OUR PARTY ARRIVES at Jimmy’s Food and Cocktails with low expectations. Surrounded by highways and business hotels, Jimmy’s looks like countless other suburban restaurants, a generic box set atop an expanse of blacktop—a dependable place for finding one-pound burgers, chicken Caesars, and forced frivolity. But once we’re inside our mood improves. Even at the hostess station you start getting the sense that Jimmy’s is different. Reservation confirmed, we head through a big, buzzing dining room that somehow manages to accommodate couples on dates, kids celebrating birthdays, and businessmen doing deals. We’re all distracted by the room’s tremendous, infectious energy and a little disoriented as we accept menus, water, and a synopsis of the specials. Our server recommends the spiced mojito and the pomegranate Cosmopolitan, then leaves to fetch our drinks. Menus open, we collectively exhale. Like everyone around us, we’re all smiles.
Jimmy’s has personality. Not the bubbly, manufactured personality of an Applebee’s or a TGI Friday’s, but genuine warmth and gregariousness. This is not the kind of restaurant that the owners open because they dream of having a show on the Food Network or want to explore a franchise opportunity. The folks behind this place like food and people, and anything beyond that risks over-thinking the idea.
This is not to say the food doesn’t have its high points. Jimmy’s offers such standards as barbecued ribs and chicken, prime rib, crab cakes, and chopped salads, but also throws in a few twists such as a Thai noodle steak salad and deconstructed lobster lasagna. The cocktails turn out to be quite refreshing, especially the mojito, which counters its sweetness with the slight sharpness of ginger juice. The appetizers are also terrific, especially the onion rings, which may be the best in town. Thick-cut Vidalia onions, lightly battered and fried and then stacked in a pyramid on a thin, sleek plate, these gems are a marvel of salt and sweet. The crab cakes, which can also be ordered as an entrÃ©e, are another favorite, with big chunks of crab meat and wickedly crispy exteriors.
Eventually we move on to the entrÃ©es, but many of us don’t want the appetizers to end. Our server has taken to calling us kings and queens after a joke we made about how great our table is, and even though we are definitely in the suburbs, there is a downtown feeling to the place: everyone is checking everyone else out. Our entrÃ©es arrive—a stellar garlic-and-herb-crusted prime rib, a flat-iron steak with fries, a so-so roasted ahi tuna steak, and a double pork chop—and as we finish there is the slight sadness that we’re moving toward the end of our night. By the time we’re into our flourless chocolate cake and gigantic fruit cobbler with vanilla ice cream, we’re happy but not ready to leave. The room is almost all cleared out, which prompts some mock outrage. Jimmy’s isn’t going to change how you think about food, but it gets it right and makes it fun. C’mon, Twin Citians! Give this place the second and third seatings it deserves. MM
Jimmy’s Food and Cocktails
11000 Red Circle Dr., Minnetonka