First responders

Jimmie’s Ladder 11 for your hunger emergency

By Paula Johnson

Photo: The Paisano Chips appetizer at Jimmie’s Ladder 11

Climbing Jimmie’s Ladder

As early as 1923, firehouse cooking began to win a favorable reputation in the United States for the enormous, hearty and unpretentious meals that are its trademark. That reputation is upheld at Jimmie’s Ladder 11. An actual 1890s firehouse turned restaurant, this charming building still boasts the firefighter’ sliding poll behind the hostess station. It’s easy to see where the name Jimmie’s Ladder came from, but what does the 11 refer to? According to the menu, it’s referencing the restaurant’s auspicious opening date of 11/11/11. And they’ve been putting out hunger fires ever since.

Jimmie’s has ample parking behind the building, and there’s an attractive outdoor patio along the side, which you pass to get to the front door. The building has a large upstairs area for private parties, and Jimmie’s  hosts local bands several nights a week.

International intrigue

Jimmie’s is ethnic eclectic in its menu approach. Aside from straight up American bar food and the ample Italian standards and pizza, they feature several Cajun New Orleans-inspired dishes like the Po’ Boy and Gumbo. Throw in a little south-of-the border influence with its quesadilla section, and a nod to the Greek Isles with a burger topped with tzatziki sauce, and you’ve got a menu that’s got something for everyone. When a restaurant tries go in too many directions it can sometimes be a problem. I tried some of Jimmie’s Italian offerings, and I can say that someone back there knows how to make sauce. The overall quality of the food’s flavor and preparation gives me confidence that the other ethnic offerings are probably really good as well.

Date debate

Having skipped breakfast, I was ready to dive in with appetizers to start. I loved the quirky range of selections. Yes there were onion rings, wings and cheese fries, but moving beyond, I was intrigued by some more unusual offerings, like Creole Cheesecake ($9) with shrimp and andouille sausage and Fresh Pork Rinds ($5) with hot sauce. But what stopped the Lovely Beth and me was an item called Blind Dates ($9). They’re described as applewood bacon wrapped dates stuffed with sausage, on a bed of marinara. Marinara? It sounded like one of those food combinations which just shouldn’t be. “Oh no!” said Lyndsey, our server. “They’re really good! They’re very popular—people order them all the time.” With that endorsement, Beth and I took the plunge and ordered them, along with Paisano Pasta Chips ($12), again at Lydsey’s urging.

The sticky sweet texture of the dates paired with the bacon and sausage was great. And I’ve got to give it to Jimmie’s: The bright acidity of the marinara worked really well. These little bundles were indeed surprisingly tasty. Beth and I both remarked at the same time, “Wow, those are good, and that’s a really good marinara!” Fresh, tomatoey and homemade tasting, this sauce was a winner.

And the Paisano Chips? Think nachos Italian style, with a generous heap of crispy pasta pieces deep fried topped with a little ribbons of Alfredo sauce and lots of mozzarella. Strips of sun dried tomato lent some depth and sweetness, and a smattering of scallions and hot sausage nuggets finished this terrific appetizer. We had another winner.

Now onto lunch: Lovely Beth decided to order from the changing seasonal menu, so I went with something from Jimmie’s regular menu, a breaded pork tenderloin sandwich ($8) and Dr. Saidel’s Salad ($6.50). The huge pork disk (twice the size of the bun) was pounded thin and deep-fried with a peppery coating. Seeing me looking daunted by its size, the pragmatic Beth suggested,” Fold it in half!” It fit perfectly, and made for the optimum ratio of meat to bun.

The salad was the only sour note—or I should say sweet. It was a Greek-style salad with chopped romaine, tomatoes, feta, red onion and olives with Lucy’s Garlic House dressing. I had expectations for a typical tart fresh lemony vinaigrette, but this one was sugary tasting, overwhelming any notes of garlic. So sweet in fact, I asked our server if this was indeed the right dressing. The salad itself was fine, but I would order plain oil and vinegar if you are looking for a more traditional Greek salad taste.

Caribbean dreams

Beth went for the seasonal menu, choosing fish tacos ($8.50) and adding on sweet potato fries ($3). Hunks of lightly fried flaky white filets sprinkled with a confetti of fresh shredded slaw, the tacos were a great combination of tastes and textures. They were topped with two sauces, one sweet, one spicy, and also came with a tasty hot mango salsa. The salty sweet fries paired perfectly for a winning Caribbean-style combo.

Hunger extinguisher

We were all in at this point and enjoying our lunch choices, so why not dessert? Lyndsey hadn’t steered us wrong yet, so when she suggested the homemade Key Lime Pie ($5), we agreed and added on Cannoli ($5). Both were excellent, we reported to our smiling server as we boxed up our leftovers. So when you’ve got a hunger emergency (or just a hankering for some good quality substantial fare), let Jimmie’s Ladder 11 be your first responder.

Jimmie’s Ladder 11 is located at 936 Brown Street in Dayton. For more information, please call 937.424.1784 or visit jladder11.com.

Dayton City Paper Dining Critic Paula Johnson would like every meal to start with a champagne cocktail and end with chocolate soufflé. As long as there’s a greasy burger and fries somewhere in the middle. Talk food with Paula at PaulaJohnson@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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Dayton City Paper Dining Critic Paula Johnson would like every meal to start with a champagne cocktail and end with chocolate soufflé. As long as there’s a greasy burger and fries somewhere in the middle. Talk food with Paula at PaulaJohnson@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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