By David Nelson | WDSD Restaurant Reporter
If a T-shirt, colorful shorts and flip-flops signal San Diego like a banner, so does a waterside eatery with a casual vibe, easy-going service and – when the sun not only shines, but grins – simple, tasty food. This is the sort of place tourists tip plenty to learn about when they consult hotel concierges (good luck, since some restaurants pay concierges to steer customers their way), and the rare establishment that occasionally surfaces to reminder locals just how lucky we are to live here.
It took a restaurant group with establishments in Los Angeles and Orange County to give us Jimmy’s Famous American Tavern, which doesn’t have a Jimmy in the organization and isn’t famous just yet. And while the place certainly is American, it wouldn’t rate as a tavern in
There is a Jimmy in the background, the gifted amateur chef-dad of one of the partners. Otherwise, nothing amateurish pertains to Jimmy’s, which is the first of what likely will be a mini-chain of four or five JFATs in
The terrace is just as breezy, but it fills fast when a sol y sombra pattern of sun and shade dapples tables in a way that makes patrons want lunch to continue forever. This waterside restaurant near the sports fishing docks features a view mostly of pleasure boats – big, bigger, and big enough to make some drool in their beer – with the ridgelines of Point Loma rising not far off. Many
Along with sun, fresh air and salt water, Jimmy’s serves such other San Diego essentials as friendly service by young staffers in jeans and T-shirts (they’re well-trained and competent, please note), and food that ranges from good-enough to “I’ll come back for this.” The homey tone set by the wood walls extends to striped kitchen towels presented as napkins, which seem cutesy but nonetheless are cloth, and more than welcome when shielding clothes from Jiimmy’s, huge (10 ounces of Meyer’s all-natural beef), aggressively drippy burgers.
At lunch and dinner, the menus are largely the same, with somewhat more options and slightly higher prices in the evening. Jimmy’s prices are the one quibble that seem to have arisen among notoriously tight San Diego consumers, and in truth, $8 seems more than plenty for a “nest” of six spicy deviled eggs served with house-made potato chips (yeah, they’re irresistible). The food cost on this appetizer can’t be too much, so Jimmy’s is reeling it in more successfully than many of the sports fishermen who head out to the waves from the nearby docks every morning. $18 may not be too much to pay for the succulent Zinfandel-braised short ribs (available at dinner only) with mashed potatoes and horseradish cream, but $17 seems steep for beer-battered fish and chips, even if the garnishes include a distinctive tartar sauce spiked with sweet pickle and red onion.
At both lunch and dinner, the absolute steal is the small plate of a big cup of savory tomato bisque teamed with one-half of a grilled Jack cheese and green chile sandwich. Priced at $7, it satisfies when you’re not too hungry. For double the price, Jimmy’s will transform this into a substantial meal by adding a house green salad and a mountain of chips.
Comfort fare is the name of the game, commencing with a Cheddar and pimento dip served with warm corn tortilla chips ($8), and continuing with an elaborately garnished bowl of turkey chili with beans ($12), a sizeable shrimp Louis salad duded up with artichokes, green beans and a deviled egg ($18), and Prince Edward Island mussels steamed in herbed beer and served with melted butter and french fries ($14), a dish that will keep those kitchen towels busy wiping greasy chins.
Burgers and sandwices are the prime feature, and that the “classic” cheeseburger ($14) slathers a secret sauce atop the lettuce and tomato is no big surprise. Options of fries, potato salad, coleslaw or the house salad accompany all burgers and sammies, among which standouts are the Blues Burger with blue cheese and balsamic-glazed onions ($15), the cowboy burger with barbecue sauce, chiles, bacon and a fat, crunchy onion ring ($15), and the albacore melt on grilled sourdough ($13). Like Jimmy’s, the fish has a decidedly local personality. The sole dessert costs $10 but serves a crowd: it is a towering hot fudge sundae served with warm chocolate chip cookies, salted peanuts and clouds of whipped cream.
More than thought went into Jimmy’s. The expertise behind it shows in all details, including a please-everybody play list of recorded music that runs from soothing Caribbean rhythms to the Stones begging everyone to please, please get off their cloud. Fine by us, when we can dine at this genial dock on the bay.
Jimmy’s Famous American Tavern
Lunch and dinner daily
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