods again soon we'll definitely be back. If you're heading for First Light Festival make sure you book!