Jimmy’s Raises the Bar

The Minnetonka dining institution introduces a new brand and refreshed menu offerings but keeps its commitment to good, old-fashioned service.
A filet mignon salad is the best of both decadent and crisp worlds.

At 94, Jim Jennings still checks in at each of his restaurants daily. As the son of a bootlegger, a Minnesota Hospitality Hall of Famer, and the owner of countless well-known restaurants and a liquor store throughout the years—it’s in his blood. So when his son Mike Jennings opened a restaurant and bar in Minnetonka in 2006, there was only one way he was going to run his establishment and only one name he’d put on the front of it: Jimmy’s.

Jimmy’s Kitchen and Bar has become a lake-area institution, known for top-quality meat and seafood served by friendly wait staff in a warm, upscale setting. Happy hour beckons with a menu three dozen food items strong—none is over $12—plus countless beers and wines, eight signature martinis and six signature cocktails. “People leave feeling nourished,” says Mike Jennings of the happy hour crowd. “And it’s been tremendously successful.”

Beyond happy hour, steak and seafood steal the show. Dry-aged all-natural, certified Angus steaks—including filet mignon and petite filet, ribeye, bone-in ribeye, prime New York strip, and prime rib—are broiled at 1,600 degrees to contain the juices and then served on a 500-degree plate. The add-ons are just as drool-worthy and include grilled shrimp, crab cake, a lobster tail, Oscar-style preparation or a blue cheese crust. Non-steak options include pork tenderloin, baby back ribs and chicken piccata.
The menu has a huge list of starters, flatbreads, sandwiches, shareable vegetable dishes and loads of seafood that lends itself well to the Lake Minnetonka crowd. Halibut is the top seller in the Twin Cities metro, and that alone is served three ways, the first a piccata-like version with prosciutto, white wine, butter and capers. A Champagne-wasabi version comes with mashed potatoes, cream sauce and a balsamic drizzle. A third is garlic-forward. For dessert, the signature crème brûlée is a crowd favorite, and seasonal cobbler rotates with what’s available locally. This time of year, apples and cranberries take center stage. Strawberry-rhubarb debuts in late spring to rave reviews from winter-weary clientele.

Like the food, the ambiance at Jimmy’s is rich and welcoming, with warm colors and accents that are the decorative equivalent of eating a hotdish. With a lowball of whiskey, perhaps. There’s lots of wood. Almost half of the seating is booths made for intimate conversations over cocktails. A modern mural of bright, geometric shapes commands attention as it wraps around the dining space. The vibe is classic but with an unmistakable twist of character.
The restaurant recently underwent a rebranding, changing the name from Jimmy’s Food and Cocktails to Jimmy’s Kitchen and Bar, and shedding some of the dated connotations that might have come with the former name. With the new name came a slightly updated approach to crafting the menu and serving a shifting customer base. It’s building on its core appeal while refreshing some elements that weren’t quite hitting the mark.

“In this town, the types of food being offered are really changing. We’re adjusting, trying to offer more modern and global options,” says Jennings. “We’re moving away from the supper-club feel slightly in favor of quicker, fresh options. On the whole, we’re starting to evolve as an area. What worked 10 years ago won’t necessarily work now or in 10 years. And we’re trying to appeal to a younger crowd.”

The menu now includes a few simpler, modern preparations of signature dishes. There’s more fish and lighter options on the menu. But some things, says Jennings, won’t change. Ever.

“Steaks will always be steaks. We refuse to ruin a good one,” he says with a smile. The changes have been received well, and customers still get what they’ve come to expect from Jimmy’s, with a few upgrades thrown in.

“It’s the best place in the suburbs for a great steak. We have the best seafood in the suburbs, hands down,” says Jennings. Fish comes in fresh daily from a distributor just a mile down the road, so “it doesn’t get any fresher than that, and it’s the highest possible quality,” says Jennings. But at the end of the day, as any frequent diner can affirm, even the highest-quality ingredients pale with less-than-stellar service. So at Jimmy’s, the deepest commitment is to making sure every customer feels valued and cared for.

“We want to make people feel like they’re welcome—treated as though they’re regulars, even if it’s their first time here,” says Jennings. “In the ’60s and ’70s, my dad’s restaurant, Jimmy’s Red Coach Inn, had the best servers in town. I learned early on that it all comes down to making people feel really welcomed and appreciated for coming in. Running a successful restaurant is all about personality, great food and great service.”

New Year’s at Jimmy’s

“New Year’s Eve is the one day of the year when people treat themselves to something really amazing. They’re willing to spend a little more on something special,” says owner Mike Jennings. “People want to celebrate the end of the year, whether it’s been good or bad, and toast the coming of a new year which will—either way—hopefully turn out better.”

Every day feels like a special occasion at Jimmy’s. But on New Year’s Eve, the team pulls out the stops and amps up the wow factor for regulars and first-timers alike. Early and late New Year’s Eve seatings are available, and each menu includes a salad selection, a second course—with sirloin, prime rib, flat iron steak, pan-fried walleye or Scottish salmon options—and dessert. An entire lobster menu is also available, with bisque, risotto, broiled lobster tail, and surf and turf served up alongside ahi tuna poke and seared scallops. Of course, there’s still an extensive drink menu of specialty beers, wines and seasonal, specialty cocktails. (Think pumpkin white Russians, apple pie martinis, or Good Tidings—made with vodka, Cointreau and cranberry juice.) Reservations fill up fast, so book early.

Take a Sip

Avoiding the crowds and staying in for New Year’s? Get a stellar outfit, stock up your wet bar and get party-ready with these impressive holiday favorites from the Jimmy’s bar staff.

The Grand Sweet Warmer
1 ¼ oz. Crown Royal
honey whisky
½ oz. Grand Marnier
½ oz. Tia Maria
Dash of Aztec
chocolate bitters
Serve stirred and strained into a martini glass over ice. Garnish with a twist of orange for a colorful touch.

The Poinsettia Martini
1 ½ oz. Absolut Kurant vodka
½ oz. Chambord
1 ½ oz. cranberry juice
½ oz. lemonade
Serve shaken and strained into a martini glass. Garnish with a lemon twist and fresh blueberries.