Monday, April 28, 2008

Jim 'n Nicks Bar-B-Q: You Can Smell Our Butts for Miles

Tell the truth. Is Jim 'n Nicks slogan now in your top five of barbecue restaurant slogans? I would bet number one, hands down.

After eating at Jim 'n Nick's, the food and service will most certainly be on the top of your list. We stopped in the Prattville, Alabama store on our way south from Tuscaloosa, AL to our home in Gainesville, FL. Bear in mind, we had enjoyed the finest ribs in the world the day before from my favorite barbecue joint, Archibald's, in Tuscaloosa. I had been to the fountain of sauce, smoke, and flavor. There was no way but down after Archibald's, but Jim 'n Nicks passed my barbecue joint tests with flying colors.
When I saw the sign for Jim 'n Nick's, I crossed over two lanes and pulled off onto the exit by the skin of my teeth. Why? because they are members and a sponsor of the Southern Foodways Alliance, an organization that seeks to foster and celebrate the best of Southern cuisine. The tastes of that organization are impeccable. When SFA is associated with food, I pay close attention.
We were not disappointed. We chose to sit outside with the best of piped-in contemporary Southern blues bathing us along with the rich aroma of barbecue slowly cooking out back. Normally, I prefer lower levels of recorded music, but their taste in music was excellent. Their taste in food is better.
Our waitress, Brittaney, arrived at the table. If one ever owns a restaurant, Brittaney is the standard that every restaurant proprietor dreams of having represent his/her food to customers. She was expert in every aspect of the restaurant from knowing the numbers of locations, methods of preparing dishes, tastes of each dish, and the magic methods for preparing their "Q." She is from Opp, AL and knows her products perfectly. I would follow Brittaney into a wall of barbecue smoke.
Jim 'n Nicks serves pulled pork, ribs, and brisket of the highest order. Also, they have steaks (fresh cut daily in the kitchen), chicken, and smoked turkey that looked marvelous. I could not get past the combo plate and ordered one with brisket and pulled pork. Both tasted succulent, tender to the touch, with a crunchy crust on the edges. i knew after the first bite, I was in the presence of experts.
At Jim 'n Nick's they smoke their ribs, beef, and pork for twelve hours (does their staff get any sleep?) and the diligence is evidenced in the fruits of their labors. The sides were just as good and we tried the creamed spinach, the greens (marianated in hot sauce), and their potato salad. All were sides to die for.
As our meal came to an end, our praises came to resemble the Hallelujah Chorus, and our questions became unending. We were trying not to make total fools of ourselves by dancing in place.
The fine service that Brittney was rendering was culminated by the appearance of the chef himself at our table. Jason Wright is a young man from Charleston, SC who clearly knows the business and Southern food inside and out. He was a staunch advocate for the SFA, procuring fresh goods from local farmers, and taking every step possible to take Jim 'n Nicks food to the highest level possible. Jason was an articulate expert of the stove and it should be no wonder that this restaurant makes about $100,000 a week.
Jim 'n Nicks has succeeded by cutting no corners, using the freshest ingredients, and sparing no efforts in finding, keeping, and training their staff in the mission of the restaurant and its food.
I am not sure which is better, the food or the staff. They, of course, go hand in hand.
If the owners of this 20 restaurant chain are listening, you are well served and your product has maintained its quality as your restaurant has grown from the home location in Birmingham to a small chain with more restaurants on the drawing board.
It ain't Archibald's, but (excuse my French) Jim 'n Nicks is damn good.

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