Jojo Gets a Glow-Up in the Pearl
Everyone kept saying ‘hey jojo (not my name) you can’t do a smash burger patty melt, it’s too risky,’” read an Instagram post on Jojo’s page in March. “Well you dumb binch i take RISKS and owe SO MUCH CHILD SUPPORT to my GRANDMA (?)”
As you can probably tell, there’s no PR team behind Jojo’s Instagram, which runs 33,000 followers strong. It’s just the unhinged alter ego of Justin Hintze, a former real estate agent turned owner of one of the hottest food trucks in town. Four years after opening his cart, he’s taking a risk far beyond the patty melt: expanding to his second location, a full-blown restaurant in the Pearl that opened in September.
“Is the cult of Jojo really about the fried chicken sandwiches, or is it just the Instagram personality?” a friend asked me. They’ll get their answer at the new restaurant, where Jojo is firing on all cylinders seven days a week, from a garlic powder–dipped and garlic aioli–slathered fried chicken sandwich to the new Mr. Onion double-patty smashburger that falls somewhere between French onion soup and the fast food burger of your dreams. From the massive list of vegan options—you can also make any item gluten-free—the spicy fried tofu sandwich, complete with house-made pepper relish, can easily compete with meaty entries. Our only gripe? The vegan An Xuyen bun, usually a favorite of ours, leaned slightly stale on one visit, while their buttery brioche counterparts were cloudy, chewy delights.
The menu is endlessly customizable—make anything patty-melt style, turn any sandwich Nashville hot, mix and match ingredients, or order off the secret menu, including chicken tenders dipped in garlic oil, or the Chicken a la McRib sandwich created by fast food maven Bill Oakley. The namesake jojos are just as crispy as ever, but now there’s an option to get them loaded with the likes of ranch, coleslaw, and cheddar. Sounds like a soggy mess, but that thick jojo crust shields the potato wedges from drooping.
There’s a whole menu devoted to “soadies,” extravagant syrupy-boosted sodas like BlueCoco Sprite popular in Hintze’s home state of Utah, though the soda machine was down on our visit. Boozy berry milkshakes loaded with Tillamook ice cream, oat milk, whipped cream, and the likes of marshmallow vodka taste a little odd, but they’re smooth, easy to slurp, and topped with sprinkles.
Though you’d never guess it from Instagram, the restaurant shows that Jojo has grown up, just a little: sleek, sophisticated, but just as fun. Hintze himself recently ditched apartment life and bought his own midcentury-modern house right before Jojo the Restaurant opened, and the restaurant gives off similar grown-up-but-hip vibes—houseplants everywhere, wood paneling, and orange velour banquette seating. At the bar, beverage director Ashelee Wells, formerly of Eem, serves sorta-grown-up cocktails like the Club Hopper, sporting Hypnotiq and carrot juice, plus the requisite local beer and wine. Finish with the likes of key lime curd pavlova with cola-macerated cherries from pastry chef Christina Hoover, formerly of St. Honoré. Soon, the truck will reopen, and late-night hours are scheduled for the coming months, maybe even until 3.a.m. after the bars close. Brunch, Portland’s favorite meal, will launch soon—think all the things Jojo does well, but in the morning, like fried chicken and waffles, fried egg-topped patty melts, and boozy brunch bevvies. At this rate, that child support should be no problem. 902 NW 13th Ave, jojopdx.com