On a quest to be an updated supper club, Jimmy's excels at being a supper club, but needs a little work to be updated.
If you think of Jimmy's Food and Cocktails in Minnetonka as an updated supper club, then it's easy to see two distinct sides of its personality: the supper-club side, and the updated side.
The supper-club side works pretty well, but the updated side can be hit-or-miss.
To judge by the crowds on recent visits, the mix of classic and contemporary is just what the mostly middle-aged crowd of suburban diners is looking for. The Jimmy in question is Jim Jennings, who owned Jennings Red Coach Inn, a popular St. Louis Park supper club, for more than three decades. His partners at Jimmy's include his son and daughter, Mike and Ann Jennings, who also own Rosen's, the District and the Refuge in Minneapolis' Warehouse District, and Chip Isaacson, owner of Ike's Food & Cocktails in downtown Minneapolis.
The supper-club side is evident in the restaurant's retro name, and in many menu offerings, such as the wedge of iceberg lettuce; the selection of steaks and chops; the burgers, ribs and chicken; the spaghetti and meatballs, and pan-fried walleye. The prime rib special on weekends is a classic supper-club touch, and when's the last time you saw calf's liver on a restaurant menu?
The updating is evident in the stylish contemporary decor, which features a colorful Matisse-style wraparound mural, and plenty of earth tones and dark wood. It's the same building that previously housed Sherlock's Home, the British-themed restaurant and brewpub, but the transformation is complete. The tables are set with white paper over linen, trendy shakers of Spanish sea salt, and little bottles of Tabasco hot sauce.
Updated menu items include an ahi tuna "martini," warm mushroom gratin, and pasta entrees such as a cappelini caprese, or the loose lobster lasagna topped with mascarpone and salmon caviar.
Sometimes the supper club side and the updated side converge in the same dish, such as the lemon basil onion rings, or the "neo" shrimp cocktail, served with house-made poppyseed crackers.
How much you enjoy a visit to Jimmy's will probably depend a lot on which side of its culinary personality you explore -- and what expectations you bring to the table. People don't generally go to supper clubs looking for refined gastronomy or polished service, and on that score, Jimmy's lives up to expectations. But they serve a terrific rib-eye steak -- big and juicy and full of flavor, and the French fries and mashed potatoes are just about perfect. The Coca-Cola-braised short ribs didn't have quite the succulence of Campiello's, but they were meaty and flavorful. The barbecued ribs and chicken are highlighted on the menu, but I found them both pretty ordinary.
There was nothing subtle about the crab cake, either, but Jimmy's was the best I have had in ages: huge chunks of tasty lump crab meat, with a minimum of binder, accompanied by a lively pepper tartar sauce. The same generosity marked the seafood Louie salad: lots of lobster, shrimp and crabmeat, plus crisp pancetta, artichoke hearts and asparagus. The walleye with panko breading was fresh and delicate in flavor and texture.
But the more updated dishes weren't always as satisfying. The mozzarella and sweet tomato salad combined the best of both worlds: juicy ripe summer tomatoes and fresh mozzarella served in supper club portions. But the loose lobster lasagna, layered with ricotta and topped with mascarpone, salmon caviar and cream, was simply too rich to eat in quantity. I'm a big fan of raw tuna, when served in small portions as sushi and sashimi, with a dipping sauce for added flavor and moisture. But Jimmy's big chunk of medium-rare roasted ahi tuna steak, served without sauce or much seasoning, missed the mark.
Service was uneven -- prompt and attentive on one visit, but less polished on two subsequent evenings: new dishes arrived before old ones were cleared, and water glasses went unfilled. Desserts, big enough to share, include a pretty standard flourless chocolate cake, and a hearty mixed-berry cobbler topped with vanilla ice cream. For dining al fresco, Jimmy's does have a couple of patios, which overlook the parking lot.
Jeremy Iggers • 612-673-4524JIMMY'S FOOD AND COCKTAILS **½
Location: 11000 Red Circle Dr., Minnetonka, 952-224-5858.
Hours: Sunday through Thursday 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Friday and Saturday 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sunday brunch starts in August.
Atmosphere: Updated supper club.
Sound level: Fairly noisy when crowded.
Recommended dishes: crab cake, mozzarella and tomato salad, rib-eye steak.