We used to go to Jimmy Beans (1290 6th Street, Berkeley) all the time but then stopped, mainly because it was just too jam-packed and claustrophobic in there, and then dealing with only one restroom – a drag. Maybe it was also because we got tired of this kind of casual Berkeley restaurant, of which there are several, and needed a break. After all, there are only so many dishes of eggs with chicken-apple sausage and vegetable wraps one can eat over a short period. Maybe it also had to do with not being crazy about T-Rex, another in the K2 family of restaurants, and feeling somewhat ripped-off by that establishment and not wanting to line the pockets of the owners in any way. Who can remember? All I know is that Matthew and I started going back to Jimmy Beans recently and rediscovered the things we loved about it in the first place, and found that there have been some improvements – to the space, I mean; the food was never lacking.
First off, they now have sturdy metal chairs, not those rickety wooden ones, and expanded their dining space. While it’s still crowded during peak hours, it’s not as bad. They also now serve dinner, which means that you have until at least 9:00 p.m. to get your fix. Do what we do, though: go during off hours, like 2:30 p.m., if you’re able.
Yesterday we had a Steak Sandwich ($12) and Chicken Panini ($9.50). With one coffee (Matthew, who else?), and a bowl of soup ($4.50), it set us back $30.49 plus a couple bucks for the tip jar. The steak sand had two thick slices of ribeye, rare, as requested, tomato, caramelized red onion, melted Swiss cheese and a bit of mayo and mustard. Served on a soft, long roll, the whole thing kind of melted together. I have to say it was very good, and was not expecting it to be so decadent. Sometimes things sound good on paper…you know how that works. My sandwich came with a small portion of fries, really crispy and hot, and a small salad of spring mix, pre-tossed in a nicely-balanced vinaigrette-type dressing. The chix sand was griddled crispy, which gave the flatbread nice texture, and there was a little veggie action in there. Matt didn’t allow me to fully inspect his sandwich, but he was very happy with it. It came with a larger spring mix salad.
We split the soup, which was excellent, as soups here tend to be. This one was vegetarian with deep flavor, and not a run-in-the-mill, clumpy potato leek, rather more brothy, with large pieces of potato and other soft veggies. It came with bread and butter.
Other things we did not have on this visit but which we have regularly and can recommend, are:
Entrees involving chicken on the bone. They make a fabulous, flavorful roast chicken here. If I can’t make it to Cafe Rouge to get a whole chicken to go, this is my next choice.
Breakfasts. Their homefries are more like roast potatoes, and they serve good bread. When my stepfather used to visit from New York City, we would have the Grilled Pork Chop and Eggs ($12.95) as a treat. The morning he passed away we drove to Jimmy Beans from UCSF, after having been up all night, to have this dish in his honor and as some small form of comfort. That should tell you something.
The Cheddar Quesadilla ($5.25). Enough cheese and nice and crispy. Matthew, the house expert in this area, says they’re very good.
They serve a good cup of coffee, which is endless and self-serve. This is a must, really, but you can’t take it for granted.
The specials are often very good, and I tend to order sandwiches from from this menu.
I have not yet tried the fixed-price, three-course, evening meal ($15), which they probably added because of the economic situation. They are very good at updating their website with daily specials, and you can see what the fixed-price menus are a week in advance. For example, today it’s meatloaf with mashed and veg, soup or salad, and dessert.
Check the website for their exact hours, but they average about 7:00 a.m. – 9:00 p.m. Although you can order from the lunch/dinner menu all day, they start table service at 5:00 p.m. Before 5 you order and pay at the counter and they bring your food to you.