3.5/5 Taste: Smoky, delicious meat but ho-hum sides.
5/5 Service: Friendly, helpful and engaging counter service.
3/5 Ambiance: Simple, uninspired decor with food presentation that needs upgrading.
3.5/5 Concept: Traditional barbecue with some Tex-Mex influence.
5/5 Pricing: Plenty of good food for not much money.
Upscale dinners are great and all, but there’s something to be said for getting down and dirty with simple, delicious, inexpensive food.
This was easily one of the messiest dinners I’ve ever had. Jimmy’s Backyard BBQ is worth a visit, but I’d avoid wearing white.
My usual dining companion was tied up at work, so my parents, Jeff and Kim, joined me for this review. Don’t worry, I brought plenty of barbecue home for Dave.
Jimmy’s is tucked into a small shopping plaza on Chapel Street in Louisville, several blocks from downtown. The restaurant also has locations in Cuyahoga Falls, Carrollton and Norwalk.
The atmosphere is a bit blah. The interior has orange walls with metal accents and a few decorations, metal chairs and basic tables with scattered business cards under a glass top. A chalkboard lists daily specials. It’s not a large space, and the restaurant filled up quickly when we visited on a weeknight.
It’s a fast casual concept. You order at the counter, and food is dished out cafeteria style on metal trays with Styrofoam containers and plastic utensils. I think it was obvious that none of us had been there before, and both women working were helpful and patient as we decided what to order.
Jimmy’s offers typical barbecue fare—pulled pork, brisket, chicken, smoked wings, ribs and smoked sausage offered in platters, sandwiches or on top of salads—alongside “Mexi-Que” burritos, nachos and chili.
Like most barbecue joints, you can pick from a handful of sauces in self-serve containers. Jimmy’s offers five sauces, including the smoky-sweet Jimmy’s Original, the fiery Slap Yo Mamma and my favorite, the Sara’s Spicy, which had a great blend of heat and sweetness and paired well with the smoked meats.
We wanted to sample as much of the menu as possible, so my parents opted for two-meat platters ($12.99), which came with two sides and bread. The serving sizes are plenty generous.
The brisket, pulled pork and chopped chicken were all juicy and flavorful, with or without sauce. The meat seemed high quality, and the cuts weren’t too fatty. I’d order any of them again.
The smoked sausage was just odd. It reminded us of an Italian sausage with notes of fennel that just didn’t mesh with the smokiness. It would be better paired with marinara and green peppers, not barbecue sauce.
I was intrigued by the “Mexi-Que” side of the menu, so we split an order of BBQ nachos ($7.49/$8.99) topped with pulled chicken and loaded with rice, cheese, veggies, salsa, sour cream, cowboy caviar (corn and black bean salsa), banana peppers and jalapeños. The chicken was lost under so many different toppings—I’d hold back on a few next time—but the overall dish was satisfying. It came in a foam container that made it difficult to eat without toppings sliding off the chips. They’d be much easier to manage with a different presentation.
The Chin Dripper sandwich ($7.99) which packs meat, cheese and coleslaw between two slices of grilled ciabatta lived up to its name. I opted for pulled pork and Sara’s Spicy sauce on my sandwich, and the combination of creamy coleslaw with spicy sauce was excellent but messy. I eventually had to give up and tackle the sandwich with a fork. It was worth it.
At some barbecue places, the sides ($1.99 a la carte) really steal the show. That wasn’t the case here. Nothing we tried was offensive, but most items would benefit from an extra boost of seasoning.
I loved the crispy, skin-on fries and the crunchy-outside, soft-inside hush puppies. The mac and cheese, potato salad and green beans had promise but fell flat. The baked beans were smoky and sweet. Both the corn muffins and garlic bread were tasty.
I grabbed an order of Smokin’ Wings ($5.99 for 5/$9.99 for 10) and babyback ribs ($9.99-$20.99) and a few sides to-go. They made the journey home still warm.
The ribs were beautifully tender and delicious, with crispy skin and not much fat. They’re more than worth the price.
The wings were literally fall-off-the-bone tender with a great smoky flavor that didn’t need any extra sauce. They’re honestly some of the best I’ve had, and I’m tempted to make the drive to Louisville for another batch.