My apologies for not providing more food reviews. I’ve had some health issues over the past month, so my appetite is just getting back to normal. I didn’t think it’d be fair to local restaurants or you, my five readers, to review a restaurant when I wasn’t feeling up to eating much of anything.
I’m pleased to announce that for the most part my appetite has returned. My return to my career as the world’s best unknown food blogger came at Jimmy’s in Downtown Opelika. As you probably do not already know, I was born and raised in Opelika, Alabama. Opelika is right next to Auburn. One of the things I always lamented about Opelika growing up was the fact that I usually had to travel to Auburn for entertainment on the weekend. Opelika has a nice, historic, downtown area, which if you ask me was underutilized until the last few years. Downtown Opelika seems to be on the rebound and it’s being helped by a slew of local businesses, especially local restaurants. One of these restaurants is Jimmy’s.
Jimmy’s is owned by Jim Sikes. Mr. Sikes opened Jimmy’s in October 2005 as an “homage to fine dining in the New Orleans tradition”. Mr. Sikes found inspiration for many of his dishes through dining experiences in New Orleans as a graduate student at LSU and during subsequent visits to New Orleans & the surrounding area. Although I grew up in Opelika and Jimmy’s has been around for almost six years, I had never set foot in the place until earlier this week. From everything I’d been able to surmise, people enjoyed dining at Jimmy’s, so I decided it’d be a fun place to begin my culinary journey through my hometown.
I went to Jimmy’s for lunch Tuesday, August 23. The experience started out well. The restaurant’s exterior is pleasing and perfectly captures the essence of a casual fine dining restaurant such as Jimmy’s. After admiring the beautiful exterior I was curious to see if the pleasing aesthetic was continued inside. It was. The main dining room does a good job of continuing the theme of casual fine dining established by the front entrance. The room has elements of a fine dining restaurant, but the walls are adorned with posters for Mardi Gras and decorations representative of the festival. The items that are used to accessorize the room help make the atmosphere more casual, but not at the expense of making the room feel “cheap”.
So, the place has a nice look to it, but it doesn’t mean much if the food and service are terrible, does it? Upon my entrance to the restaurant I was greeted and promptly seated. I was treating my mother to lunch, so I had to wait for a bit before she joined me. The waitress was friendly and was quick to take my drink order & bring me my drink. Seeing as it was my first visit, I asked the waitress for her suggestions. She seemed to enjoy a lot of the food, naming lots of things on the menu that were good choices. Perhaps it’s just me, but I’d rather someone explain why they like a dish, instead of saying, “It’s awesome” or some variation of the statement. The waitress, for all of her attentiveness didn’t offer much help in selecting between “awesome” dishes. Because I had never eaten crawfish pie and it was mentioned in a Hank Williams song, I chose that.
The waitress let me know I could substitute a side salad with a cup of gumbo for only a dollar, so I decided to forego the salad and try the gumbo. A few minutes later the waitress returned with a sense of concern on her face. I figured they were out of gumbo or crawfish pie, but she was only returning to inform me the upcharge would be $2. The extra dollar wasn’t an issue, but I greatly appreciated the fact that the waitress cared enough that I enjoy my experience to be sure I was fine with the extra charge. In some places (read: chain restaurants) servers might just assume I was fine with the charge since it was only another dollar and not mention it to me. The fact that the waitress took the time to ensure I was fine with such a small detail and was genuinely disappointed that she had misinformed me shows the level of commitment Jimmy’s has to providing customers with a top notch dining experience. I firmly believe poor service can ruin an otherwise wonderful dining experience. If it’s frustrating & inconvenient for me to obtain a meal, I'm not going to bother, even if it's really good (unless it’s a chili cheese burrito from Taco Bell as I haven’t found one in over 5 years).
So, how was the food? It was good. The gumbo, which was named one of Auburn-Opelika’s Top 10 Must-Eats by the Auburn-Opelika Tourism Bureau lived up to it’s billing. The gumbo had a bit of a kick to it, but not so much as to be overwhelming. I’m not sure what specific type of gumbo is served at Jimmy’s, but it’s tasty, which is the most important thing. The gumbo contained generous amounts of chicken and seafood with just the right amount of rice. I prefer gumbo to be more of a seafood soup, so I was pleased to find out that the rice portion was at the bottom of the bowl and wasn’t overwhelming. In other words, they didn’t “get cheap on me” and put more rice than chicken or seafood.
My crawfish pie arrived shortly after the gumbo. The crawfish pie was beautiful. I must admit, I didn’t read the menu too carefully, after all, if Hank Williams sang about it, I had to try it, menu description be damned. When I thought about crawfish pie I immediately thought it would be like chicken pot pie, but with crawfish and cajun spices. I am happy to announce that the pie wasn’t covered with a thick crust, but instead featured a puff pastry. The dish was wonderful. The cream sauce was just the right consistency. It wasn’t too light or too heavy. It was perfectly spiced for my tastes. The red peppers were crisp and provided a nice contrast to the tasty, well cooked crawfish tails. The whole dish was made for me by the fact that a puff pastry shell was used instead of a traditional type of pie crust. I love a good pie crust as much as the next guy, but with the cream sauce I feel a thick crust might’ve caused the dish to be too “heavy”. As it was presented, the dish hit all the right notes and left me content, but not too full.
Overall the food at Jimmy’s was good. I’d say the gumbo was good and the crawfish pie was really good. I fell in love with the crawfish pie because of it’s puff pastry shell and the way the ingredients worked to present me with a cohesive dish. The puff pastry shell has inspired me to try making a chicken pot pie at home using a flaky puff pastry as a shell instead of a traditional pie crust. Both the gumbo and crawfish pie had very clean flavors. What do I mean by clean? I just feel that the flavors were good without being too strong or weak. The biggest thing I mean by clean is the dishes didn’t feel “heavy”. I feel this can be attributed to the fact that Jimmy’s makes all of its own sauces and uses real butter, so dishes don’t have any extra ingredients to help improve shelf life.
One word of advice: I wouldn’t advise visiting unless you like seafood and/or cajun cuisine. Jimmy’s offers a vegetable plate at lunch, but you shouldn’t go to a restaurant meant as an “homage to the New Orleans tradition” just to eat vegetables. You go to a place like Jimmy’s to experience the flavors and atmosphere that inspired the restaurant.
One thing I might have an issue with is the difference in pricing between lunch and dinner. The prices for the dinner menu are higher than the lunch menu. This is to be expected, but I’m not sure if the price difference is warranted. I can’t accurately assess this though, as I’ve only eaten at Jimmy’s during lunch. It should be noted that for the most part the dinner menu features different dishes than the lunch menu and this is more than likely what has caused the discrepancy in prices.
Overall, I’d recommend Jimmy’s to anyone looking for a good meal in the New Orleans tradition. During my visit I received friendly, attentive service and a very nice meal. Ultimately it is up to you to decide if you’d rather go to lunch or dinner at Jimmy’s. My suggestion though, would be to try the food during lunch and if you enjoy it, return sometime for dinner. That’s exactly what I plan to do. I’ll be sure to update you all on my dinner experience once I go back.