Jimmy O'Neill's, a good alternative to the ubiquitous sports bar

Jimmy O'Niell

The Heights Observer recently learned that Jimmy O'Neills has joined the ranks of Turkey Ridge, the Knotty Pine and Peking Gourmet. It closed for business abruptly on Aug. 31. No further details were available.

Sports bars specialize in the non-conversation, with eardrum-aching, trendy music, and rows of TVs showing 21 flavors of assorted sports. These bars become the sad backdrops for whatever dull reality show currently shoplifts the collective consciousness.

Jimmy O’Neill’s, by comparison, is a rare, Indiana Jones-smuggled find. Like long-gone gems Turkey Ridge and Knotty Pine, Jimmy's keeps the volume low on the TVs so that Monk, Miles, Ella, Louis and Blossom can rise to the top. Jimmy O’Neill’s is such perfect can-kicking distance from the Cedar-Lee Theatre that the regular movie enthusiast can swing by before or after the flick for the best—believe it or not—beet cake in Northeast Ohio, and a mug of the cheapest Moosehead draft on Lee Road ($2.50).

At Jimmy’s, you’ll find a businessowner who works his place. With his Dr. Moreau Hawaiian shirts, O'Neill is at his tavern nearly every night. A hardworking guy.

Christmas lights remain lit all year, and the wings are consistently great. I haven’t sampled wings at every place in the city (though if I’m to reach 700 lbs. and get on an extreme-weight-loss show, I’d better hurry), so I can’t say Jimmy’s are the best, but they have to be in the top three.

The ol' lady and I have taken a couple handfuls of folks with us to Jimmy’s over the past seven years, and our friends have tried a variety of dishes from the menu, all with positive compliments: mussels, grilled steak salads, burgers, roast duck, moz sticks, vegetarian curry dinner. It’s a terrific oscillation from American staples to more unusual entrees.

It’s a great joy to find a place where you can interact with someone over a meal, and where you get to know the owner and staff. Like Cheers, everyone knows your name. You’re not going to get familiar with Mr. Panini, Mrs. Hooters won’t return your call, and Professor Winking Lizard won’t have your favorite drinks ready when you walk in the door.

There aren’t many unique places like this left. They’re the passenger pigeons of this generation, these holdouts against fleeting trends. Turkey Ridge is gone; Knotty Pine is gone; Peking Gourmet is gone. Many folks allow places to become blurs on the periphery. It happens. You can’t notice every place. But this place is worth noticing.

Jason Floyd Williams

Jason Floyd Williams, former Big Fun employee, owns and operates his own vintage toy store at the edge of Lake County called Spaceman Floyd's Cosmic Toys.

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Volume 4, Issue 9, Posted 5:07 PM, 08.14.2011