Jimmy’s Cafe – Albuquerque, New Mexico
The first (and probably most important) English words my parents taught me before my first day of school were “May I please go to the restroom?”. That simple phrase was the beginning of my love-hate relationship with the English language. English can be a confounding language if it’s your primary language, but learning it as a second language is brutal. I thought I’d never pick up the many complicated sets of rules (and their variations) governing how English is spoken and written. English remains a challenge for me to this day (and for exposing you to my multitudinous grammatical faux pas, I sincerely apologize).
Even English names were a challenge to learn because many of them have diminutive counterparts which don’t make much sense. For John, it’s Jack; for William, it’s Bill and for James, it’s Jim. It’s no wonder I was so confused when President John F. Kennedy was also called Jack and actor Jimmy Stewart was also referred to as James. In New Mexican Spanish, our diminutives are much simpler. For male names, we simply add “ito” to the end of a name (Juanito, Estevanito, etc.). Similarly, add “ita” to a female name (Andreita, Carmelita) and you’ve got its diminutive form.
How confused would I have been at age six had my parents taken me to Jimmy’s Cafe on Jefferson, where not only are famous and infamous people named James and Jim celebrated, but so are people (and crickets) named Jimmy and Jiminy. The walls are festooned with framed photographs and posters of people with a derivative of the name Jim. You’ll see Jim Henson, creator of the Muppets; James Tiberius Kirk, captain of the starship Enterprise; actors James Brolin and James Cagney; Jimmy Carter, the 39th President of the United States; singers Jimi Hendrix, James Taylor, Jim Croce and Jimmy Buffet; golfer Jack Nicklaus and even Jim Davis, creator of Garfield the irascible cartoon cat.
A small alcove is dominated by a wall mural depicting other famous Jims, including two with Albuquerque connections. There’s Duke City resident and racing driver Jim Guthrie as well as Jim Everett who played quarterback for Eldorado High School, Purdue University and several National Football League teams. Tim Thorpe, the Olympic gold medal winner is pictured in his racing stance. Jim Henson is shown with Kermit T. Frog. The mural also depicts James Taylor strumming on his guitar, James Cameron directing the movie The Titanic and James T. Kirk in his starship captain regalia.
Jimmy’s Cafe is one of the Duke City’s most popular dining destinations for breakfast and lunch when at peak times most of its tables are occupied. In 2011, the cafe earned a “best in the city” accolade from Albuquerque The Magazine for “best waitstaff.” In 2012, the cafe was runner-up in the “best waitstaff” category, but earned the coveted “best lunch spot” award. The Magazine indicated “if the noontime throngs of customers don’t convince you that this cafe is a must-stop for a midday meal, the menu will.”
It certainly is a formidable menu with a bevy of traditional American and New Mexican breakfast favorites. The “most important meal of the day” is well represented on the menu by egg dishes, pancakes and French toast, breakfast burritos, skillet dishes and omelets. Best of all, breakfast is served all day (the restaurant closes at 2:30 on Monday through Friday and at 2PM on weekends). The lunch menu lists a number of deli sandwiches, specialty sandwiches, burgers, salads, New Mexico favorites and even pizza.
There’s something for everyone on the menu–even hard-line traditionalists like me who won’t order any dishes made with chile because Jimmy’s chile (both red and green) include cumin. That eliminates roughly fifteen percent of the menu for those of us who aren’t Cuministas, but it also means there are still plenty of meal options. Regular visitors tout Jimmy’s terrific sandwiches, all of which are served with your choice of fresh fruit, a cup of soup, side salad, French fries, Lays potato chips or coleslaw. The sandwiches are constructed on a variety of breads: stone ground wheat, white, sourdough, Texas toast, French baguette, pita, Russian rye, spinach herb wrap, chipotle chile wrap and croissants. That’s reason enough to visit Jimmy’s Cafe.
Jimmy’s version of the cheesesteak isn’t prefaced by “Philadelphia,” but by “Classic.” It could be argued that the terms are synonymous because the Philadelphia cheesesteak is a classic, but that’s besides the point. In Albuquerque, the very best representative of a Philadelphia cheesesteak with a New Mexico twist is the “green chile Philly” from Itsa Italian Ice. It’s one of my two favorite sandwiches in the state. No other cheesesteak is even close, not even Jimmy’s Classic. There are some aspects of Jimmy’s version that are very enjoyable. The grilled, thin-sliced steak is perfectly prepared as are the grilled onions. The lightly toasted baguette is formidable enough to hold in the profligate portion. The bell peppers, however, are cut too thickly and there are too many of them on the sandwich. It dilutes the flavor profile. The cheese sauce is a white cheese version of the gloppy nacho cheese so many restaurants serve (Itsa uses a white sliced cheese which melts much better).
If cumin-laden New Mexican breakfast entrees aren’t an option for you either, Jimmy’s has a plethora of traditional American options, all of which will fill you up and delight you. One of the most generous breakfast platters anywhere in town is the Jimmy’s Breakfast, two eggs, hash browns, beans, two bacon, two sausage patties, a small ham steak and two pancakes served with a tortilla or toast. This breakfast platter is usually smothered with red or green chile, but you can opt out of having chile (an unpardonable offense for chile not made with cumin).
Jimmy’s Breakfast is bargain at south of ten dollars. It’s big enough for two and it includes some of America’s favorite wake-up proteins, all of which are prepared well. The sizzling strips of bacon are especially good. Our favorite, however, is the pancakes with butter and syrup. The pancakes cover almost the entire circumference of the plate and have a discernible note of vanilla. These golden orbs are perfectly prepared, but would be even better with heated syrup and butter that doesn’t come from those annoying sealed packets.
At Jimmy’s Cafe, the menu indicates “se habla Español” which means that by whichever of the two languages I’m still struggling to master, I can still order a very good meal for breakfast or lunch. It’s easy to see why Jimmy’s is so popular. Service is fantastic, portions are generous and the menu has something for everyone.
7007 Jefferson Street, N.E.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
LATEST VISIT: 16 December 2012
# OF VISITS: 2
BEST BET: Pancakes, Classic Cheesesteak, Breakfast Combo