Rescuing a revered relic
Pub grub meets supper club at Jimmy Simm’s
By Josh Koerner
Favoring tradition over modern, Wisconsin’s old-fashioned supper clubs have been under strong economic pressure amid the growing diversity of culture in our local cuisine.
Many have gone the way of Wally’s Spot; lots paved over and replaced with something new and trendy.
Dianne Crowley and her son James said they were not about to let that same fate befall the once-proud Stratosphere building on Green Bay’s east side.
After months of renovation, the Crowleys were finally able to reopen the iconic supper spot as Jimmy Simm’s last month.
I gave the place a bit of breathing room to find its feet, then spent the better part of a week there familiarizing myself with their owners, staff and menu.
At Jimmy Simm’s, the Crowleys have managed to take everything that makes the supper club scene so appealing, combine it with the best parts of a sports bar, and deliver it all with a from-scratch, farm-to-kitchen mindset – the term “Supper Pub” comes to mind.
From bar favorites like battered cheese curds and brew fries to fine dining staples such as steaks and coq au vin, everything the kitchen turns out is locally-sourced and made-from-scratch.
In my opinion, when you care that much about the raw materials, the finished product is bound to be something you can take pride in.
To date, every meal I’ve had from Jimmy Simm’s has been a joy, but I have been most impressed by its take on gnocchi.
The soft, tender potato dumplings are the finest variant of the dish I’ve sampled yet.
Paired with a thin, meaty bolognese and topped with fragrant fresh cut basil, this pasta stands as a mecca of comfort food.
It’s as beautiful and rounded as it is simple.
Entrees come with a choice of potato and option of soup or salad.
Potato choice is simple – the house-made brew fries are seasoned wonderfully and have a spectacular crunch that puts other options to shame.
Soup or salad proves a trickier decision, however.
On the one hand, the chili features a full and robust composition with classic flavor and near-perfect spice.
On the other hand, it is hard to beat a fresh salad tossed with homemade dressing and fresh-baked croutons.
Thus far, the entrees I have sampled have been the steak and salmon filets.
The steak is presented simply: a light dash of salt and pepper, a pat of butter and a nice crisp sear.
This lets the flavor of the tender meat shine through under the crisp, buttery bark.
No gimmick, no frill, just a great cut of meat standing true to itself.
The salmon brings a bit more complexity.
A sizable salmon filet with a familiar sear rests above a bed of roasted tomato and onion, complimenting a lemon and caper glaze, lightly garnished with sprigs of dill.
The tender fish is as flavorful as it is elegant.
Between the dishes, I find that what I enjoy most about the chef’s methods is the ability to add the delightful texture that comes with a firm sear without sacrificing the tender moisture of the meat. It is a skill that brings flavor and dimension to the meat cuts, and carries over especially well to the burgers.
Playing to the pub dining aspect I mentioned, Jimmy Simm’s offers a well-versed menu of burgers and sandwiches to compliment its fine dining entrees.
My decisive favorite among these manages to stand in both worlds.
The Coq au Vin burger walks the line between fine French cuisine and classic American dining.
The burger begins with a ground chicken patty marbled with spinach and carrot.
After the chef adds that fine classy sear, the burger is topped with mushroom, onion, gruyere and a wine sauce almost akin to gravy.
The flavor profile rounds out nicely and eventually lends itself to something a bit more earthy, balancing on a bitter-sweet edge.
Despite the number of small surprises this culinary masterpiece contains, perhaps most shocking is just how filling the sandwich is.
If you do somehow manage to find room for dessert, however, the cheesecake is a must.
Revamping a niche
Dianne Crowley said many folks had come to her to share their cherished memories of Stratosphere.
“Just everybody you talk to, from prom dates, first dates, weddings, birthdays… everyone came here to celebrate something,” she said. “I have been trying to encourage folks to come and make new memories. We are not the Stratosphere, and we do not claim to be, but we do want people to get that same feeling. We want them to feel like they can come, relax, enjoy and celebrate their lives.”
In this sentiment, Crowley’s business has been a success.
I shall not soon forget the week I spent sharing their wonderful view of Henry Baird Park while sipping muddled old-fashioneds with my friends and family.
I hope my review can inspire our readers to stop out and make some fresh memories of their own.
You can find Jimmy Simm’s at 2850 Humboldt Rd., just before the bridge goes over Interstate-43.
The restaurant is open Wednesday-Friday starting at 3 p.m. with extended hours on the weekends.
Josh Koerner grew up in De Pere and has a passion for local food. He’s written for The NEWcomer and Nosh Green Bay alongside his personal Facebook food blog, Josh Eats Green Bay.