By Matt Tapia
Subtle, Jimmy’s Diner is not. This burger joint in Corona makes it pretty obvious that its creators are going whole hog with ’50s retro ambience. With vinyl records decorating each booth, an old-school Pepsi-Cola clock providing a time-check for diners and hand-painted murals of Chuck Berry, Sandra Dee and Elvis decorating the walls, it’s Hot Tub Time Machine—without the hot tub or water—headed to Hill Valley. Just ignore the big-screen TVs tuned to TMZ or whatever talking head/pundit show happens to be on—yeah, they sort of cut into the bygone era thing. Nevermind.
Other than that, Jimmy’s is a mock-up of the place your parents frequented before their date with destiny at their Enchantment Under the Sea dance.
Not surprisingly, Jimmy’s bread-and-butter menu items here include hamburgers, French fries and milk shakes; good ol‘ Americana, the kind of rootsy, comfort-food grub that Guy Fieri’s always ranting about—sans the bleached, spiked loudmouth.
Grab those buns and reach for the ketchup bottle, kiddies, cuz Jimmy’s is dead-set on recreating the chow that kept Hill Valley’s teens and the guys from Happy Days from wasting away to nothing all those years.
Taking a glance at the menu one recent afternoon, I scanned the “Signature Burgers” column and decided I’d go for the Jimmy’s Original, which, as far as I can figure out, is basically this place’s basic burger consisting of a ground beef patty, lettuce, tomato and onion; the usual suspects.
Simple, to the point and juicy, this is a mighty tasty burger (cue the Pulp Fiction soundtrack). Not quite the size of the monsters you see on Man Vs. Food but definitely no McLovin‘ It burger, these bun-and-meat combos are just big enough, just filling enough without edging into glutton territory.
The veggies are crisp inside (who likes soggy lettuce?), the bun is fluffy and spongy and—gasp—there’s even a “secret sauce” of sorts here, a seemingly Thousand Island-type dressing that (thankfully) moistens things up just so without turning things into a soggy mess.
One other thing: I’ve gotta speak up about the fries here. They’re golden, crispy and big—steak fries big, Mickey Mouse finger big—and they make for an excellent meal all by themselves (in fact, my lunch companion ended up having to take a takeout box full of them back home). Not to wax too poetically about this, but a great serving of fries with your burger is simply the cherry on top for my meal any day of the week.
Unfortunately, I didn’t get a chance to try out the milkshakes here. Boo. I know, I know, next time I will and channel my inner Fonzie/George McFly.
One minor quibble: This place is so shiny-bright, wiped clean and trim and tidy that it kinda bites into the retro vibe. There’s none of that worn-in, ingrained, weather-stained character you get from those other diner-type places (time to namedrop Peggy Sue’s in Yermo) or some Jack Rabbit Slim’s clone. Luckily, this isn’t a deal breaker.
And while I’m willing to forgive the lack of grease-stained character (sorry, Guy Fieri), I ain’t complaining about the Dig Dug/Ms. Pac-Man tabletop video game situated near the dining area. It adds a nostalgic touch. Of the ’80s variety of course.
Hey, time traveling is hard work. But these burgers go down well in any decade.
Jimmy’s Diner, 160 E. Ontario Ave., Corona, (951) 734-0800; www.jimmysdinercorona.com. Mon-Sun 8AM-9PM. MC, V.