Jimmy's remains cheap and satisfying

Ham and eggs after dark, or a beer or a milkshake

Eats: dining reviews, Hot Stuff

May 27, 2004|By Karen Nitkin | Karen Nitkin,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

When dining at Jimmy's, I often start with a foie gras appetizer, followed by a delicate seafood risotto. While I'm waiting for my first course, I tear off pieces of artisan bread and dip it in bowls of fruity deep-green olive oil.

OK - I'm joking.

As everyone who has ever been hungry in Fells Point surely knows, Jimmy's is not a foie gras place. Instead, the Fells Point landmark is where you'll satisfy that craving for an enormous egg-and-pork-product breakfast, a slab of homemade spinach pie or one of the best milkshakes around.

In a city full of diners and coffee shops, Jimmy's has earned a place in the hearts and minds of both local eaters and tourists, who keep the small restaurant hopping .

Three specific things make it stand out. First is its location right in the Fells Point square, just a grease splatter from the water; second is its wine and beer license; and third are its unbelievably low prices.

Jimmy's also has a down-to-earth desire to please, and unlike many eateries in Hampden and elsewhere, the old-style Baltimore charm is delivered without a trace of irony. When your server calls you Hon, she means it, and she'll deliver your food and top off your coffee without reciting the day's specials or even telling you her name. She won't bat an eye if you order a meatloaf sandwich and spinach pie before 11 a.m., as I did.

Jimmy's opened as a candy store in 1946, according to Nick Filipidis, whose father-in-law purchased it from his father in 1980. The place hasn't changed in years.

The counter is worn-down Formica, the tablecloths are a red and white pattern, and the ceilings are nothing but the plainest of drop tiles. Paper menus serve as placemats. No oversized muffins, designer coffees or wireless Internet access here, but if you're looking for a meatloaf sandwich that costs less than $3, a ham and eggs platter for $4.25, or a beer at 6 in the morning ($1.50 for a 16-ounce draft), Jimmy's is your place.

The menu sticks to coffee-shop basics - burgers, a veal parm sub, omelets, fish sandwiches and crab cakes. Most of it is made on the premises and cooked to order.

One of my favorite items is the spinach pie, perhaps the most exotic item at Jimmy's. The generous mint-flavored spinach filling, light on the onions and cheese, was graced with just the thinnest sheet of greaseless phyllo, creating a fresh-tasting and filling dish. It arrived with a small salad, dressed with a tart and chunky feta dressing, which was unfortunately too cold. Another favorite was the rich, malty chocolate milkshake, thick enough to make a straw stand up straight but thin enough to sip through said straw.

The meatloaf sandwich was too bland and soft for my taste and arrived without a ketchup topping. I don't like my meatloaf to actually taste like meat, but that's a personal thing. Sausages, on the other hand, boasted a nice garlicky zing and a pleasant snap of skin with each bite, a great foil for perfectly scrambled eggs. Pancakes were dense and buttermilky, served with a syrup that clearly had no relation to a maple tree. A malted Belgian waffle was wonderfully fluffy, though the fruit topping was nothing more than small, shriveled blueberries.

For desserts, Jimmy's offers homemade bread pudding and rice pudding, as well as ice cream and pie.

One charming anachronism at Jimmy's is that the credit card machine isn't set up to include tips. The only way to leave some money for the unfailingly efficient servers is simply to plunk the cash on the table. The system seems to work, so why change it? The same can be said for Jimmy's itself.

Jimmy's

Where: 801 S. Broadway, Fells Point

Call: 410-327-3273

Open: 5 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily

Prices: $1.95-$11.95

Credit cards: MasterCard, Visa

Food: ** 1/2

Service: ***

Atmosphere: *** 1/2

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