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Posted April 22, 2009 | Copyright © The Northern Virginia Daily
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Steaking claim: Restaurant seeks to benefit community, become local it-place

Joe Wobbe one of the owners of Joe's Steakhouse
Joe Wobbe, one of the owners and general manager of Joe's Steakhouse in Woodstock, holds a plate of one of the eatery's most popular choices -- a 14-ounce Rib Eye Steak with Glazed Carrots and a Twice Baked Potato. Rich Cooley/Daily

Chris Woetzel a chef at Joe's Steakhouse
Chris Woetzel, a chef at Joe's Steakhouse, pours custard into a pan of bread pudding. Rich Cooley/Daily

New York style cheesecake at Joe's
A house favorite at Joe's is the New York style cheesecake with strawberry topping. Rich Cooley/Daily

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CORRECTION: A story in Wednesday's issue should have said that the Web site for Joe's Steakhouse in Woodstock is www.joessteak.com.

By Josette Keelor -- jkeelor@nvdaily.com

WOODSTOCK -- On a recent evening, Main Street in downtown Woodstock was the place to be, with a line of hungry and interested valley residents stretching from the brand new food venue in town up the sidewalk to the courthouse. If patronage on any given evening is a sign of success in the restaurant business, then Joe's Steakhouse is already a hit -- even before its official grand opening.

Once growing up in a rural New Hampshire town where he and his eight older siblings paraded their purchases of steak home in celebration of the family's tax refund, Joe Wobbe is now the proud owner of a steakhouse in his name.

Joe's Steakhouse, which had its grand opening Friday, is not only the newest eatery in Woodstock, it is, Wobbe and his partners, Rich Church and H.B. Sager, hope, a place the town can claim as its own.

Strasburg has the Hotel Strasburg, Wobbe gives as an example. "This is Woodstock's restaurant," he says.

The restaurant's ribbon-cutting ceremony for its unofficial opening was on March 19 -- St. Joseph's Feast Day, which Wobbe says is appropriate.

"I've always wanted to open a steakhouse," he says. He imagines Main Street in Woodstock to be much like the main drag in his childhood town, as he remembers that day his family celebrated economic promise with a steak dinner.

"It was a good day," he says. "We were going to have our steak, and it was a big deal."

The idea for the restaurant came partly from that experience.

"A steak, I think, symbolizes a good meal," he says. "When you have a steak, you can say, 'I feel good' -- everything's good.'"

Another reason for going into business was to help improve commerce in Woodstock. Even before he made the decision to delve into the restaurant business, Wobbe already possessed a vested interest in promoting the small town. It was this passion that inspired him to begin the Shenandoah Valley Business Alliance two years ago, where he later met Church and Sager.

"The purpose of the group is to help stimulate local growth and business," Wobbe says.

His plans for the future of Woodstock will affect not only locals but tourists as well.

"[Woodstock] can either be a truck stop ... or we can stimulate the historic downtown Woodstock," he says.

Sager and Church, who both do public relations for Joe's, had never intended to open a restaurant.

"[I] didn't want to, had no interest," says Sager.

He was inspired by Wobbe's entrepreneurial spirit and jumped on board after touring the available space at 124 S. Main St.

Chef Chuck Billows helped the three owners develop a menu, and before they knew it, they were in business.

The opening of the steakhouse also benefited the community, Wobbe says, if only by making use of more than 25 local vendors and workers in its construction.

"People have really bent over backwards in support of the building and the nightlife downtown," Wobbe says. His hope is that it will provide not only great food, but also a fun night out for his customers.

"[The] steakhouse was answering a need; we're really pasta heavy in this area," he says. "Shenandoah County is very meat and potatoes," he adds.

Meat and potatoes are certainly on the menu at Joe's. The restaurant also offers shrimp, stuffed mushrooms and various salads and soups.

The Tuscan-style decor -- what Wobbe calls "masculine elegance" -- adds class to any evening at the restaurant, but it is the food and the lively atmosphere that will keep the customers coming back, Wobbe says.

"It's more of a D.C. style," he says.

"The two styles are basically ... seafood and beef," he says. But there's a twist. Though the atmosphere and fare suggest high-style -- and high price -- Wobbe wanted to provide an affordable setting where people can come together and meet, enjoy good food and have some laughs.

"We've made it appealing to the locals because the prices are so low," he says.

Those looking for light fare will be able to enjoy the 7-ounce Marinated Sirloin, Hand-breaded Shrimp or Honey Mustard Grilled Chicken Breast, each for $9.99.

The 12-ounce New York Strip costs $17.99; Joe's Favorite 10-ounce Top Sirloin is $14.99, and the Beef Skewer is $12.99.

Stuffed Shrimp, Oysters Rockefeller and Crab Cakes grace the seafood side of the menu, ranging in price from $13.99 to $18.99.

Stuffed Portabello Mushroom is available for vegetable lovers, and, for those who want a serious meal, Friday and Saturday evenings at the steakhouse bring with them the slow-cooked prime rib.

Entrees include a house or Caesar salad, the vegetable of the day and a choice of a baked potato, a twice baked potato, steak fries or steakhouse rice.

In the mood for the Ultimate Surf and Turf? The menu warns that amateurs need not apply for the 12-ounce New York Strip with Four Shrimp Stuffed with Crab Meat.

Desserts include Southern Style Bread Pudding, Double Fudge Chocolate Cake and the Mystery Pie -- a mix of cheesecake and pecan pie. Joe's also offers New York Cheesecake "with a Woodstock flair." It is heavy on the cream cheese, which makes it softer than the traditional cheesecake of the Big Apple, Wobbe says.

Joe's offers seating for 90 people in the main dining room or upstairs and even out on the balcony. Private rooms are also available upstairs for parties or meetings, and the bar offers 16 more seats as well.

The restaurant has been such a success that Wobbe has even noticed customers traveling to Woodstock from Winchester and Harrisonburg -- "which reverses the flow of commerce that has always been here," he says.

"The community support for the building and the cheering," he says, is like "divine providence" for three local men trying to open a business.

"Great seafood, great steak, great price, great place," is what he says customers will find when they walk through the front door.

Joe's Steakhouse is located at 124 S. Main St. in Woodstock and is open Monday through Thursday 4-11 p.m., and Friday and Saturday, 4 p.m.-midnight. The restaurant is closed Sundays. For more information, call 459-JOES (5637) or visit the Web at www.eatatjoes.com.

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