By Stephanie Wilks
January 26, 2012
Basic hardwood floors, blasé wall prints, jumbled upholstery intended to mask years of stains, 1,200 calories of pasta, and would you like a wilted house salad with that? This is the Midwestern restaurant tradition in a nutshell: consistent but unimaginative, quality breadsticks but faulty service, old-fashioned aesthetic but dated romance. Thankfully there’s more than a handful of Cincinnati establishments which attempt to exceed this convention – Boca, Abigail Street, Cumin, Nicola’s, and Embers, among others. Now, we can add one more to the list, Jimmy G’s.
Don’t drive by the new steakhouse on Elm Street and expect to see something from the exterior. It’s completely underground. But once inside, you’ll find wall-to-wall redwood paneling, dark grey leather seating, black granite floors, fluorescent accent lighting, and reflective tiled ceiling. An over-lit wine cellar triggers your taste buds at the bottom of the stairwell while you scope the scene… a busty bartender chatting with a businessman at the bar, three-piece suited bigwigs with fur-clad women in the dining room, and a few early clubbers in the lounge. If you venture in on a weekend, there is live music. Think 1960’s bachelor pad, complete with a meat market of males sipping on single malt scotch. And hey, the meat isn’t bad either.
The steak carpaccio is sliced thinly enough to be scrumptious without falling apart, and the accompanying duck egg, mushroom pickle, and mustard seed caviar give it a kick. Accustomed to the typical quail egg relish, the much heartier portion of egg is demure and novel.
The menu is savory and edgy – wood grilled octopus with chorizo, warm chickenwing flats with foie gras, baby-back ribs in a ginger-lemongrass glaze, “fat” french fries with duck aioli and appenzeller cheese. The braised moroccan lamb shank and sea scallops alla plancha are a far cry from boring and have already become popular favorites. The entrée steaks, by the way, are as good as any around – USDA corn-fed beef born and raised in the Midwest. May I recommend a side of Jimmy G’s Mac n’ Cheese with that? Yes please!
Chef Jimmy Gibson, along with the handful of owners (the same boys who brought us FB’s and Lunar) have created a stimulating and unique menu paired with a modern masculine aesthetic that doesn’t disappoint socialites, urbanites, and happy hour bachelors. Aside from an unfinished dining room ceiling, and some garish oversized bottles of Veuve Clicquot, they’ve succeeded in pleasing both patron’s eyes and palates by breaking away from the Midwestern restaurant norm.
The only outstanding task this chophouse has yet to accomplish is stealing our hearts. While basking in it’s Mad Men-esque spotlights, Jimmy G’s management, owners, and staff would be smart to remember their audience.
Though the restaurant is still relatively new, hostesses should be equipped with the acumen to recognize regular customers, greet them by name, and ask how they’ve been. The wait staff should make a conscious effort to appreciate their patrons conversational pace and serve courses accordingly. Even higher marks apply for bartenders, who would be clever to learn the favorite drinks of regulars, particularly because owners foresee clientele continuing the night next door at Lunar.
I know I’m not just speaking for the ladies when I say, gentleman, we are feeling a bit alienated, and could, too, use some lovin’. Cincinnati is, after all, a family town, one where everybody knows your name and if they don’t, at least they’ll attempt to find common ground by asking what high-school you attended. It’s not a metropolis where people expect to live anonymously. Women dress to go out for dinner expecting to run into at least a few people they know. This is part of the charm of Cincinnati, and Jimmy G’s would be wise to embrace it.
Jimmy G’s has the originality, the pizzazz, and the taste to stand apart from other Midwestern cohorts. If it can attain an outstanding level of customer service as well, it will continue to be one of the most sought after reservations in Cincinnati.to top ↑