As a general rule I will not be reviewing restaurants unless they have a dish or two that might be candidates for best in class. In previous newsletters I talked about The Cozy Corner, Morris’s BBQ and Doe’s Eat Place, all of which excel in their specialties.
Today I am going to deviate from my basic approach and tell you about Jimmy’s in Opelika, Alabama. Jimmy’s does not feature a world class example of any one dish nor is it in a unique setting. Jimmy’s makes my cut based on three things. It has an owner/chef with an obvious love of the food business, meticulous attention to availability of local and regional ingredients and consistent professional preparation and presentation in a pleasant and well appointed setting. All of this is done at very reasonable prices.
Jimmy’s is a New Orleans Creole style restaurant with a limited menu that always features a small selection of seasonally available specials. One of the unique features of Jimmy’s is that each of the menu items is a delicious example of the dish. I have learned to expect to enjoy only the freshest ingredients available. Jimmy will seek out specialty vendors of meats, seafood and produce and pay a premium price to get the very best.
Combining a talented, dedicated chef with the best foods available is a formula for good dining. The service at Jimmy’s is very professional. He clearly is a good guy to work for and compensates his staff generously. This is evident by their friendly, informed attitude and the fact that there is little, if any, turnover. They get to know the customers and the customers get to know them.
Jimmy Sikes, the owner/chef, has changed my attitude about several aspects of the restaurant business. I have grown to appreciate adequate size portions of well prepared and presented dishes in contrast to huge oversized portions offered in many upscale establishments. By maintaining reasonable size portions, he is able to offer a better variety of dishes while maintaining good values.
Jimmy has also demonstrated to me that he takes his obligation to his patrons very seriously. He is fanatical about reservations for instance as he will never knowingly overbook. There are occasions, such as Auburn sporting events and graduation ceremonies, which will slam every eatery in both Opelika and Auburn. Many places will book a reservation knowing that you will find the place packed and may or may not get served. Jimmy will err on the side of customer care and risk a few empty seats.
Jimmy has an outstanding wine list that belies the size and location of his restaurant. Working closely with his wine distributors, he selects the highest quality, mid priced varieties available. Jimmy has an excellent nose for wine and personally chooses each bottle. Jimmy’s has been recognized by several of the wine rating services for its cellar. For those of us who do not, or cannot, use alcohol, Jimmy will have on hand a bottle or two of delicious non alcoholic wines. Jimmy’s is the only restaurant that I have ever seen with this option. This is another example of customer care.
Once each month, Jimmy will host a special dinner and wine tasting featuring a menu of ethnic or national dishes. The evening will start with a general welcoming period during which several wines will be offered as apéritifs. There will follow a soup course which provides me with the opportunity to tell you that Jimmy can make a great soup. I’m a soup freak and Jimmy’s is the only place that has never disappointed me in the varieties or qualities of his soups. To my knowledge, he has never served that vile concoction known as broccoli cheese soup.
After a salad course there will be at least three entrée offerings and an outstanding dessert. An appropriately selected wine will be served with each course, and Jimmy will come out of the kitchen and comment on each selection. This is several hours of true dining at its best and exposes our little community to fine food and excellent wines at very reasonable prices.
If you happen to find yourself visiting the Opelika area, be sure to give Jimmy’s a try, you will not be disappointed. He is open for lunch every day and for dinner Tuesday through Saturday. You can find more information on Jimmy’s by visiting his website at
www.jimmysopelika.com. Bon appétite!