311 Old Santa Fe Trail
Breakfast 7 a.m.-3 p.m.; “lunch and beyond” 11 a.m.-9 p.m.; “dinner features” 5-9 p.m. daily
Comfort food, slightly zhushed up
Patio dining in season
Noise level: cheerfully festive to rock ‘n’ roll loud
Handicapped accessibility in main dining room only; enter through hotel lobby
Off-street parking at Garrett’s Desert Inn
If you have ever wondered what it would be like to eat dinner inside a Roy Lichtenstein painting, Jimmy D’s — the newest addition to the ever-morphing New Mexico Fine Dining empire and recent arrival in the restaurant space at Garrett’s Desert Inn — might give you an idea.
The main dining room is like a mid-20th-century fever dream, with eye-popping black, white, yellow, and red surfaces. The walls and ceilings are strewn with album art, comic-book covers, images from newspaper cartoons (like “Blondie”), blown-up black-and-white photos from the Summer of Love, Keith Haring images, sculptural paper-lamp-like light fixtures, and yes, Lichtenstein prints. Squishy upholstered booths line a windowed wall, the soundtrack is solidly classic rock, and you can order sodas, milkshakes, and malteds from the “fountain” behind a counter lined with clear acrylic seats.
The menu is fittingly retro, too, reading a little like the comfort-food all-stars of your grandmother’s recipe card box or her Junior League cookbook. You’ll spy restaurantified versions of things like tangy-creamy avocado dip ($7) served with puffy fried flour-tortilla chips and spicy salsa verde, smooth and zesty pimento cheese ($6), two iterations of meatloaf ($12 and $16), and Mama D’s chocolate layer cake ($7). You can order a grilled cheese amped up with bacon and poblano ($12) or mac and cheese augmented with chicken, bacon, and broccoli ($13). The daily “tortilla pizza” ($10), another quick-and-easy throwback, tops a large flour tortilla with a rotating roster of ingredients. It’s a nice light snack to enjoy with cocktails.
Jimmy D’s tackles every meal, every day. Breakfast features pancakes, waffles, French toast casserole, standard egg-meat-and-toast plates, and of course the New Mexico requisites, including a forearm-sized breakfast burrito ($11) and rather sophisticated huevos rancheros ($10), accompanied by what may be my new favorite homefries. Whether you overindulged the night before or just need a hearty, comforting meal to remind you of the days before Twitter, the Hangover Hash ($14) could be the cure for what ails you — prime rib, pastrami, potatoes, spinach, cherry tomatoes, and eggs, all slathered with red chile and served with flour tortillas.
Perhaps in a nod to Santa Fe Bite, Jimmy D’s predecessor in this space, the menu highlights Jimmy’s Burger ($14), a double-pattied situation whose ingredient list — “special sauce,” lettuce, tomato, onion, and cheese — will ring bells for anyone who was alive and aware of television and fast food in the 1970s. It’s a messy, smashed-burger-style undertaking, and the special sauce (something akin to Russian dressing) necessitates copious napkins in the very best way.
A monstrous country fried steak ($17) — with crust that’s stunningly crunchy but often crumbles off — dominates a pile of buttered curly egg noodles and timeless green beans and is slathered in a chunky mushroom-studded gravy. The kitchen cranks out an impressive plate of fried chicken, too ($15). The bird’s flavor is rich and deep, thanks to a pre-fry roasting, but a similar crust conundrum occurs here as well. The fish and chips ($14) breaks with tradition, but it’s enjoyable nonetheless. Chunks of flaky white cod sport a nubbly crust coat rather than the traditional puffy jacket of batter, and the chips are non-standard waffle-cut yam fries or some exceptional curly fries, the side that brings out the kid in all of us.
On the purportedly lighter side are a daily soup; a perfectly respectable green-chile stew ($5 and $8) loaded with shredded pork, potatoes, and corn (which adds a pleasant extra sweetness); and a handful of salads. My Caesar salad’s ($8) thick, rich dressing rendered the whole thing so filling I could barely finish it — even though I skipped the so-called croutons, which were nothing more than oversized triangles of toast sprinkled with Parmesan cheese.
Jimmy D’s may not be the destination of choice for New Mexican food, but if you find yourself here — with out-of-town friends or family, say — and have a hankering, the menu can scratch that itch with its chicken enchilada casserole ($14). The soft, filling layers incorporate beans, spinach, and corn kernels and are topped with avocado dip and crazy crispy tortilla-strip confetti. Deep green and roasted, the green chile has a serviceable heat, as does the red, though I found its ketchup-like texture somewhat distracting.
The Map Room bar — carved out of the motel’s former lobby and event space in an expansion of the old restaurant footprint — has a different vibe altogether, calling to mind the Brady Bunch’s living room, something out of The Jetsons, or another vaguely cartoonish mid-mod fantasy. It’s oddly enjoyable to kick up your heels and spin around in one of the swiveling Swan-style chairs while you sip on a margarita, whether house ($8) or “colorized” with prickly pear ($14), blood orange ($10), or some other fruit. The ambiance is warmer, too, with wood floors and some Anasazi stone on the walls and around the corner fireplace. It’s easy to imagine this place packed with the après ski crowd in winter, or, given the multiple TVs, filled with rowdy fans for the opening weekend of college football season.
Jimmy D’s offers red, white, and rosé wines by the glass and bottle, six beers on tap (half of them local), and the usual national-brand suspects in cans and bottles. In any season but the coldest, the patio is ideal, with vivid yellow, blue, and red furniture on the shady portal and in sun-soaked spots, which can be shaded with umbrellas in those same bright hues. A few tables enjoy the cooling foliage of the cottonwoods lining the banks of the Santa Fe River. Wherever you sit, it’s a pretty perfect spot to watch the world go by.
Were I a tourist wandering past Jimmy D’s while strolling the streets near the Plaza, the sign typographically shouting “wow food” might not compel me to wander in, but that would be my loss. Not everything is perfect here yet, but it’s close. Service is friendly, prompt, and professional. If you’re feeling talkative, you might end up discussing drag racing and New Mexican abuelas with the bartender, but if you’re intent on private conversation and a speedy, no-nonsense meal, servers pick up on those cues and can be brief, direct, and speedy. At times the dining room’s vibe veers into acid-flashback territory, the music’s volume a touch high, the lights glaring, and all the wild imagery overstimulating. Most of the time, though, it’s just groovy. ◀