Someone had recommended a fun restaurant in Sharpsburg, Jimmy's G's; he couldn't recall the exact location but assured me that I'd know it when I saw it. After making a wrong turn into Millvale, we were circling Sharpsburg's bisected Main Street and were not having much luck finding any obvious eateries. Forget it, I said, let's head home, and en route to the Highland Park Bridge & bingo! Sure enough, I knew it when I saw it: a low-slung brick building decorated with stained-glass windows and statuary, ample signage, and a huge adjacent parking lot.
Inside, Jimmy G's had the feel of an old-style supper club -- a big dining room built on several levels, with tables, padded booths, lots of dark green and marbleizing (set off by red, white and blue ribbons in the hanging baskets of plants), and a great affection for the Roman arch. And a notice at our table emphasized the ongoing entertainment: Upcoming shows included oldies bands, country singers, Italian music, dance instruction, comedy, celebrity impersonators and, every Friday night, a roving magician. Just as I was lamenting that we'd turned up on a quieter Tuesday evening with only the piped-in soothing pop instrumentals to entertain us, the hostess appeared with our free raffle tickets. "A drawing every hour." The fun, it seems, never ceases.
We began with some good basics -- a plate of big beefy Portabella mushrooms covered in lots of sharp, warm bleu cheese. The wedding soup was excellent, filled with lots of sausage, and was served with warm crusty rolls and a side of whipped sun-dried tomato butter. (There was also a basket of assorted crackers, which made me nostalgic for my youthful dining when an individually wrapped package of tiny breadsticks or rye crisps seemed quite decadent.) The mixed green salads, in a sweet Italian dressing, were ordered with yet another helping of the dry bleu cheese. Jimmy G's has a large menu sporting Italian and American favorites (besides "surf and turf," they also offer "steak and cake," a strip steak with a crab cake), but we each went off-menu with two of the specials.
The apple-jack pork chop was like meat candy -- a generously cut pork chop swimming in a sweet, boozy, buttery sauce laced with fresh rosemary and loaded with semi-soft tangy apple slices. Though thick, the pork was still moist, and I cut it into tiny pieces to use up as much of the sinful sauce as possible. There was also an enormous baked potato -- and of course this is the sort of establishment where they bring you butter and sour cream. My companion had steak Alexandra, a New York strip steak smothered in wine gravy with mushrooms, peppercorns and caramelized onions. Both dishes initially seemed too rich to finish, but they proved irresistible.
Our waitress approved of our clean-plate status and returned with the dessert tray. She then discovered we'd never been to Jimmy G's before when we admitted to never having tasted the "house specialty" dessert, Chef Dave's tiramisu. Apparently, no diner has ever not tried the tiramisu; she declared that she was bringing a piece -- on the house -- pronto, heartily dismissing my feeble protests.
I've actually stopped ordering tiramisu when dining out since it turns up so frequently -- and a couple of poorly made creations will dampen one's affection. I surrendered to Jimmy G's largesse, and indeed, this was a very good tiramisu. Light, fluffy, nicely balanced with no overwhelming taste of liqueur or cocoa, it sat in a swirl of raspberry syrup that made a perfect sharply sweet accent.
Complimentary desserts notwithstanding, I should add that the staff at Jimmy G's was warm and friendly, and they were mock-shocked to discover we weren't familiar faces, though indeed, we'd been treated as if we were. Despite good odds, I didn't win either hourly raffle that night, but I can hardly say I lost. Finding a welcoming, entertaining and tasty new place to eat is a good prize. * * *