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Is Jimmy”™s Famous American Tavern really famous?

I mean, with three branches (San Diego, Dana Point and now Westfield Topanga), that fame is somewhat finite. Though you wouldn”™t know that from the crowds waiting for a table on a chilly Saturday night. By 6 p.m., the wait had reached half an hour; by 8, it”™s about twice that, with the front desk taking cell phone numbers, so they can call waiting parties who have gone shopping in The Village, rather than hovering over diners lazing their way through an order of housemade warm salt and pepper potato chips, drizzled with a Maytag Blue cheese sauce.

For better or worse, once seated at Jimmy”™s, it”™s tempting to hang ”” the place is just so comfortable. At the top of the dinner menu at Jimmy”™s ”” whose website is, memorably, j-fat.com ”” are the words, “Come Hungry.” (The lunch menu says, “Let”™s Feed You.” The brunch menu is a simple, “Rise & Eat.”) And this isn”™t just an advertising slogan ”” the portions are a lot larger than expected.

Because a number of the entrees come with french fries, you may well wind up with fries on just about every plate ”” along with an order of the Parmesan-coated fries, flavored with your choice of white truffle oil or garlic and chives. Toss in some onion rings with chipotle-flavored ketchup, and you”™re full before you get to the buttermilk fried chicken.

What Jimmy”™s is famous for, is abundance.

The place is kind of like a mix of Houston”™s and The Cheesecake Factory, with some BJ”™s and Yard House tossed in for good measure. Which is to say, the menu is familiar ”” but also uniquely its own.

This is the land of big screens around the bar, exotic mixology, and menus of artisan tequilas, whiskeys and beers. Of snappy servers, who went through a two-week training period during which, as one told me, “We tasted everything, even all the tequilas!” Now, that”™s so much more fun than a job at a bank!

What to taste is, indeed, a puzzlement, for so much of the menu is so tempting ”” even more so than at the above family casuals.

There”™s a tasty ahi poke, mildly spicy, tossed with papaya and avocado chunks. The steamed Manila clams (with garlic-Parmesan fries ”” yup, more fries!) are good though quite a few hadn”™t popped open ”” perhaps they weren”™t steamed long enough? Oh well, like I said, they came with fries, so I could put up with a few clams with lockjaw. There are charred Brussels sprouts with bacon, pine nuts and maple syrup because, well, there always are. And the cornbread is loaded with cheddar and jalapenos ”” good for me, not good for the lactose- and gluten-free people at my table.

There”™s also a Caesar salad unlike just about any other Caesar salad ”” a whole head of romaine lettuce, grilled till it”™s basically barbecued, then topped with corn, salsa fresca, avocado and a Caesar dressing flavored with green chiles. For a few dollars more, it”™s served with a flat iron steak, spiced shrimp and either grilled or fried chicken. But no french fries. I think.

There”™s no pizza. But there are flatbreads, which are a near cousin of pizza ”” one of them is layered with black fig jam, pears, Maytag Blue cheese, prosciutto and fontina cheese. Yeah, that”™s a pizza ”” just shaped differently.

There are big, messy, tasty burgers. Try the model with smoked bacon, jalapeno jam, pimento cheese ”” and fries. Of course. There”™s an amazing french dip sandwich that”™s about four times the size of the classic at Philippe”™s; watch out for the creamed horseradish ”” it”™s a sinus clearer.

And just to make the mix that much more “American,” there”™s a seafood and sausage gumbo, baby back ribs ”” and a dish for brunch called “The Bubba” ”” a biscuit somehow packed with fried chicken, cheddar, bacon, a sunnyside egg and sage sausage gravy.

Yeah, “j-fat” sounds about right. Though if you pass on the fries, you”™ll probably be alright.

Merrill Shindler is a Los Angeles-based freelance dining critic. Send him email at mreats@aol.com.

WANT TO GO?

Rating: 3 stars
Address: The Village at Westfield Topanga, 6250 Topanga Canyon Blvd., Woodland Hills.
Information: 818-369-0005, j-fat.com.
Cuisine: American.
When: Lunch and dinner, every day; Sunday brunch.
Details: Full bar.
Reservations essential.
Prices: About $35 per person.
Cards: MC, V.


Article courtesy of the Los Angeles Daily News | Photos courtesy of Merrill Shindler