Diner: Meat and Potatoes

Jimmy D's has the goods, but service needs attention

Most special occasions scream for a big hunk of meat, and the Cincinnati restaurant scene heeds the call with its share of high-priced, upscale steakhouses. Restaurateur Jimmy Duane opened Jimmy D's Steakhouse in Montgomery about a year ago, offering a fine dining experience with steak as the star.

I admit right off the bat that I don't eat steak. Haven't had red meat in more than 16 years. But that doesn't mean I don't enjoy steakhouses — especially those that bill themselves as fine dining establishments. As any serious diner knows, when the tab tops $100 per couple, the quality of the food itself is only a portion of the total experience. Fortunately, I married a meat-and-potatoes, steak-lovin' expert, and I rely on him to describe the beef — which gives me the chance to focus on other important features ... like, dessert, for example. (I know: Tough job.)

When I called for directions (finding the place can be tricky — it's tucked behind Cooper Station, a block or two from Mont-gomery Road in the spot that was once Palbino's), I was told reservations were needed for our weekday evening visit. We arrived expecting a noisy crowd of diners, but were pleased to find the place quiet — in fact, nearly empty — with only three or four other tables occupied.

The main dining room has a contemporary but comfortable feel, simply decorated in muted greys and black. Its hardwood floors are covered with a large area rug, and tables are draped with white linens. A glass block wall divides this room from a second one where a group was enjoying a pre-holiday celebration. Our table, near the open fireplace, was a prime spot for a romantic dinner, even for a couple of old married folks.

Since I've already admitted I expect more than just a good steak from a high-priced steakhouse, I was making note of other features from the moment we arrived. For instance, how we were greeted: Our stoic server was more perturbed with us for not "having" a wine list than we were with her for not offering to provide one. I must admit, we tried. We asked her twice to review a wine list, but she responded by asking what we were looking for and hurriedly rattling off what was available (by the glass). It's unfortunate: I've heard the place offers a nice selection, and we might have opted for a bottle.

We took our time reviewing our options for a starter, the most expansive portion of the menu. Soups, like French Onion ($4.95) served au gratin, and salads, like Jimmy D's Steak-house Salad ($4.95) — avocado, onion, tomatoes, olives, feta and Romaine tossed in a homemade Greek dressing — highlight the list. After debating between Crab Cakes Little Havana ($9.95) and Shrimp Cocktail ($9.50), we compromised with the Lump Crab Cocktail ($12.95), a beautiful presentation of fresh Maryland crabmeat atop a bed of greens, served in an elegant glass dish. The fresh lemon wedge provided all the seasoning we needed to enhance the flavor.

The stars of the show include steaks and chops, from New York Strip ($25.95) to a bone-in Kansas City Strip ($29.95), as well as a Veal T-Bone ($26.95) with Crimini mushrooms, Roma tomatoes, and mozzarella. My husband relied on our server's suggested Filet Mignon ($24.95 for smaller; $27.97 larger). He prefers his cooked to a medium temperature, but always notes "pink in the middle" just to clarify, since there can be quite a variance from restaurant to restaurant. His arrived more medium-well to almost well done, completely grey throughout. Fortunately, he thought it was a good steak and not worth the hassle to start over.

I bypassed the one fish selection on the menu, Salmon Tuscany ($18.95; pan seared with fresh vegetables), for the delicious Chicken Roulade ($18.95), a boneless breast stuffed with spinach, squash, prosciutto and Fontina cheese, rolled in crushed pecans and served with a dab of a roasted red pepper sauce.

Like most steakhouses in this class, everything is served à la carte, with side dishes big enough to share. We sampled the Scalloped Potatoes ($3.95), which I promptly declared as "mine" once I had a bite of the cheesy, buttery spuds. My husband ordered the Steakhouse Fries ($2.95), which are quartered (lengthwise) potatoes. Unfortunately, their size, more than likely, makes them difficult to cook: His were obviously overcooked on the outside, yet undercooked in the middle.

Our server was conspicuously absent for 20 minutes, from the time we finished our meal and wine. When she did arrive, she surprised us with our check before we had a chance to ask about dessert and coffee: She was clearly done with us at this point. She did suggest the creamy vanilla Crème Brulée ($5.95), which I loved. The homemade Chocolate Cheesecake ($5.95) was huge, rich and creamy.

With the final tally topping out at well over $100, our experience at Jimmy D's was not what we'd hoped. However, for a special night out, it does provide a wonderful atmosphere and beautifully prepared selections. I suspect that another server might have given us a much different experience.

Go: 7791 Cooper Road, Montgomery

Call: 513-984-2914

Hours: Tuesday-Thursday, Sunday 5-10 p.m., Friday-Saturday 5-11 p.m.

Prices: Expensive

Payment: Major credit cards

Red Meat Alternatives: Salmon, chicken or several side dishes. Soups and salads could combine to make a meal.

Other: Reservations suggested

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