Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Jimi D's Food and Spirits

Restaurant: Jimi D's Food and Spirits
Address: 6303 Center St.
Website: http://www.jimidsfoodandspirits.com/index.html
Genres: Italian-American, American
Check Constraints: 18% gratuity for parties of 6 or more.
Chain: No. | More Omaha Locations: No.

  • Gnocchi Bites ($7.95)
  • Old School Sausage and Peppers Sandwich ($7.95)
  • Andouille Soup
  • Fries ($2.95)
Jimi D's is part of the new development happening around the area of the old Ak-Sar-Ben track. The minimall it's located in was only finished a few months ago, so the restaurant is fairly new; it doesn't even show up on Google Maps proper (though you can find it off the geeks.rate(food) map.) It also has zero web presence, which I'm slowly coming to the conclusion is a really bad idea for a restaurant. But! It's new, and we decided it was worth trying out, even having no clue what kind of food it served.

A short meta-note before I go on: We're going to start trying to take pictures of food at the places we eat, and we'll try to get shots of the menus for places which don't have them online (or have not updated them in forever). We have to work out who's hosting what where, but hopefully we'll have it sorted before we post this Thursday's adventure.

I'll leave the discussion of the actual building to someone else; I'm on to the chow. Jimi D's has a strange sort of menu... it could most accurately be described as "upscale-ish Italian-American", but even that doesn't quite cover the bases. Regardless, I have never seen gnocchi on the menu at any place that has the bar in the main seating area. And it was good - really good. Gnocchi are little dumplings, in this case made from potato. They were cooked through, likely via baking as they had just a tad of browning on them. Instead of deciding on a topping for you, the gnocchi come naked with a side of marinara and a side of ranch. I'm not entirely certain about the gnocchi/ranch combination, but the marinara was decently tomatoey and went well with the gnocchi. I have to confess I also just ate a handful without any sauce at all. They were pretty darn good, and I would definitely eat them again. Actually, if I were to go again I would get the gnocchi entree instead. I'd also like to add my two cents about the antipasto platter: Holy delicious.

The soup, which I picked as my side for the sandwich, was not what I was expecting. It was a light soup, not tomato-based at all, and it had both pinto beans and what tasted like collard or mustard greens in it along with the andouille. The combination of greens, beans, and a pork product came off as very Southern-tasting to me, but that may just be my grandmother's cooking talking. It was pretty good, though I'm not sure I'd like more than a cup of it at a time since it was really quite salty.

When I ordered the sandwich I figured that I would go with something simple, on the premise that I'd been adventurous enough picking the appetizer and soup. That plan fell flat on its face when I actually saw the thing. It's pretty hard to screw up a peppers, onion, and sausage sandwich, but Jimi D's managed it twofold: the sandwich was drenched in a thick tomato sauce, and the sub bun they served it in was woefully structurally deficient. The sauce, which seemed to me to be thicker and slightly different than their marinara, killed most of the actual pepper and onion taste, and while it didn't taste bad I felt like I might as well have gotten the sandwich on pasta instead. Especially because the bun was made from a very soft white bread, which made trying to hold on to the sandwich a losing proposition. All in all, I really wish I'd ordered one of their pasta dishes instead. They could be just as bad, but with the success on the gnocchi front I'd have more confidence in those.

I've rambled long enough, and it's someone else's turn, but I'd like to make one quick comment: the service here at lunch was really, really poor. I can't speak to their dinner service, but I'll definitely think twice before coming back for lunch, for that reason alone.

  • Antipasto ($11.95)
  • Fettuccine Alfredo w/Chicken ($11.95)
    • Andouille Soup
  • Iced Tea ($2.25)
First off, the place reminds me of the Firewater Cafe, which I believe we did review earlier. Not in the menu selections, mind, but in the way the place is set up. There's a large central bar, generally semicircular, with tables all around. Menus were pre-distributed on the tables, and there were no condiments of any kind, not even sugar for the bloody iced tea, or salt and pepper for general spicing.

I agree with Cham on the gnocchi, that stuff is delicious, double plus would eat again. I paid for the antipasto, and it was worth every penny of the twelve bucks it cost. A decent sized platter, with three small bowls containing olives, a horseradish/mustard mix that was reminiscent of wasabi, and, amazingly, a reduction of balsamic vinegar. Undoubtedly the cheap stuff, but even cheap imitation balsamic is very good. Arrayed around this bounty were a plethora of cheeses and meats, too many to remember, along with some small pieces of grilled bread and some pseudo-pickled vegetables (probably actually a marinade). If you actually go to Jimi D's, you may spend your money on the antipasto as either an appetizer or a meal with confidence that it will be worth the money.

The fettuccine alfredo is another matter. Okay, I'm going to say up front that it wasn't anywhere near the worst alfredo I've had (that dishonor belongs to Indigo Joe's). The plate was large, and came well arrayed with three more pieces of grilled bread, and a surprisingly large helping of chicken breast. The alfredo sauce, however, needs work. It was essentially a pure cream sauce. As far as I could tell, there was no parmesan in it, nor did it have an array of parmesan around the plate, like the Firewater Cafe did.

I was forced to grab the last chunk of parmesan from the antipasto and clumsily grate it with my butter knife in order to get any parmesan flavor at all. Once it had some parmesan, it was passable, though it still needed quite a bit more to be good. Before you order this, should you choose to, ask if you can get a chunk of parmesan to grate onto it, or something. Otherwise, it simply isn't worth getting. Try something like the carbonara instead.

As Cham noted, the service was abysmal. There appeared to be, at best, a single waiter for the entire lunch rush, and his service was even slower than you would normally expect for a situation like that. If you insist on coming here, I say you should stick to the appetizers, especially the antipasto.

  • Philly Steak ($8.95)
  • Soda Pop ($2.25)
The Gnocchi were absolutely delicious. They were firm, but not hard or starchy and they had a wonderful taste with a hint of butter and some herbs. Like Cham, I tried them with a daub of ranch and without and they were great either way. I was very surprised by the the horseradish in the mustard that came with the Antipasto. I was the first to try it and was not expecting any heat at all like that and choked a bit. I found the marinaded vegetables interesting as well. It was an assortment of carrots, cauliflower, and celery marinaded to taste like bread & butter pickles. The vegetables were still crisp and had that nice, sweet flavor.

The Philly steak consisted of shaved ribeye, green peppers, onions, and provolone on an 8 inch roll. It tasted as you would expect of those ingredients and, overall, was a pretty good sandwich. The only complaint I might have is that the meat was a bit stringy, making it hard to take a real bite. I ended up with food dangling out of my mouth on most efforts.

And as the others have mentioned, the service was pretty bad. We waited forever for drink orders, food orders, the food itself, and refills and when I did get a refill it was the wrong thing and I had to wait another stretch to get it fixed.

  • Monte Cristo ($8.95)
  • Andouille Soup
I did find a website for them the other day. I've added the link above (as well as a link to Firewater). Anyway, on with the food. I fourth the sentiment that the gnocchi was great. I've had them before, and these were well cooked with great flavor. I preferred either the marinara sauce or none. The antipasto was an interesting mix of things. I think it's well described above, but Cham did mention he could taste a bit of curry flavor on the marinated veggies. I could taste it as well. It wasn't very strong though.

A cup of soup was actually an option for the side to go with your meal. I don't see that too often, and the andouille sounded interesting. It was pretty good, but I don't know that I'd go for a whole bowl either. It was a little spicy with a lot of vegetables and not so much sausage. I had forgotten what a Monte Cristo was. It was the strawberry sauce that intrigued me. When it came out, I thought it was going to be too heavily fried, but I was surprised with a lightly fried and very delicious sandwich. It had a bit of powdered sugar on top, and the strawberry sauce on the side was really light as well. It was more like juice than syrup and went really well with the sandwich. It also looked an awful lot better than the picture on Wikipedia. I was kinda surprised to hear that the others' dishes weren't that great, because mine left me wanting more . (Though, I didn't need it. Maybe it's my sweettooth.)

Though my food was good, I'll add emphasis to the slow service. This ended up being an hour and a half lunch, and it really didn't need to be.

  • Andouille Soup (Bowl) ($5.95)
Unfortunately, I was feeling ill this week, so I went light. The antipasta plate had a good variety of things on it, cheese, meats, olives, a surprising hot mustard (think chinese mustard) sauce and was, at least, close to worth the high price. The gnocci really was quite nice, although I didn't get too much of it.

The bowl of soup came with twice the bread, and enough soup to make it a significant difference over just getting a cup. I did like the flavor of it, and it wasn't too spicy, but it did have a bit of warmth to it that helped (unsurprising, given the sausage.) Cham has a better description of it in detail. I couldn't finish it for whatever reason, but I'm not willing to chalk it up to much more than being ill. I'll agree on the service being pretty weak, although there was a nice note in that the server didn't force us into the single check 18% gratuity (as we did have the requisite 6 people.)

They had some other interesting food options for the happy hour/dinner hour which I can't exactly remember, but I'm imagining that if you want to go here even then, don't do it if you're on a time budget of any sort. Their webpage also recommends some things we didn't try, which might be worth pursuing if you do end up going here, such as their meatball sub. (We seem to be finding a pattern of slow service at local bar places. Mmm.)

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