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 fox paws and malapropisms, 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. You’ll also see a framed photograph of Slippin’ Jimmy McGill, one of Albuquerque’s most famous (and infamous) lawyers.
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 Tiberius 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.” Service is definitely a hallmark of your Jimmy’s dining experience. Just take a gander at all the framed “Best of the City” certificates on the wall along with the coveted “Hot Plate” award for “hot service.”
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 2PM Monday through Friday and at 2PM on weekends). Jimmy’s operating model should inspire loyalty: “Welcome to Jimmy’s Café! We pride ourselves not only for delicious food but also our top-notch service! Our staff is friendly, courteous, and always professional. We like to serve our customers with a smile! Whether you’re coming in for New Mexican, American, Breakfast, Sandwiches, Burgers, Salads, or a great dessert, you’re sure not to be disappointed. We strive to provide the best food and customer service around. Dine in or carry out, this is sure to be a meal you won’t soon forget!”
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 twenty-five 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.
16 December 2012: 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 Philly Steaks. It’s one of my ten 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.
16 December 2012: 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 was (it’s no longer on the menu) the Jimmy’s Breakfast (two eggs, hash browns, beans, two bacon, two sausage, smothered with red or green chile, topped with cheese. Served with toast or tortilla). Though usually smothered with red or green chile, you can opt out of having chile (an unpardonable offense for chile not made with cumin).
Jimmy’s Breakfast is bargain at just north 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.
22 March 2023: Jimmy’s awards for best waitstaff and best service were based (rightfully so) on the dining public voting on a poll conducted by Albuquerque The Magazine. The Hot Plate Award, however, is awarded by the magazine’s staff. Whether they employed any specific criteria in determining that Jimmy’s waitstaff warranted a Hot Plate Award, I don’t know, but I can tell you that “hot service” doesn’t always or necessarily mean a server hovering over your table and wooing you with all the right wait schtick. Our server, for example, dissuaded us from even considering the oatmeal. She acknowledged that it’s pre-packaged and hardens quickly. Moreover, she told us it can be used to seal cracks in a building’s stucco. When we asked about the salsa, she told us it comes from a Pace Picante jar. It may as well be from New York City. That’s the type of honesty every server (and politician) should have!
23 March 2023: Our server also cautioned “the chile’s running hot” when I asked about the green chile cheeseburger. “Hot,” as you know is a relative term…or maybe even an existential term. What’s hot for one person may not be hot for another. She also cautioned that both the soups of the day (green chile chicken and green chile stew) are made with cumin. For warning us, I could have kissed her. Instead, I opted for fries which you might be able to tell from the picture above are out of a bag. That means fairly uniform in size, boring and tasteless. Tabasco sauce with ketchup gave the fries a boost.
My dearly departed friend Larry McGoldrick, the esteemed professor with the perspicacious palate, waxed poetic on Yelp about Jimmy’s Cafe: “Jimmy’s is a good, solid place for breakfast and lunch. I am fond of the GCCB, but I love the Pastrami, Swiss, and Green Chile (piquant and smoky!) on Rye. A dynamite sandwich.” He may not have been as verbose as this loquacious blogger, but he did point out two items on my list. First is the aforementioned green chile cheeseburger (Angus beef patty, diced green chile, lettuce, tomato and American cheese), a favorite for both Larry and me. As he pointed out, the chile is piquant and smoky, always a good thing. The excellent coffee, by the way, will kick up the heat on the green chile. A condiment caddy on the table is available with mustard, ketchup and Tabasco sauce with which to adorn your burger. No matter how you dress it, it’s an excellent burger. Angus beef is a cut above.
23 March 2023: Sometimes menu items read a lot better than they actually are…or at least to this persnickety critic. Such was the case with the fajita chicken (Chicken breast marinated and grilled with onions, bell peppers, cheddar and Jack cheeses on a baguette) my Kim ordered. Unless it’s fried, chicken is my least preferred protein, but my Kim likes it any way it can be prepared. At the pain of Purgatory she’d never admit any chicken sandwich that isn’t fried can be boring, but (forgive my whining) her cranky husband has no problem pronouncing this sandwich as boring as any chicken sandwich can be. Again, this is strictly my opinion.
23 March 23: A framed photograph in the back dining room depicts Slippin’ Jimmy McGill (AKA Saul Goodman) hawking cinnamon rolls. The photo is captioned “Better Call Saul Was Filmed Here.” The highly acclaimed series set in Albuquerque was never actually shot at Jimmy’s Cafe, but it was filmed at the Cottonwood location of Cinnabon which is owned by Jimmy’s owner Steven Reynolds (so why isn’t the restaurant named Stevie’s, Steven’s, Steve’s, Esteban’s?). My Kim loves cinnamon rolls even more than she loves chicken. Cinnabon serves them exactly the way she loves them–with lots of cinnamon, frosting, butter and hot. Unlike the chicken sandwich, she didn’t even offer me a bite of her cinnamon roll.
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: 22 March 2023
1st VISIT: 16 December 2012
# OF VISITS: 2
BEST BET: Pancakes, Classic Cheesesteak, Breakfast Combo, Green Chile Cheeseburger, Chicken Fajita Sandwich