Background: Jimmie's Chocolates has been making and selling its confections since 1947. Ken Smith and Rodney Harrison bought the chocolate shop in 1996. By 2003, their partner Rob Granado started thinking of what they could do with the building in front of the chocolate shop. It had become a glorified storage closet. He began with some chalkboard specials and wines by the bottle only, because Granado knew it would take too much time away from the retail chocolate business if he had to pour glasses. Jimmie's Cafe officially opened in 2005. Last year, they expanded the patio.
Ambience: While most of the seating is on one of two patios, there's a small indoor dining area called the Wine Room. You walk up a steep flight of stairs and into an overdecorated room with a wine fridge as the centerpiece of a wall unit. The entire building is just 525 square feet, but the dining room has animal-print carpet, ornate wall sconces, Asian statuary, artificial orchids and wood-paneled walls. It's eccentric, but cozy.
The menu: Granado and his brother Benjamin Candelaria are the chefs, and the menu reflects their love of old-fashioned Continental cuisine and their New York/Puerto Rican background. This may be one of the few restaurants in South Florida where you can order a New York strip steak ($21) and have arroz con grandules — rice and pigeon peas — as a side dish.
Starters: With its huge selection of tapas, appetizers and small plates, Jimmie's invites diners to share wine and nibbles. The empanada tart ($8.50) takes the seasoned ground beef filling and puts it into tart form, which is then served with fruit salsa and a dollop of crème fraiche. Grilled shrimp ($14) is served "ceviche-style" with a kind of citrus relish. There are blue corn nachos with grilled chicken breast and cheddar cheese and an interesting plantain cake ($9.50), topped with pernil, or braised pork shoulder. Other side plates and side dishes include very good cilantro and lime-infused rice ($4.50) and baked sweet potato ($4.50).
Entree excellence: A dish called Tripleta ($25) called my name. Described on the menu as Puerto Rican soul food, it's a combination of a New York strip steak and diced Serrano ham nestled on slow-roasted pork shoulder, served with rice and peas. The pork shoulder was delicious, but the steak was tough and chewy. Same goes for a special 14-ounce rib eye ($28), served with buttered new potatoes and rosemary. Jimmie's needs a better meat purveyor. The best seller on the menu is the simple fresh catch ($24-$28). Yellowtail snapper, grouper, mahi or other fresh fish is broiled and served with a simple lemon, white wine and butter sauce. The menu also includes center-cut pork chops ($23) served with sweet-potato mash, spiced plantain hash and sherry-citrus reduction.
Sweet! I thought the dessert menu would include some of the chocolates that made Jimmie's famous, but I was told the selection is so huge it's impossible to please everyone. Instead, all desserts ($8.50) contain chocolate, usually in the form of ganache. There's a fruit crepe with ganache, cheesecake with ganache or flourless chocolate torte with filled dulce de leche and served with a ganache. We had an unusual dessert that may be described as something you'd throw together at home when no one was watching. Called the Dream Boat, it's composed of crumbled Tate's cookies, cannoli filling, chocolate ganache and sugar tuile.
Service: Outstanding. Friendly and professional.
148 N. Federal Highway, Dania Beach
Hours: Lunch and dinner Wednesday-Saturday
Credit cards: All major
Bar: Beer and wine
Sound level: Moderate
Outside smoking: Yes
Wheelchair accessible: Yes
Parking: Free lot