He ate/ She ate

Savoring old and new memories and dishes at Jimmy’s Pub


He Ate

The summer months have arrived, and nothing is more of a spatial tribute to warm weather than a patio bar. Many examples around the area offer guests the chance to dine or imbibe al fresco in the open air while enjoying rays of sunshine and seasonal treats. A late spring or early summer breeze while enjoying a cold one with friends or sharing a delectable appetizer with family is peak Pure Michigan, minus a drive north of Clare. Lucky for me, this month’s review allowed for both — and a chance to revisit an old haunt from my younger days.

Friday happy hours were fundamental destinations for my colleagues and me after working long weeks in the Lansing School District. The years I worked or volunteered at Sexton High School, my dear alma mater, would often lead to one or two adult beverages and a burger at Harry’s Place. My time at Gardner Middle School on the south end of town lent itself to visiting Sammy’s Restaurant & Lounge on Jolly Road. When I returned north to work at Otto Middle School, where my father was principal for many years, Jimmy’s Pub’s previous Frandor location hosted several early evening gatherings. We certainly enjoyed the camaraderie, but the food and periodic live entertainment were also highlights.

When Jimmy’s Pub moved to the Chandler Crossings development north of Lake Lansing Road in the late aughts, it reopened as one of the area’s first smoke-free establishments, ahead of the 2010 Michigan law banning cigarettes in bars and restaurants. At the time, it was considered a risky business move, which seems almost inconceivable nearly two decades later.

Jimmy’s survived those early questions, and by leveraging an old-world Irish pub feel, coupled with genuine Midwestern kindness in its staff and regular clientele, it has continued to be a regular watering hole for college-aged customers and more senior, seasoned guests alike. During the times I visited recently, staff members were very courteous and accommodating during both the lunch rush and happy hour windows. Similarly, the regulars were friendly and welcoming, eager to share the good times on their minds with new faces. For a throwback, I was even able to connect with some former colleagues on the patio for happy hour.

What needs work

The traditional wings (5 for $10, 10 for $18 or 20 for $32) were of the standard bone-in variety. Nicely broiled with some lightly charred edges, they had a nice bite, if missing some next-level flavor had they been smoked first. I ordered them with the Carolina gold barbecue sauce, which delivered a pungent tanginess with a subtly sweet undertone.

Less impressive were the fried shrimp ($12) off the summer lunch menu. When an item is presented as a seasonal special, I expect more than something from the freezer section at the local grocer. These bites were lacking in flavor and life. The accompanying french fries, however, had a nice dusting of peppery seasoning.

What’s good

Faithful readers will know I had to try the olive burger ($14). With a price point that necessitates a top-notch handheld, this one came close to delivering value. It had chopped olives, which I always prefer over diced olives. It was sufficiently lathered in sauce and cooked to a proper medium. The house-made potato chips served as the perfect vehicle for the loose olives that fell off the burger and were themselves wonderfully crisp and salty.

Similarly, the chicken Alfredo ($18) was a quality dish. Slices of grilled chicken breast rested atop a mound of cheesy, creamy penne pasta. The chicken was flavorful and tender and meshed well with the cream sauce, which was equal parts rich and yummy. The side Caesar salad and garlic toast were above par, too.

Best bites

Since my first time visiting the original Jimmy’s Pub, I’ve been a big fan of both the Lebanese breadsticks ($8) and the ranch dressing they’re served with. This shareable appetizer consists of pita bread that’s cut into strips and fried to perfect crispiness yet retains the tenderness one expects from pita. The garlicky seasoning salt that the strips are dusted with keeps you going back for more. Dunking these strips in the ranch dressing, which is often in the discussion for best in the area, will have you adding Jimmy’s Pub to your list of summer hangouts. 

She Ate

I’m a sucker for a good salad — something really special, with fresh, crunchy vegetables; little treats like candied nuts, dried cranberries or goat cheese croquettes; a nicely seasoned, generally grilled protein; and a dressing that has the right balance of creaminess, bite and whatever else I need to round out the dish.

These salads are somewhat difficult to find at restaurants, and instead of putting the waitstaff through a battery of questions beginning with what kind of greens make up the salad base, I normally choose to make them myself. However, a few years ago, Mr. She Ate and I were tipped off to the sirloin Cobb salad at Jimmy’s Pub ($22), and ever since, it’s been a trusty card in our back pockets when we want something that isn’t completely indulgent but is still tasty and we don’t have time to prepare it. It satisfies every requirement I listed above, and we love it.

In this busy season of evening county commission meetings, golf leagues and youth sports, it’s difficult to find time to eat in a restaurant as a family, and takeout rules. With that in mind, I went to Jimmy’s Pub’s website to use the online ordering tool, with which I’ve been pleased. When I opened the tool, I saw a grilled chicken Cobb salad ($16.50) and had to have it. The chicken Cobb isn’t on the menu, and it never occurred to me to sub out the sirloin, but it was worth a try. I realized I like the richness the steak brings to the dish, although it’s certainly gilding the lily in a salad that boasts bacon, blue cheese, avocado and hard-boiled egg. In any event, if you like Cobb salads, this one is worth a try.

Mr. She Ate tried the Italian grinder ($14), minus mushrooms, olives and tomatoes (I know). He liked it well enough, although he said it was unremarkable. He always chooses a tater-tot upgrade when it’s an option, and this was no exception. The children liked the tots, too — they must have been a perfect complement to the copious amounts of watermelon and shredded cheese consumed regularly in my house.

On a follow-up visit, we started with the Lebanese breadsticks ($8). These have long been a favorite of mine. Pita bread is cut into strips and fried, and if you’ve ever wondered how many pieces of bread you can eat when they’re presented to you differently than usual, the answer is a lot more than you’re expecting if you’re like me. I ordered a chicken quesadilla ($13) for the kiddos, having paid zero attention to the menu description and the fact that there were jalapenos inside. I told them to eat the darn thing or they weren’t getting any ice cream, but then Mr. She Ate tried a bite and wondered why I was torturing our children.

I went for the chicken-veggie pita ($13), which was milquetoast. I wanted something more Mediterranean-leaning, with red onion and tzatziki. Mr. She Ate had the turkey Reuben ($13), which satisfied him but didn’t overtake the sirloin Cobb as our favorite Jimmy’s order.

I remember when Jimmy’s moved to its current location and made the risky business decision to become smoke-free. It’s so strange now to think of what a gamble that was before smoking was mercifully banned in public places across the state. Kudos to Jimmy’s for being ahead of the curve, and for consistently churning out my favorite salad in town.



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