Hours: Lunch, Mondays through Fridays, 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Dinner, Mondays through Thursday, 5 to 10:30 p.m.; Friday and Saturday evenings until 11 p.m. Sunday dinners from noon to 9:30 p.m.
Atmosphere: Bright, comfortable setting.
Price range: $7.95 for chicken teriyaki to $14.50 for a combination steak-and-lobster dinner. Average meals are under $10 for complete dinners.
Credit cards: Most major cards.
Special features: Special wheelchair parking and entrance on the side. High chair and booster seats. Early dinner (complete meal) for $7.95 until 7 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays; until 4 p.m. on Sundays.
I would often wonder as I drove by the Joshua Tree how they could let a restaurant slide into failure as they had done. It was disservice to its birthright.
Gone are the careless excuses of the past few years. New owners now stand proudly behind the recently renovated interior and their presence explains some of the changes.
First of all, the menu is different. Whether the salad bar of yore was replaced for economical reasons or as part of an image change, you will not miss its departure. With people no longer running back to get one more cherry tomato and no children screaming excitedly in the waiting line, the restaurant has managed to achieve a relaxed atmosphere that contributes to a more enjoyable evening.
Tranquillity is further achieved by the excellent spacing of tables and the policy of accepting reservations and spreading the customers through a variety of rooms.
There are other pleasant features as well. A children's menu is available that includes adult food, such as prime rib or crab legs, and forgoes the normal hot dog fare.
You will find your meal properly orchestrated, as the service is attentive but not rushed.
The new menu has an almost equal number of meat and fish choices, with combination beef-and-seafood dinners also available. In addition to these regular features there are daily fresh fish offerings.
We selected one appetizer to share among our family of five. The fried artichoke hearts ($2.50) were a welcome beginning for some of our members who needed immediate gratification. The artichokes had been lighlty battered and quickly deep-fried. They were served with a sour-cream-inspired mustard sauce that added a nice touch.
Dinners come complete with a choice of a soup or salad, a potatoe or rice pilaf and a hot loaf of a special Joshua Tree raisin-pumpernickel bread.
The dinner salad is a pleasant surprise with its lightly herbed, creamy Green Goddess house dressing. Unfortunately, iceberg lettuce is used, while all the adornments are first-class.Baby shrimp, chopped egg, cherry tomatoes and croutons seem more at home with a different grade of lettuce.
The minestrone soup also was a pleasant surpise. It had been spared a noodle invasion in favor of a thick tomato base that had been properly seasoned and amply supplied with slices of vegetables.
The children's menu includes the choice of soup or salad and potato and also entices them with a beverage and a dessert. For the unadventurous under-12 set, a hamburger is available, as is a soup-salad combination.
Our pre-adolescent son, Joshua, enjoyed the "tickle your ribs" ($4.95) slice of meat, amply au jus. He made it quickly disappear.
Five-year-old Lisa has no difficulty selecting an item when crab legs are available. "The Crabby King" ($4.95) arrives with drawn butter and a whole lemon that has been etched for immediate flavor. She was having a hungry day and assisted all other family members in completing their entrees. Not that the children's portions are too tiny; it's just that children's appetites fluctuatte with the wind. All portions at the Joshua Tree are consistent with price.
The traditional cut of prime rib ($9.95) will suffice most adults, but a 14 oz. portion for a dollar more is also available. Again, it was a meaty portion that had been carefully seasoned.
Surprisingly, no end cuts or bone portions are available, but three steak offerings should satisfy the heartiest meat eater. Again, quality has been a consideration, as the steaks are all prime cuts rather than choice.
The New York sirloin ($11.95) had been perfectly gas-grilled and was testimony to the cut-it-with-your-fork effect you achieve only with prime meats.
I chose one of the many seafood items that reflected a kitchen that wanted recognition for its varied fish entrees. The sauteed scallops ($8.25) were bite-sized pieces that had been lightly bread-crumbed and cooked with a lemon and vermouth seasoning. They were a pleasant find.
A separate dessert menu lists only four items and numerous aperitifs. The children had no difficulty selecting a Haggen-Dazs flavor to complete their meal.
Nor did we hesitate long in our selection of chocolate cheesecake ($1.75). Plain cheesecake is also available, but the chocolate addition is a wonderful combination. The pastry chef did not waste time on paper-thin crusts or graham-cracker toppings: it is all chocolate and cheesecake with a heavy hand of whipped cream. Yes, this makes a fine shared finale.
I am glad the Joshua Tree is back and that it has shown careful attention to avoiding many of the pitfalls of the last few years. Each of the items is skillfully prepared and cooking details are attended to.
Our dinner for three adults and two children included a carafe of wine, dessert and appetizer for $53.04 without tip. We left with the satisfied feeling that we had received complete dinners without every accompaniment being a la carte, as one often finds in a prime rib house.