But there's a ton of quality and a winking sophistication going on here—the tavern calls its food “Fry-cook-meets-Foodie.” The menu is well-rounded and full of familiar American tastes that will satisfy the less-adventurous among us but still delight those with high expectations.
J-FAT (code for “Jenny-is-FAT-after-eating-the-delicious-burgers”) has great food, and I'll get to that, but it's worth a visit for the drinks alone. Our server informed us that when J-FAT first opened, management brought in a high-falutin' consultant to create cocktails for the menu, as well as to teach the staff the fine art of mixology. The well-crafted cocktail is certainly nothing new to the San Diego scene, and we have a mountain of talented bartenders around town. But it's nice to see that the art form's no longer relegated to haunts of the super-hip and trendy.
Why should any bar, whether it stands alone or in a restaurant, merely sling beer from taps or bottles, with no thought put into the craft of a good drink?
The drink menu declares that the place is dedicated to both modern and vintage cocktails. I sampled the New Orleans-rooted Sazerac, which some call the oldest-known cocktail. A glass is merely misted with absinthe (I know, I know, the process of well-done mixology can be oh-so-precious, but the end result is worth it), then filled with rye whiskey, two kinds of bitters, simple syrup and a twist of lemon. The drink was barely set down on my table before the anise-scented cloud of absinthe mist danced into my nostrils. The whiskey was smooth, sweet and made my ears instantly warm (my basis for judging a good cocktail). If you're a whiskey-lover like me, don't miss this glass of mash-based-booze heaven.
J-FAT has food, too, and plenty of it. I love that deviled eggs are quietly making their way onto bar and appetizer menus, and I thoroughly enjoyed Jimmy's version—the Jalapeño Deviled Eggs. My only disappointment in the little cluckers was that the jalapeño merely showed up as a topper, as opposed to a real part of the flavor or texture. It was a twist on a traditional favorite that didn't go anywhere that twisty.
The peel-and-eat shrimp boil is an absolute mess and worth every finger, palm and wrist-licking drop. The crock of shrimp is filled with a garlicky broth that's amazingly good to soak up with buttery slices of grilled sourdough, if you can stop drooling long enough to dip them.
Don't miss the Jimmy Burger. In a city with plenty of good burger joints, I'd say that any of J-FAT's burgers can give those establishments a run for their money—along with friendly service (a concept sometimes missing at certain fawned-over burger bars). The Jimmy Burger, juicy and flavorful and encased in a sweet brioche bun, is topped with a delightful American creation known aspimento cheese, along with thick slices of bacon and jalapeño jelly, a woefully-underused condiment. This is another sloppy caveman meal that's just fantastic. Maybe don't order this on a first date if you're trying to trick someone into thinking you're cool and elegant, but go back with a friend and gnaw on it like your life depends on it.
The friendly abundance and forward-thinking tastes make J-FAT the kind of place that'll satisfy most anyone. The restaurant is quickly becoming famous, but it's most deliciously American.