Old favorite Jimmy's in Naperville goes upscale in menu, style
Oh, how the times have changed for Jimmy's Grill on the corner of Washington Street and Chicago Avenue in downtown Naperville. For the better, I'm happy to report.
My first experience with Jimmy's was about 16 years ago, when I ventured west from my city confines to meet friends for drinks. As I remember it, Jimmy's was a standard college bar: Twentysomethings flocked there for the cheap beer specials and the scene, not the food. On my return visit five years ago, the expansive patio overlooking the bustling heart of downtown Naperville with its ample people-watching was the draw, not the uninspired bar fare and plastic chairs.
Since a recent revamp in look and menu, heralded by new management, Jimmy's has gone upscale friendly.
Motif: New sophisticated signs out front announce "Fine Food • Craft Beer • Great Whiskey." And, yes, Jimmy's delivers. It was refreshing to walk into a bar that emphasizes fresh quality fare and dozens of craft beers, many on tap from local breweries. It boasts large flat-screen TVs throughout the bar, in two dining rooms and on the patio (a nice upgrade). On a recent Sunday almost all of the screens were tuned to pro football games.
The long rectangular dark wood bar, topped with granite, is the focal point as you enter. Flat-screen TVs line the back of the bar above shelves of liquor bottles. A large chalkboard lists current beers on tap. Requisite neon beer signs decorate the exposed brick above large plate-glass windows, which give the space an open feel plus views of the patio and Chicago Avenue. Granite high-tops line the perimeter.
The two dining rooms offer a mix of granite-topped tables and leather-backed booths, some of which can accommodate large groups. Black-and-white canvas photos of classic bar scenes from a bygone era and metal sconces hang above dark wood wainscot, lending sophistication to the space. A vaulted ceiling helps keep the projection screen (showing football, of course) in the first dining room from overwhelming the space.
On a warm day, the patio is the place to be. With the addition of comfortable high-top bar stools and flat-screen TVs, customers don't have to miss the game while enjoying the weather.
Food: One of the most noticeable changes has been with the upgraded menu, courtesy of chef Travis Rodriguez. From the small plates, we tried the deliciously chunky hummus, an ample portion that was accompanied by oversized oval carrot slices, specialty crackers, celery and cucumbers. The mix-and-match sliders include angus, seared ahi tuna and turkey with cranberry and sage aioli. I tried the filet slider, which was a bit too chewy, but the tasty pulled pork slider, piled high in a maple barbecue sauce and apple jicama slaw, was a winner. The Mahi-mahi tacos served with mango salsa and shredded cabbage were a hit, too. Also on the expanded menu are a nice selection of salads, sandwiches (salmon burger and the Blackhawk burger served with a fried egg and bacon jam), large plates (we intend to try the free range pan-fried chicken or Argentine steak on our next visit) and sides. If only we had room to try the desserts: The lemon meringue cupcake and ricotta cheese beignets sound delectable. But keep in mind that the more upscale menu means higher prices, too.
Liquid consumption: Craft beers are the focus on draft and in bottles and cans. Local brewers like Solemn Oath, Two Brothers, Three Floyds and Goose Island are prominent. Plus others like Dogfish Head, Lagunitas, Surly, Revolution, Dale's Pale Ale (currently the craft beer of the month) and many others can be found. The draft list rotates, and you can find current selections online. The bar also features a selection of fine whiskeys, plus a decent menu of creative cocktails and red and white wines. While Jimmy's offers beer specials almost every day, a special highlight is the Bloody Mary Bar from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sundays where you can create your own drink from a variety of mixes, sauces and garnishes.
Crowd: During the day, there's a mix of families and twentysomethings and older -- many groups of friends and couples gather here. At night and on the weekends, the crowd trends younger.
Music: During our visit, commentary from the football games dominated. But the level was kept at a surprisingly muted level, allowing conversation without having to strain to hear your companions. Jimmy's often hosts live music and DJs during the week and on the weekends. DJ Prazz takes over at 9 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 27, and singer Michael Lynch, a contestant on season 5 of NBC's "The Voice," sings covers from artists like Bruno Mars, Justin Timberlake and more at 8 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 28.
Service: Our pleasant waitress was welcoming and quick to answer any questions we had about the menu and drinks. She checked back in often without being intrusive.
Parking: Street parking is often difficult to find, but there's a free parking garage one block east on Chicago Avenue.
Overall: Jimmy's Grill has something for everyone now: It's a place where you can gather with friends for a craft beer, dine on decent food, take in a game or just enjoy the weather and the sights and sounds on the patio. We're glad we gave it another try.
Jimmy's Grill245 S. Washington St., Naperville, (630) 548-2500 or jimmysgrillnaperville.com
Hours: 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. Sunday through Friday; 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Saturday