With Thanksgiving only a few days away I figured I better enjoy eating out before I’m bogged down with leftover turkey sandwiches for the unforeseeable future. With that in mind, I headed out to gorgeous Santa Monica to visit Jimmy’s Famous American Tavern. Sitting on Ocean Avenue, just a block away from the beach and far enough from the promenade to keep tourists away, this beautiful restaurant and its wonderful staff showed me one hell of a night.
Walking in I was immediately greeted with an awesome soundtrack, as Prince’s I Wanna Be Your Lover played over the speaker system. The smell of ribs and fried fare filled the air as I floated to my table like Monty from Rescue Rangers smelling a piece of cheese (people my age should get that reference). The restaurant itself is beautifully and tastefully styled. With only one or two TVs in the building, JFAT invites its patrons to interact with each other. As for the food, JFAT takes classic American cuisine and adds their very own artisanal spin to it. At a glance their menu is very simple; steak, ribs, burgers, sandwiches and soups & salads. It isn’t until you take a closer look at the ingredients or how things are prepared that you realize that JFAT’s menu is on another level.
As I took my seat my eyes shot over to the menu where I saw their impressive beer and cocktail lineup. They just happen to carry some of my favorite beers: Ballast Point Longfin Lager, North Coast Scrimshaw and Coronado Mermaid’s Red Ale. And for you IPA lovers, they carry Stone Delicious IPA, must-have Ballast Point Sculpin IPA and Bootlegger’s Far Out IPA. I always try to go with something new, especially before ordering food because I never know how a beer is going to pair with food. Well I scored on finding two new brews. I love trying beers that are brewed in house or made especially for the restaurant or bar that I’m at. Lucky for me, Jimmy’s has their very own Blonde. Blondes are a great tasting beer that… tastes like beer. Similar to a lager, blondes have a light body and in my opinion go great with foods like burgers and chicken. So basically, the perfect beer for JFAT’s menu or your backyard BBQ. After a few JFAT Blondes and my meal, Golden Road’s Hazelnut Hills piqued my interest. Hazelnut Hills is an English-style Brown Ale with an intense hazelnut flavor. The beer was absolutely delicious. I will definitely be on the hunt for a six pack as soon as I’m done writing this.
JFAT’s dinner menu has everything you can ask for and more when it comes to American cuisine. Are you in the mood for ribs, steak, salmon or scallops? Maybe something in between two buns: one of their many hamburgers, an ahi burger, a French dip or fried chicken sandwich? Again, they make classic foods; you can find this food anywhere. But you won’t find Jimmy’s attention to detail when it comes to ingredients and preparation.
I love appetizers. I repeat, I LOVE APPETIZERS! So it was a great pleasure that I got to try a table top’s worth of their awesome appetizers. I started out with the charred Brussel Sprouts. I love that Brussel Sprouts are a popular appetizer no matter where you are. Upscale or downscale restaurant, it doesn’t matter, sprouts are on the menu. Jimmy’s charred Brussel Sprouts are dressed with Applewood smoked bacon, Pinenuts and maple syrup. The syrup was the perfect partner to the salty bacon while the Pinenuts added to the great texture and mouth feel that the sprouts already had on their own.
The healthy serving of sprouts was quickly joined by warm cheddar, Spinach, Beer & Bacon fondue. Served with herbed croustades, this fondue was heaven. The texture was perfect, think of a super cheesy spinach dip. First thought after my first bite into the croustade was, “Can we put this on a burger or make a grilled cheese with it?” That’s how my “fat guy” mind works. Can we out this on something else?
Next up was General Manager Celine’s recommendation, the “BBQ Buffalo Style” Meatballs served with a side of Honey-Garlic ranch. I’m grateful this was recommended because honestly I don’t think I would have ordered it on my own. The meatballs were swimming in a pool of the tasty BBQ Buffalo sauce and dressed with freshly sliced jalapenos. The meatballs definitely had a little kick and brought a bead of sweat to my forehead. But overall the combination of sweet and tangy with the perfect amount of burn made this appetizer a must have if you visit JFAT. Needless to say, Celine knows what she was doing.
I knew if I wanted to make it to the entrée that I would have to stop enjoying the apps, which was no easy task. We again went with the Celine’s picks for our main course. She chose the Bourbon-Chipotle BBQ Baby Back Ribs and the “Nashville Hot” Fried Chicken Sandwich. Again, Celine was right on the money with her picks.
I’m usually too embarrassed to eat ribs in public because they’re messy and you end up with sauce all over your fingers and around your mouth. But as soon as the plate was dropped off at the table all of that shame went out the window. The Bourbon-Chipotle BBQ Baby Back Ribs were served with a side of Cheddar-Jalapeno potatoes, baked beans, Honey-Mustard Slaw and cornbread. With one bite of each rib, all of the meat wanted to come off. The meat was so tender there really was no need to chew. I just let that rib meat sit on the top of my tongue and let the sweet, smoky and tangy flavors over take my taste buds. I would have been happy with just the ribs but the sides were just as good. The Cheddar-Jalapeno potatoes were my favorite and I was actually upset I had to share them with my guest. The scalloped potatoes were sliced really thin and covered in a generous amount of cheese. I’m very picky when it comes to slaw, but JFAT’s Honey-Mustard slaw is definitely at the top of my very short slaw list. It wasn’t overbearingly sweet, it allowed the flavors of the cabbage and carrots to accompany the Honey-Mustard and not be overtaken by it. Again this dish is probably served at thousands of restaurants. But Jimmy’s makes it their own by creating their own Bourbon-Chipotle sauce, making sure their ribs fall off the bone and pairing that slab with insanely good scalloped potatoes, slaw and baked beans.
I am a sucker for chicken sandwiches. I will never turn down a fried chicken sandwich, so after going through the appetizers and half of the rib plate I could not say no to the “Nashville Hot” Fried Chicken Sandwich. Celine served us the sando with a healthy portion of delicious Parmesan-Truffle Fries. The sandwich was humongous as it was two fried chicken breasts stacked on top of each other and dressed with coleslaw, lettuce and bread & butter pickles. The “Nashville Hot” chicken had a little kick but also finished with a sweetness very unique to Nashville chicken. The Parmesan-Truffle Fries were insanely good. You could smell them coming out of the kitchen in hopes that they are heading for your table. The shoestring fries were hiding under a bed of freshly grated Parmesan cheese and drizzled with Truffle oil.
I feel like I got a great representation of Jimmy’s Famous American Tavern on this visit. According to the JFAT website, Jimmy’s mantra is, “Find out what this place is made of, and eat and drink the best of it.” Celine and her staff made sure my guest and I did exactly that. Everything from Celine’s recommendations; her wait staff; the hosts and the real heroes, the chefs in the kitchen were on point. Thank you JFAT Santa Monica, Celine and everyone who made my night spectacular. I will definitely be back in the near future for another chicken sandwich and to try the dessert that I had no room for on this visit.