That Sow's Ear Really IS a Silk Purse



I'll admit that I am guilty of assuming that chain restaurants, even the good local ones, are somehow inferior to mom-and-pop joints. This unfair prejudice can cause me to miss out on some good meals and not give credit where credit is due.

A case in point is Jim ‘N Nick’s Bar-B-Q. There's certainly nothing overtly wrong with the place. The food is solid, the service is dependable and the decor is actually a fairly thoughtful representation of the original restaurant. I just always assumed that because they have 20-something locations in seven states, somehow they had devolved from a BBQ joint to Olive Garden status and were unworthy of my recognition.

Shows how much I know. The Nick of Jim`N Nick's is Nick Pihakis, and I just found out that he's been nominated for a James Beard Award as one of the top 20 restaurateurs in America. That's some pretty high cotton for pig to trot in. They have also been a participant in the Big Apple BBQ Block Party that has featured our own Pat Martin for the past couple of years.

To top it off, Nick and his team was invited all the way across the country to Oakland, Calif., to participate in the Eat Real Fest, a large food festival extravaganza. Founded by Anya Fernald, the festival is the country’s first celebration of street food and craft foods featuring sustainably produced products. Nick took advantage of the trip to learn more about the movement of affordable, traceable foods, and bring their knowledge back to the South so they can implement similar programs for their guests and fans.

To make sure that the right people got the message, Jim ‘N Nick’s took along a Southern task force of 18 key players in the agriculture and culinary industries to attend this event. The task force was formed to gain a better understanding of creating affordable food that is both traceable and sustainable for all people.

I'll admit I wouldn't have expected this level of commitment to sustainability from a chain barbecue restaurant. They've gotten my attention, and now they'll probably get a little bit more of my lunch money. If for no other reason than I gotta try some of that smoked sausage and jalapeño pimento cheese!

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