When Demetrios "Jimmy" Minadakis opened a restaurant in 1974, he had high hopes for the place's success — such high hopes that he chose the name Jimmy's Famous Seafood.
Nearly 40 years later, the Dundalk restaurant has lived up to — and deserves — its "famous" billing. Now run by Minadakis' sons, John and Tony, Jimmy's timeless takes on classic cuisine and professional service feel just as relevant today as they did in the 1970s.
On a Tuesday night during a busy holiday week, Jimmy's cavernous dining room was about half full, with a mix of couples and larger groups. At the table next to us, four older gentlemen chatted, dressed nattily in coats and ties, looking like they'd been meeting in the same spot, every week, for years. Jimmy's is that kind of place.
Though the patrons were full of charm, the dining room itself left something to be desired. It's large — great for those big groups — but the beige decor had a generic conference room feel. Next time, we'll eat in the bar, a cozy, dark space with walls lined with photographs of family, friends and local athletes.
Jimmy's menu has evolved over the decades, but the restaurant is still most known for timeless dishes, like steak and crab cakes. We kicked off our meal with an old-school favorite, Oysters Rockefeller ($13.95 for a half-dozen).
The oysters arrived steaming hot, topped with a rich blend of cheese and spinach. A splash of amaretto gave the topping an intriguingly sweet, nutty flavor.
Tuesdays are steak night at Jimmy's; the weekly special includes a choice of steak with two side dishes ($14.95). We stuck with the classics, ordering prime rib with a Caesar salad and baked potato.
The salad was standard but appealing, with crisp lettuce and creamy, salty dressing. The loaded potato ($1.95 extra) was loaded indeed: Stuffed full of bacon and smothered in cheese, it was enormous and tasty.
As large as the potato was, the prime rib was downright intimidating. Big enough to fill the plate to its edges, the meat came doused in its own juices. Though we wouldn't have minded a small dish of horseradish, the meat was well-seasoned and fork-tender.
Like the entrees, the service at Jimmy's sometimes feels like a welcome holdover from another era. Our young waitress was efficient every step of the way, but she kept her distance. While not unfriendly, she did not introduce herself or lean down to take our orders. Not everyone will like that detachment, but in the context of our meal, it felt professional.
Just after we ordered, she informed us that the prime rib was available cooked to medium, but not medium rare, as requested. She was timely enough that we could have changed our order, but even a little more done than is our taste, the meat was good.
Jimmy's has received significant attention for its crab cake platter ($28.95 for two, $14.95 for one). It's well-deserved.
The crab cake recipe hasn't changed since Jimmy's opened in 1974; the Minadakis family knows better than to mess with a good thing. The broiled cakes were large and crab-heavy, with big lumps of meat bound together by just enough filler — a tried-and-true mix of mustard, mayonnaise, seasoning and bread crumbs — to make them stick.
Like the prime rib, the crab cakes arrived unadorned on a simple plate; the kitchen didn't waste time with fancy garnishes. But on the side, a dish of Greek-style green beans wowed us.
Cooked until soft, the beans swam in a warm tomato sauce spiced with onions and herbs.
For dessert, we shared a chocolate-dipped, cream-filled cannoli ($3.95), courtesy of Vacarro's in Little Italy — a sweet and fittingly traditional end to the meal.
For the most part, Jimmy's menu felt timeless. However, the wine list could use a little modernizing. Without glancing at the drinks menu, we asked for a glass of malbec. After a brief consultation with the bartender, our waitress confirmed that the restaurant doesn't offer malbec, suggesting instead a glass of Santa Rita 120 merlot ($8).
The Chilean wine was fruity and serviceable, especially with the prime rib. But the exchange reminded us that though classic steak and seafood dishes hold up well, we're happy that restaurants have expanded their options since the '70s.
Still, as we lingered over coffee and our cannoli, we were thankful that Jimmy's keeps those old dishes — and the service style that goes with them — alive. The restaurant deserves every bit of that fame Jimmy Minadakis hoped for.
Jimmy's Famous Seafood
Back story: Jimmy's Famous Seafood has been a Dundalk mainstay since 1974. Now run by the sons of the original owner, Jimmy's serves solid takes on old-school cuisine like prime rib, crab cakes and Oysters Rockefeller.
Parking: Lot in front
Signature dish: Jimmy's crab cake hasn't changed since the restaurant opened in 1974 — and it doesn't need to. Big chunks of crab, held together with just enough filler, are sweet and well-seasoned. Order the Greek-style green beans, which come swimming in savory tomato sauce, on the side.
Where: 6526 Holabird Ave.
Open: 10:30 a.m.-1:30 a.m. daily
Credit cards: All major
[Key: Superlative: *****; Excellent: ****; Very Good: ***; Good: **; Promising: *]Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun