Thursday, September 12, 2013

Bringing Life to Dana Point Harbor

Jimmy's Famous American Tavern
25001 Dana Point Harbor Dr.
Dana Point, CA 92629

If there is one area that needed a place like this, it is the Dana Point Harbor. Until I started this blog, I really had not been down to Dana Point Harbor. Sure, I came down here when I was in elementary school to see the Pilgrim Tall Ship, and to visit the Ocean Institute, but other than that, we would always hang out in Newport or Huntington Beach, places where there was some action.

When I started this blog, most of the restaurants that we went to in the Dana Point Harbor area were straight out of the early 70's, with many of the customers well into their 70's themselves. One of my first reviews was the Jolly Roger, which luckily got put out of its misery a few years back. We watched the great Phil Shane at Harpoon Henry's, but the only thing good about that restaurant was the entertainment, and if the food would have been put up on stage, people would have asked for their money back. We liked the food at Gemmel's, but this French restaurant was lacking in the service department, and the average age of customers in this restaurant were probably alive the last time the French won a war by themselves, (that would be 1884's Battle of Fuzhou, where the French defeated the Chinese). Yes, Dana Point Harbor needed a shot in the arm, and I think it got one, with the opening of Jimmy's Famous American Tavern.

Jimmy's Famous American Tavern, or as the "in the know" people call it, JFAT, opened at the end of August. This is their second location, the other one being in San Diego. I guess you can call JFAT one of San Diego's favorite places, because they get tons of four and five star reviews on Yelp., along with a close to 90 percent approval rating on Urbanspoon. Those are some impressive numbers, but that is not all that is impressive about Jimmy's Famous American Tavern.

Before they opened to the public, we were invited to their grand unveiling, which also doubled as a fundraiser for the Dana Point 5th Marine Regiment Support Group, which is a non profit organization that provides support and outreach to the Marines stationed at Camp Pendleton and the soldiers deployed , as well as their families. As you can see in the picture above, they raised over $9,000 for this very worthwhile organization. A very nice gesture by a new business in the community.

We got to JFAT just before 6PM, and the party was well underway. I really liked the dark wood and the sleekness of the restaurant. Near the doors are some real comfy looking leather booths, which will be nice on cold winter nights. What really got me excited was the back of the restaurant, where they have a patio, with garage like doors, that really invited the outside atmosphere into the restaurant. The cool breezes off of the harbor really were a nice feature on this warmer than average summer night. The middle of the restaurant is dominated by a large wood topped bar, with plenty of seating around it. The bartenders were filling drink orders fast and furiously, so we quickly grabbed a seat out on the patio and put in our drink orders.

During our inaugural visit to Jimmy's Famous American Tavern, I indulged in two of Jimmy's Favorite Drinks. These specialty cocktails joined a rather extensive wine list, sure to satisfy any wine drinker that wanders in, along with a beer lineup that deviates from the bigger, more well known breweries, by offering beer and ales from brewers like, Ommegang, Iron Fist, and Moylans. Not exactly household names, and probably some interesting beers for the more adventurous beer drinkers out there. The first of my two cocktails was the Gold Rush ($9). At Jimmy's they make this common cocktail their own by using Bulleit Bourbon, Clover Honey Syrup, and Fresh Lemon Juice. This was a very well balanced drink. I am not a big bourbon drinker, but the bourbon was evened out by the sweet from the honey and the sour from the lemon. The result was a very nice, refreshing cocktail with a little kick from the bourbon. My second cocktail was the Cucumber Cooler ($9). This one contained American Harvest Vodka, St Germain Elderflower Liqueur, cucumber and lemon juice. This was a very cool cocktail. This is the second cocktail I have had with Elderflower liqueur in it recently, maybe this floral liqueur is becoming a trend. Both drinks really made me look forward to my return trips here, and trying more of Jimmy's Favorite Drinks.

Most of the food we were going to be trying on this night was going to be tray passed appetizers, with the one exception being these House Made Potato Chips. These had a good crunch to them, with just a touch grease, which of course gave these an even better flavor. These are on the menu, but they are drizzled with a blue cheese sauce and scallions. I would imagine that the blue cheese sauce would make these chips even better.

One of the first things to make it out of the kitchen were these Bacon Cheeseburger Sliders. Besides being crazy photogenic, these were equally delicious. The buns are made by a local Santa Ana bakery, Bread Artisan Bakery. The meat, cheese and bacon worked together to form a very good burger. Having two of these sliders really got me excited to try one of their other six burgers. On my next visit it will either be the spicy Santa Fe Burger, or the Jimmy Burger. If this slider is any indication, I can not make a wrong decision with whichever burger I choose.

The next round of appetizers came out rather quickly. I can never say no to shrimp, so I had more than one of these. I am not sure what the sauce was over it, but it was pretty good. I know I have written on this blog how I am not much of a hard boiled egg kind of guy, but these Jalapeno Bedeviled Eggs had enough heat to make me rethink my bias towards deviled eggs. I'm not going to go and order a whole plate full of these, but one or two were not bad. I guess I am making progress with my aversion to deviled eggs.

These were two of my favorites from this night. The individual Ahi Poke was very good. They placed the tuna on top of a crispy wonton, then topped it with a Yuzu cream and avocado. The ahi was fresh, while the flavors from the cream and the avocado complimented this appetizer. Few things are more American than tomato soup and grilled cheese, and Jimmy's Famous American Tavern put their spin on this classic dish. The Grilled Cheese already came pre-dipped into the Herbed Tomato Bisque. I really enjoyed this bisque. It was not too acidic, and had a nice, smooth flavor. The grilled cheese was perfect when dipped into the bisque. I can imagine having this sometime during the winter, when it gets down to a freezing 60 degrees.

The last of the appetizers made there way around the restaurant. The Spicy Chicken Sandwich Slider had some of my favorites on it. A jalapeno slaw, along with a chipotle aioli. The chicken was good, but not enough of it on the slider that I had. I always enjoy meatballs, and tend to get them when I see them on restaurant menus. The Buffalo Style Meatballs definitely will get my attention. These meatballs are served with a wing sauce and a blue cheese dressing. The sauces were more subtle than I was expecting, but the meatball was well made and tender. A nice finish to a great night of food.

The people of Dana Point have plenty to be excited about with the opening of Jimmy's Famous American Tavern. I saw lots of people with smiles on their faces when they were trying the food and drinks here. This is the kind of place that Dana Point really needed badly. A hip restaurant, where you not only go to eat, but it's also a place where you stay, relax, and have a few cocktails. Finally, a restaurant in Dana Point Harbor that does not resemble a retirement home. I would say this night was a total success. A great charity made over $9000, and we now have a destination restaurant in Dana Point.

We would like to thank everyone at Jimmy's Famous for a great night out. Everyone, from the busers, the wait staff, the bartenders, and the management team had all their guests enjoyment in mind on this night. I would also like to take this opportunity to thank the man behind the restaurant, the great David Wilhelm, whose resume is too long to mention here, but he made the time to talk with us, and we can tell that he is very proud of what they have done here at JFAT. Lastly, we would like to thank one of the best PR people in the business, the ever friendly Jennifer Morris, from Ajenda Public Relations. Thanks so much for thinking of inviting us, and we look forward to seeing you again real soon. Just like we look forward to coming back to Jimmy's again real soon too.

For information about Jimmy's Famous American Tavern, go to their web site here:

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