Jan Norris: Food and Florida

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A Fun Find: Jo-Al’s Diner in Boynton Beach

September 24th, 2008 · 8 Comments

“I never did a day’s work in my life: It was all fun!” — Henry Ford.

That’s how I feel about this “job” after meeting people like Jon Snowden. He runs Jo-Al’s on U.S. 1 in Boynton Beach. In all the years I worked at The Post, including a stint in Delray as bureau chief, I never got around to Jo-Al’s. My loss!

This is such a cool mom-and-pop place (everyone knows I hate chains!) and the epitome of small-town dining. Jon’s my new hero: He gets to work at 5 a.m., to open up at 5:15! “There are usually three guys already in the parking lot, waiting for me to open,” he says. “I have given keys to our plumber, and the AC guy and maintenance people — so occasionally, I’ll come in and someone’s already got the place opened and has coffee on and the grill turned on, waiting for me to cook their breakfast. It’s hilarious!”

Jon Snowden at Jo-Al's, Boynton Beach

Jon Snowden at Jo-Al

It’s all family here — guests and owners alike. “Everybody knows everybody — you can just shout out how you want your eggs. People come and talk to me in the kitchen — my kitchen is open to everyone.”

You can “have it any way you want” here — I asked for a tomato on my grilled (American) cheese, and Jon asked if I’d like that grilled first.  Choice of breads, lightly browned — or not?

Meats are fresh and from a local butcher, not a corporate supplier. The steak — NY strip — for steak ‘n eggs ($9) or dinner ($15.99) is hand-cut every time. Nothing’s frozen, either. They make their hash browns from fresh potatoes that they boil every day. Their sausage gravy for biscuits is made by hand — and doesn’t start with a package. “I couldn’t tell you how to make it – only two of us know, and we’ve never measured anything, we just do it! I’m trying to teach my son, now, so he can do it,” Jon says. It’s made with fresh ground sausage, bacon drippings and poured over a fluffly buttermilk biscuit. “Yes, they’re made with buttermilk.”

Jo and Al opened in 1947

His parents bought the place, in a house where the original owners — Joanne and Allen (he doesn’t know their last names)  lived, in 1967.  The knotty-pine ceilings remain orginal. The back dining room was once a bedroom. 

Jon’s dad has passed on, and it’s still a tender sore for some guests. “There are a couple of people who have a hard time coming in even now, and not seeing him here,” Jon says.

But they can’t stay away — the food’s too good. The burger meat is ground fresh at his friend’s butcher shop: George’s Meat Market in Lantana. “George’s grandson runs it now, and we’ve been doing business with them from the get-go. I told him no reason to stop, because the old ones are gone now.”

The meat is also shaved to order for their Philly cheesesteak sandwiches. “One lady ordered one and I told her it would take a few minutes — I was really busy — because I had to go shave the meat for it. She was stunned and I guess called up all her friends to tell them to come eat here because it was so fresh! It’s funny, the reactions we get,” he said.

They’re open for dinner, where things like housemade meatloaf dinners are sometimes sold out. Prices are definitely small-town  wallet-friendly, too. Atmosphere is diner, too; nothing fancy — booths, and counter stools, and fresh food and friendly service. Everything’s cooked in front of you, and the interactive grill, where the cooks fool around, is a favorite for kids — they throw the hash browns occasionally and banter with each other.

Go check them out: They’re open from 5:15 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. every day but Monday — then, it’s breakfast and dinner only. They now take credit cards, by the way.

(Jon says: Tell them you read about them on JanNorris.com, and your drinks are on the house!)

Jo-Al’s Restaurant

  • 2617 S. Federal Highway, Boynton Beach
  • (561) 732-9614
  • Open: Tuesday-Sunday, 5:15 a.m.-8:30 p.m.; Monday, 5:15 a.m.  to 2 p.m.

Tags: Talking Tables

8 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Ben // Sep 25, 2008 at 9:01 am

    This sounds like my kind of place!

    It is not often you find a restaurant where everyone knows your name and they give you a key to the place… especially in ‘the big city’.

    In our fast paced society, I think we regret not patronizing more places like Jo-Al. These entrepreneurs are the lifeblood of America… and these are the folks who come to your rescue in times of a personal emergency. Additionally, these are also the people who buy yearbook ads, sponsors Little League teams, etc.!

  • 2 hazmat1225 // Sep 26, 2008 at 12:27 am

    I’ve been going there 15+years now(geez). I can honestly say that I’ve never had a bad meal at Jo-Al’s. Food’s consistently good, more than I can say for some big chains that only serve one meal a day.

  • 3 Pompano Beach plumber // Apr 23, 2010 at 2:43 am

    They throw the hash browns occasionally and banter with each other.

  • 4 Blayne // Jul 23, 2010 at 11:13 am

    Jo-Al’s is closed. Sad but true….

  • 5 Denver Chiropractic Neurologist Dr. Scott Brown // Aug 8, 2011 at 11:58 am

    I keyworded ALS Disease and got your website. How do you do it?

  • 6 Jan Norris // Aug 15, 2011 at 12:23 pm

    ALS disease am not sure, but Google likely read the Al’s in the name of this now-defunct diner as ALS. My best guess.

  • 7 John // Jan 14, 2013 at 5:20 pm

    Best blueberry pan cakes I ever had , lived next door in the Lorraine motel for a few years best diner around will never forget it

  • 8 Air Conditioning Repair In Reno Nevada // Sep 21, 2014 at 6:28 am

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