Jimmy D's District
1718 W. Northwest Hwy., Arlington Heights, (847) 255-1340
Hours: 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. Sunday through Thursday; 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Friday and Saturday
Odds are, if you've ever spent a considerable amount of time at Arlington Park, you've heard of Jimmy D's, an Arlington Heights mainstay which is only a stone's throw away from the track.
Over the years, Jimmy D's had developed a reputation as a neighborhood tavern. It was a good place to hang out, but the bar was dark and, despite a full menu, hardly the kind of spot you'd call family friendly.
But a recent renovation has given the bar a fresh new look and feel. Now called Jimmy D's District, the place should keep old customers happy while attracting new patrons.
Motif: Jimmy D's is a family affair. It's owned by father and son Jimmy and Peter Demarakis; Peter's brother George, an architect, designed the new look.
The interior has received quite the overhaul. Even if you've never visited the bar before, you can tell that the place has been renovated as it looks, and smells, brand new. Jimmy D's has plenty of tables and seats for guests to sit down at after a hot day out in the sun. The bar itself is large and also has seating, plus televisions to check out whatever sporting event is currently broadcasting.
One of the nicest touches is the Jimmy D's mural with photos of the bar from years past. The mural is a great way for Jimmy D's to upgrade itself while not losing touch with its prior identity.
Service: I classify many bars' service as being "friendly." This could mean that the employees were quick to get me a drink, took the time to listen to my questions or just had an overall welcoming demeanor. At Jimmy D's, my bartender possessed all of these qualities and more. She overheard a conversation I was having with a friend and interjected her own commentary that was actually worthwhile and progressed the conversation. I sincerely enjoyed chatting with the bartender, a compliment of the highest order.
Crowd: You might want to check Arlington Park's schedule before heading over to Jimmy D's. If there's a race going on the day you are visiting, do expect an after-race crowd to filter in. And hey, you might even run into the jockey who rode the horse that you won or lost money on.
Liquid consumption: Long after the track has stopped selling alcohol, Jimmy D's will keep the booze flowing throughout the night. Jimmy D's has a fully stocked bar with beers such as Guinness, Miller High Life, Leinenkugel's Summer Shandy, Blue Moon and more on tap. The owners are working on a martini list and hope to roll it out in the next few months.
Food: Jimmy D's food selection embraces the usual bar food: Buffalo wings, quesadillas, sandwiches, burgers, ribs (a signature dish), Grecian sausage (another signature dish), chicken, paninis, wraps and more. New to the place are a few heart-healthy options and a dessert menu. Make sure to ask the staff for the day's specials as well.
Sounds: When I visited, the day was still young and the crowd was at a minimum - not to mention that no races were scheduled at Arlington - so the noise level was fairly low. I was able to listen to sound coming from the televisions at the bar and hold a conversation without screaming - always a plus. I did also notice an online jukebox.
Parking: Just in case you're not visiting the area via the train station across the street, Jimmy D's has its own parking lot.
Overall: Remember the episode of "The Simpsons" when Moe renovates Moe's into an ultrachic, hip version called M? Well, fortunately, Jimmy D's is still Jimmy D's and not JD. With all its changes, this Arlington Heights favorite has stayed true to its roots and has remained a perfect watering hole for racetrack attendees, jockeys and everyone else in between.