As one of our favorite restaurants, we’ve looked forward to writing about Jim’s Steak and Spaghetti House for a while now. However, as storied, as well-visited, and as well-documented as Jim’s has been over nearly eight decades (what!) it is a bit intimidating.
As a life-long Huntingtonian, Kati offers the following perspective:
Some places just feel like home. Growing up in Huntington and frequenting the green booths of Jim’s, I feel home as soon as the bells jingle when I open the door. My order runs off my tongue like a native language. Because duh, I only get two things and those things are perfect.
I didn’t get to experience Jim’s until much later in life, but it didn’t take long for me to fall in love with the quaint restaurant. I never quite know how to describe it – truthfully, i think it’s an unusual place, but in the most charming of ways. Anytime i recommend it to others, most being from out of town, the description is short, and normally ends with something to the tune of “it’s unique, just trust me, you just have to go there, trust me.”
There’s a reason why this is the place celebrities, famous athletes, and big time politicians visit when passing through our area, and that reason is, well, magic. Like Marshall University or the Keith Albee, Jim’s is a bona fide Huntington institution, and stepping foot in the restaurant you get the feeling that whatever history this town has, Jim’s was part of it. Pick any college class throughout the years, they have sat at the iconic counter. The movers and shakers of their times, the green booths is where they gathered to discuss the next big thing. The loveliest couples to have ever resided in this town, this is where they went on dates. Businessmen have shaken hands here; kids have doodled on the “smile” placemats; generations of family members have debated the secret recipes to the timeless dishes.
What Jim’s isn’t is a diner with a “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” mentality. No, this is a place of proud, proud tradition. One that it works hard to uphold, and a place of extremely high standards, the first of which is customer service. The smiling waitresses, in their patented white dresses and green aprons, are a prime example – they will always treat you wonderfully. On top of that, boy is Jim’s consistent. You can expect your meal to come out exactly right every single time.
Okay, now it’s time for the food reviews. On our second visit, you’ll find that Kati and i each ordered an entree (which came with rolls and a salad/slaw), and also ordered a soup, a dessert, and split another entree. That might seem like a lot, but do understand, we’re just that committed to this blog 🙂
Kati’s order: Haddock – White Iceland Haddock dipped in homemade buttermilk batter and deep fried to a golden brown. Served with homemade tartar sauce on the side.
Sure you’ve had fried fish, but have you had THIS thick and crispy of a batter or tarter sauce that surely was gifted from Heaven above? Probably not unless you eat fish at Jim’s. It’s crunchy, it’s fall apart in your mouth, and once drenched in that tarter- it’s next level. I paired mine with green beans, a side salad, and rolls. Let’s pause and reflect on the salad dressing. Important choice here: the house oil & vinegar is so good that will always asks me to hand him my bowl when I’m finished so he can soak his crackers in it and eat those, too. Yep… it’s tradition! I also may or may not have drank the remaining dressing out of the bowl a few times when he wasn’t around for the cracker bath 😉
Will’s order: Ribeye – A 10 ounce Ribeye grilled to your preference.
This is Jim’s Steak and Spaghetti House so thinking that perhaps sometimes the steak option gets ignored, i figured why not give it a try. It’s straight to the point, economical, and tasty. Comes with two sides so i ordered the buttered potatoes, which are great, and the green beans, which i might enjoy even more.
Kati’s order: Spaghetti – famous spaghetti with homemade meat sauce. Served with a salad or slaw, bread or rolls, and coffee or tea. They also have a marinara sauce.
I’ll insert the picture of the spaghetti in a bit but instead we’ll call your attention to a pretty important image. You know how when you use Google, it tries to guess what you’re going to type based on what have been popular similar queries? Well, check out what happens when you start typing in “jims spaghetti.”
As you notice, the very first suggestion is “sauce recipe.” One thing is certain, if you were to run a search on just that, you will not find the recipe. There’s a lot of theories, a lot of educated guesses, and a lot of handwritten versions passed down from generation to generation with the instruction of “please guard this – it’s Jim’s sauce recipe.” None are correct. Jimmie, the owner, who i think is a fair person, will even tell you if you get it right when you recite your guess. She’s never had to come clean.
Okay – back to Kati and her review: Up next is my spaghetti order: “Small-spaghetti-side-salad-house-oil&vinegar-roll-tea-please” It takes about as long to say it as it does for your salad to arrive to your table, then 4 minutes later your food. Jim’s is fast! Spaghetti sauce has a zillion variations, but this variation is one in particular that countless people have tried to replicate year after year and always fail. The meaty goodness with hints of smokey, onion flavor is not for faint of heart. This spaghetti sauce will put some hair on your chest. Its consistency is more of a chili/sauce hybrid.
I (will) had the spaghetti as well. I’ve not had all the different spaghettis in the world, but so far this is my favorite by a large margin. Kati and i like it so much, in fact, that Jim’s spaghetti was the main entree at our rehearsal dinner the evening before our wedding. I’m not bold enough to try and guess what the ingredients are that make this sauce so different, but whatever the combination, it works. Oh, a quick note on the Jim’s slaw – so, so good. It’s sweet and fresh tasting, and not mayonnaisey like others.
After the spaghetti, then the haddock, the most popular item on the menu is the hamburger. Just like you would expect, it’s recognizable yet different. There are no buns but regular sandwich bread, toasted on the grill alongside the thin, juicy beef patty. It is old-school pal, and delicious.
Alright, the next section is dedicated to the pies at Jim’s – yes, they deserve their own section.
Pies are sort of a lost art in our food scene today. I know a couple of chains that have them, but in general, cakes, pastries, and other desserts get more limelight than the poor pie family. I’m not sure why, though, because pies rock and Jim’s does them right. My favorite is the chocolate- simple, straightforward, wonderful whipped topping, and perfect enough to come in for just that and a coffee on an afternoon date with a friend. Will’s fave is the coconut. [Actually Kati, allow me to interject here. Yes, the coconut is good, BUT it’s not my favorite. Back on December 2nd of 2015, i know because i put it on my calendar so i wouldn’t miss it, i went to Jim’s to have their apple caramel pie. Speechless. This is my favorite, but sadly, it is only served every 5 weeks so get your own calendar out.] I reluctantly devoured my share and remember that it’s totally delicious, too. Of course, we would be doing a great disservice if we didn’t get to mention Jim’s other claim to fame: STRAWBERRY PIE WEEK! Go back to the Google image above and take notice of what the second suggestion is. Strawberry Pie week begins the Tuesday after Mother’s Day. And from Tuesday to Saturday, Jim’s sells 1000 plus of these jewels! It’s kind of a big deal. The line goes to the corner, there are limits and regulations, and everyone who has ever known anything about Huntington has either attended this event or certainly knows about it. Let me be clear, those pies are certainly fantastic, but don’t wait until that week to get pie at Jim’s! You’ll be missing out! Oh, and another cool pie thing is Marshall students get a slice for free with their meal.
A word from owner, Jimmie Carder:
How Jim’s came about
In 1938, my future mom said to my future dad “get a job or I’m gone!” He borrowed $1,500 and bought Kennedy Dairy Bar. Their goal was to make money to get married. They were hard workers and did whatever it took.
What set Jim’s apart
What we hear everyday – “we love to come to Jim’s because we know it’s going to be the same.” Our goal: quality and consistency. We strive very hard to allow our customers to feel they’re a part of our family.
WHEN TO GO: Great for a quick lunch, date night, meeting, etc. Make sure you don’t miss Strawberry Pie Week.
BEST PART: Tradition and consistency. This is one of Huntington’s best stories because of those two things.
WHAT SETS IT APART: The feeling you get as soon as you enter Jim’s is just different. You feel at home.
ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT: A complaint we hear sometimes about Jim’s is that it doesn’t take credit card, so we might have been inclined to write that in this section, but we disagree. It’s part of the tradition that makes it charming.
HOW TO FIND IT: Right downtown at 920, 5th Avenue.
OVERALL RATING: drum roll please…
5 Tandems – Huntington Legend/We are bowing to you!
Look if JFK and Muhammad Ali have stopped here, then you know they’re doing something right.