Monday, December 27, 2010

Happy Birthday Mable Washington!

Today we celebrate a woman who has set the standard for what the kitchen at Jim ‘N Nick’s Bar-b-que is all about. Mable Washington has developed recipes for us, taught us technique, and more important, shown us that food—scratch-made with honest products and a loving touch is the most delicious, most soul and body nourishing food we can put in our mouths. The pies we serve bear her name and she teaches all of our cooks exactly how to make them. It’s safe to say that Mable is the matriarch of Jim ‘N Nick’s. She’s worked with us for over 20 years and seven of her children and one grandchild has come to work with us. And for all the praise we have received for the pies that bear her name, this endorsement of the Jim ‘N Nicks's family, to her own family is the highest honor or accolade we could ever receive. Thank you Mable for your wisdom and talent.

We love you Mable and wish you the happiest of birthdays today!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Sweet Magic on your Holiday Plate

Sweet potatoes are magic. You can bake, mash, roast and fry them. George Washington Carver discovered myriad uses for the tubers and their leaves including a way to pave streets with a derivative of the potato! Their orange flesh is beautiful, nutritious, versatile, and delicious. Sweet potato casserole is a simple recipe to prepare and a delicious way to brighten up a winter plate. Jim ‘n Nick’s Executive Chef, Drew Robinson, shares his recipe for sweet potato casserole here. Oh, and if time gets away from you, don’t worry, you can order a casserole from Jim ‘n Nick’s to serve at your holiday table or come in to the restaurant on Fridays and try it along side some pulled pork or bbq chicken.

Jim ‘N Nick’s Sweet Potato Casserole

For the filling:

5 lbs. sweet potatoes peeled and sliced into 1 inch cubes

3 ounces melted whole butter

2 eggs, beaten

6 tablespoons brown sugar

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Boil the sweet potatoes in water until they are fork tender. Once tender, strain the water and discard. Place sweet potatoes in a bowl of an electric mixer with the remaining ingredients and whip on high speed for about two minutes. They should be smooth and fluffy. Place the whipped sweet potato mixture into a 10 x 12 baking dish.

For the Topping:

8 tablespoons brown sugar

7 tablespoons flour

3 ounces butter diced into small pieces

½ cup chopped pecans

Mix brown sugar and flour together in a mixing bowl. Cut the butter in until the mixture becomes coarse and crumbly. Mix the pecans into the topping.

Sprinkle topping evenly over the sweet potato mixture in the baking dish. Place the casserole in a preheated 350 degree oven and bake for approximately 30 minutes until the toping is golden brown and a knife or toothpick inserted in the filling comes out clean.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Thanks for Helping Us, Help Others!

Scattered throughout previous posts on this blog, are mentions of collaborations with charities and organizations that we believe do good work. Organizations like Feeding America, the United Way, the Low Country Food Bank, Fertile Minds Learning Garden and Junior Achievement. Visit our community page on the Jim ‘N Nick’s website ( and you will find links to these good agencies and more. Supporting them is important to us because they are part of our collective and they help all of us out—including you. For that reason, our company’s charitable giving efforts include you as well. You, the Jim ‘N Nick’s customer, help make it possible for us to do that good work. By eating at our restaurants, you help all of these groups and more. It’s not just big organizations that get our help—it’s local and it’s personal.

There are Jim ‘N Nick’s Bar-B-Q restaurants in 28 different towns; some small, some large. In those 28 different towns are people who make up a community and those people are our people. Within those neighborhoods, are individuals who have hopes, aspirations, problems and concerns—we all do. Some of those hopes or problems are rooted in deep and troubling situations while some of them are cause for celebration. There might be families struggling with emergencies or illnesses or it could be a young farmer who wants to bring good food to schools and to the people. Could be a group who wants to celebrate the entrepreneurial spirit of food trucks and urban homesteading or folks who collect stories from food artisans, fishermen, farmers and cooks. The point is, each neighborhood is different and each neighborhood matters.

Southerners love covered dish dinners, potluck gatherings and church dinner on the grounds. Parades of revelers carrying casseroles and buckets of fried chicken, deviled egg plates and cake carriers to a community gathering get our heart racing and mouths watering. There’s good food of course, but it’s the combination of the food and the folks that make it great. That’s why, when we pack up the Jim ‘N Nick’s Bar-B-Q rig to haul to a charity event, it means more than just a day’s work. We know we are going to get out and meet our community and the very people who have the hopes and the problems or the great ideas and celebrations. It’s the same in our restaurants when guests gather at our table. We want to know who is dining with us, and what their story is. Everyone is part of the community.

Thank you for allowing us to be part of your community and for helping us bring good food, good people and good work to the table.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Evolution of a Southern Classic

Grits—they are the iconic ground grains of the American South, a cousin to Northern Italian polenta, and they are even a sometimes-maligned mystery to our neighbors in the North. A typical way to eat them is along side eggs and bacon or country ham at breakfast. Sometimes they are baked into a cheese-laced casserole. Grits become even more specifically regional, when they hit the coast. “Shrimp and Grits” happens when coastal cooks sauté fresh caught shrimp with butter or bacon (or both) add their own flair with country ham, sausage or hot sauce and tomatoes. The mixture is ladled onto steaming, stone-ground grits and the dish is delicious.

Not far from the South Carolina coast is a speck of a town called Hemingway. The town is probably best known for a whole hog barbecue restaurant started and still run by Ella and Roosevelt “Rosie” Scott and their son Rodney who is now the pitmaster at Scott’s Bar-B-Que. The Scott’s have always been a local favorite and have recently obtained national acclaim thanks to travelers, eaters and writers who have visited, enjoyed the pork and then set out to spread the good word. Heck, even the ABC Nightline crew stopped by recently to see what the talk was all about and featured them on one of their September broadcasts. Rodney Scott is a good friend to the folks at Jim ‘n Nick’s Bar-B-Q and on a trip to visit the Scott’s in Hemingway, they noticed something interesting…

Scott’s only serves pulled pork—no side dishes. Scott’s is also a variety store so on any given day there might be boiled peanuts, melons, jars of local cane syrup, or sweet potatoes (raw—you have to take them home and cook them yourself) You can pick up a bag of chips and loaf of white bread to make yourself a sandwich. Folks who have come to love Scott’s Bar-B-Que, and eat their pork regularly, have figured out how to make it their own. There’s a fast food restaurant close by Scott’s and fans of the pulled pork have begun to hit the fast food joint first, buy a cup of their grits—plain—and then take the cup over to Scott’s and get some of the famous pulled pork piled on top. It’s a riff on the classic shrimp and grits but with smokey, unctuous pork, including bits of crispy skin and the peppery vinegar sauce seeping over the hot grits. A new iconic grits dish is born! It’s genius, and when Jim ‘n Nick’s Chef Drew Robinson and founder Nick Pihakis saw what was happening, they decided to develop a menu item for their restaurants that pays homage to their good friend Rodney Scott and the smart people of Hemingway who invented the dish.

Back home in his test kitchen, Chef Robinson knew to start with great grits. Not that far from Birmingham, in the town of Wilsonville, Alabama, is where McEwen & Sons Grist Mill is located. Frank and Helen McEwen obtain organic corn and then stone grind it to make their celebrated grits. The cooked grits result in a creamy, yet stable texture and hold their true corn flavor. They are the perfect vehicle for Jim ‘n Nick’s own pulled pork. Once the grits are cooked, mixed with a little bit of cheese for added richness and topped with the smoked pork, a sauce inspired by Rodney Scott’s own hybrid Carolina vinegar sauce is drizzled over the top.

The final dish is one that Jim ‘n Nick’s Bar-B-Q is proud to share with customers every Wednesday. It’s a special dish with its own special day “Pork and Grits Wednesday” is a good time to come in, order a plate and plan a journey to Hemingway, South Carolina.

To read more about Scott’s Bar-B-Q visit:

To find out about McEwen and Sons Grist Mill, go to

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Nick Brings Anya Fernald and Caleb Zigas to the Table

The world is small these days. We often get the false sense of keeping touch via facebook and e-mail, but there is still no substitute for the actual interaction at table.

One such connection happened at the 2010 Southern Foodways Alliance Symposium between Nick Pihakis, Chef Drew Robinson both from Jim ‘N Nick’s Bar-B-Q, and a group of taste and trend makers from the bay area of California. It began with Jim ‘N Nick’s participation in the 2009 and 2010 Eat Real Festival in Oakland, California where Nick met the event’s founder and Director of Live Culture Co., Anya Fernald. A past director of Slow Foods International, Anya is a force of nature in the rising good food movement devoted to the goal of making wholesome food more widely accessible by supporting hundreds of innovative and like-minded small businesses. 70,000 people attended the first Eat Real Festival, generating over $400,000 in revenue for local food businesses and farmers. Jim ‘N Nick’s has been proud to participate in the event and support Anya and Live Culture with the hope of bringing a similar event to the American South.

Nick also brought another friend from the bay to the table—Caleb Zigas. Caleb is the director of the highly successful and heralded incubator kitchen, “La Cocina” in San Francisco, CA. The mission of La Cocina is to cultivate low-income food entrepreneurs as they formalize and grow their businesses by providing affordable commercial kitchen space, industry-specific business assistance and access to market opportunities. They focus primarily on women from communities of color and immigrant communities with a vision that entrepreneurs will become economically self-sufficient and contribute to a vibrant economy doing what they love to do.

La Cocina is a ground-breaking business incubator designed to reduce the obstacles that often prevent entrepreneurs from creating successful and sustainable small businesses. By providing shared resources and an array of industry-specific services, business incubators ensure small businesses can succeed.

At this year’s Southern Foodways symposium, aptly coined “The Global South”, Anya, Caleb and Nick and Drew, we able to share in the making of fresh-pressed tortillas, whole hog tacos, and most importantly, a shared passion for making better foods more accessible to all.

Find out more about our California friends by visiting Live Culture Co. at and La Cocina at You can explore the works of the Southern Foodways Alliance at

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Corn, Masa and a Passion for Some Damn Fine Tortillas

It’s our history—our most famous indigenous food—corn. Way before the Spanish hit the scene, before the pig furrowed the ground in the Americas, corn was the thing. She’s one of the triplets of the “three sisters”, along with beans and squash, the native Americans (including those who were living in what is now known as Mexico) heralded these three queens of sustenance by cultivating, caring for, and showing great respect for with their innovative cooking. It’s a wondrous vegetable that can be sweet and fresh, dried for meal, fed to our livestock, and distilled for our drink.

It makes sense that the modern American South and Mexico would feel the influence of each other. Food is an easy view into how we enjoy the same kinds of tastes. We both utilize corn meal cooked in various forms. Could be cornbread or a corn tortilla cooked in cast iron or perhaps spooned in and wrapped up in husks for tamales. Southerners love spicy food and Mexicans helped teach us to grow and utilize peppers. We like our meats cooked low and slow—barbacoa in Mexico and Bar-B-Q in the states. We celebrate the flavors of Mexico directly and indirectly and Mexico plays a major part in our “global South.”

Recently, at the Southern Foodways Alliance’s symposium held annually in Oxford, Mississippi, Jim ‘N Nick’s Bar-B-Q helped to celebrate this beautiful mix of culinary creativity by stuffing upwards of 800 handmade tortillas with their slow-cooked, pulled pork (carnitas), goat (cabra) and beef toungue (lengua). But Chef Drew Robinson didn’t just buy a giant pack of corn tortillas and source generic meat and vegetables. He sourced products from Southern farms and can trace the products to the land they were grown on. Corn was actually soaked, milled and forced into “masa” (Spanish for “dough”) in Oxford by a team of chefs, cooks and even office staff from Jim ‘N Nick’s.

The tortillas and the slow cooked meats took two full days of cooking. Led by Jim ‘N Nick’s tortilla experts, Raquel Rivera Bjora, Claudia Rivera and Jose Garcia, the cooks ground the corn into masa, portioned out and shaped dough balls by hand that would eventually be pressed in a manual tortilla press and cooked on Lodge cast iron griddles (made in Chattanooga, TN), set over flames. Each tortilla was stuffed with the meats, topped off with scratch made tomato salsa, salsa arbol, and salsa verde, and served with organic pickled vegetables and roasted corn on the side. The flavors were rich and intense yet even with all of the spices, unctuous meats and bright vegetables inside the tortillas, the true flavor, coaxed respectfully from each kernel, shone through and paid due homage to corn.

Oh, and if you missed the hand-made tortillas and tacos at the SFA symposium, keep an eye out for a new taqueria, imagined by the Jim ‘N Nick’s folks, called “Little Donkey” to open in 2011 in Birmingham, Alabama.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Cornbread and Meat

Celebrating “The Global South” with The Southern Foodways Alliance

Oxford, Mississippi, in October conjures visions of leafy college campus paths, tailgating in the grove and cheering on Ole Miss. But each year, on an “away game” weekend, the Southern Foodways Alliance, based at the Center for the Study of Southern Culture at the University of Mississppi, hosts its annual symposium. Southerners and outlanders alike gather to celebrate, study and discuss the state of Southern food and the diverse and changing culture that brings us all to the table.

The 13th annual gathering focused on “The Global South” as its theme and explored not only the oft discussed African, Native American and Western European influences on our cuisine, but the more modern role that Vietnamese, Cuban and South American and Mexican tastes have played in the evolution of how we eat in the American South.

“Cornbread and meat”, Drew Robinson, Executive Chef of Jim ‘N Nick’s Bar-B-Q ponders, “it’s really cornbread and meat when you get down to it” Drew is speaking to the similarities between a Latin American’s way and a Southerner’s way with cooking meat—low and slow. He’s speaking to the corn tortilla or the masa inside tamales or the cornbread along side the pork on our Sunday supper table. This year, Jim ‘N Nick’s was honored to drive their Bar-B-Q rig to Oxford town to cook for the attendees of this year’s SFA event. Inspired by this year’s theme, the folks from Jim ‘N Nick’s prepared a feast of traditional Mexican-style tacos, “Elote” (traditional Mexican grilled corn with mayonnaise, lime, chile powder and a sprinkling of cotija anejo cheese) and queso fundido. The tacos were filled with organic, grass-fed beef tongue from White Oak Pastures and Riverview Farms pastured pork, both from Georgia. Goat meat was sourced from Ledbetter Acres in Lafayette, Alabama and vegetables for the pickles and three fresh salsas were sourced from Jones Valley Urban Farm in downtown Birmingham, Alabama.

A team of folks from Jim ‘N Nick’s worked for two days straight smoking meat, shucking corn and making fresh, corn tortillas! Not just mixing masa cornmeal with water, they actually ground the corn, boiled it and milled it to press and cook fresh, authentic, hand made corn tortillas!!!! It was a noble and incredible effort that sent the strong message of honoring the people and ingredients that get us together in the kitchen and around a common table. For more information on the Southern Foodways Alliance visit

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Jim 'N Nick's Fires up Atlanta

Autumn in Atlanta is festival time. Each year, the number of special events and food festivals grows and it seems that no matter where you wander on any given fall weekend in Atlanta, the Jim ‘N Nick’s rig is present. Led by Brian Lyman, the Atlanta team fires up the smoker, decorates the area with all manner of harvest-themed, piggy flair, and invites folks to taste the scratch-made, signature dishes that make them a festival favorite.

Taste of Atlanta, one of the city’s premier food events is in its 9th year and is held smack in the middle of town. In the shadow of midtown skyscrapers, along side 70 other Atlanta restaurants, celebrity chefs and musical entertainment, Jim ‘N Nick’s rolled up the big rig smoker and set to cooking. Brian, decked out in chef’s whites (how does he keep them clean?) and his crew smoked and grilled in the Indian summer sun to food enthusiasts from all over the South.

Hoping to hold onto their consecutive, 3-year title of “Best Taste”. Will Grier manned the grill while Mike Huffler, Jeremy Chambers and the rest of the team served up 6000 plates of ribs, grilled corn and catfish tacos over the course of 2 days. Festival goers were at first surprised to find the Bar-B-Q team assembling tacos but the combination of their crispy-yet-tender fried catfish, coleslaw, cilantro and house-made tartar sauce became a festival favorite and shed light on Jim ‘N Nick’s “Taco Tuesdays” held in each store. If you missed the Taste of Atlanta festival this year, stop by one of the stores each Tuesday to check out the tacos and of course the ribs are always available. Oh, and the final tallies are just in and yes, Jim ‘N Nick’s Atlanta team has indeed been named “Taste of Atlanta People’s Choice for Best Taste” for the 4th year in a row! Congratulations to all of you!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Pigs, Goats, Cow Heads

This Saturday, October 23, Chef Drew Robinson of Jim N Nick's Bar-B-Q will participate in the Southern Foodways Alliance's Taco Truck Degustation. The Jim N Nick's smoker wheels its way across the deep South to Oxford, MS where Drew, along with Chef Dan Lathem and Nick Pihakis will serve whole hog barbecue tacos and for some extra tasty fun, are cooking a goat and some White Oak Pastures grass-fed beef tongue as well. The Southern Foodways Alliance ( hosts its annual symposium this weekend and programming this year celebrates "the Global South"--in other words, the influences of the rest of the world on Southern cuisine. The SFA points out, "for much of our region's history, we've understood the South to be a land of Native American, West African, and Western European peoples. This weekend, Cuban, Vietnamese, and and Latin American influences will also be highlighted."
On Saturday night, Chef Robinson is delighted to prepare his tacos along side Chef Kelly English from Restaurant Iris and Chef Jonathan Magallanes of Las Tortugas Deli Mexicana both from Memphis, TN, who will cook traditional Barbacoa de Cabeza (bbq cow heads).

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Stars Falling on Alabama

Lots of stars are aligning on Sunday, October 3 to benefit the Alabama fishing communities affected by the Gulf Coast oil disaster. Sponsored by the great folks at the gorgeous publication, Garden & Gun Magazine, (, the Harvest Feast will feature food prepared by some of Alabama's greatest cooks and chefs including Jim 'N Nick's BBQ's own Drew Robinson(photo here). Chris and Idie Hastings (pictured together here)of the Hot and Hot Fish Club ( lead the charge and there are guest stars falling too! Natalie Chanin, the brilliant, celebrated fashion designer (and biscuit maker--pictured here) behind Alabama Chanin ( will be there and Ashley Hall (pictured here in blue)who, in concert with the Southern Foodways Alliance ( has done a series of oral histories and documentation of Alabama's Gulf Shore, post-oil spill. There will also be a viewing of Joe York's short film on Bayou La Batre, AL and the struggles facing the fishing community there since the oil disaster in the gulf.
Spirits will be high however, and the food will be served on a table over which solutions and benevolence may be discussed and a toast will be raised to the great fisherpeople and fishing traditions of Alabama's Gulf Coast.
The event is sold out (hooray!) but you can visit ( find out more about this event and how to make a contribution.

Monday, September 27, 2010

More From the Twilight Dinner

Thursday's Twilight Dinner to benefit Jones Valley Urban Farm was indeed a delicious success. Under a full moon, in the middle of the garden, Chefs Frank Stitt of Highlands Bar and Grill, Robby Melvin of Birmingham's Salt Fine Catering along with Chef Drew Robinson, Nick Pihakis, Joshua Gentry and others from the Birmingham Jim 'N Nick's cooked an Argentine style Asado. Pardis Stitt worked with the event team to make sure everything flowed smoothly, Mike "Rathead" Riley served as auctioneer for a live auction where master distiller, Julian Van Winkle was in attendance and auctioned off a selection of three of his reserve Pappy Van Winkle Bourbons. Birmingham's Mayor William A. Bell stopped by to tour the farm, chat with the chefs and sit down to dinner with over 150 diners. Seated at one, very long table in the middle of the 25th Street location of the Jones Valley Urban Farm, everyone enjoyed a family-style service of organic beef, pasture-raised lamb and sausages along with just-picked autumn vegetables and lovely wines from Argentina. The dinner, along with the live auction raised approximately $50,000 for the non-profit, urban farm.
Visit to find out more about Jones Valley Urban Farm

A few pictures from the Alabama Asado

An Alabama Asado

Thursday September 23rd was a great evening at Jones Valley Urban Farm ( Frank Stitt and his team came together with myself and the Jim 'N Nick's crew for a twilight supper billed as an Alabama Asado on the farm. We grilled and roasted a whole lamb from Sequatchie Cove Farm as well as a slew of other meats and vegetables a plenty from the farm.

After dinner we had a live and silent auction with items from Billy Reid, Pappy Van Winkle, Natalie Chanin amongst others that raised funds and tremendous awareness for this still largely unrecognized jewel in downtown Birmingham.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Bourbon & Q

We are in the process of getting the final details worked out for the Bourbon & Q dinner we are hosting in our Charleston restaurant during the Charleston Wine & Food Festival. The menu looks fantastic with food offerings from the likes of Mike Mills, Rodney Scott, Jimmy Hagood, Robert Barber, Dan Latham and yours truly, the Jim 'N Nick's crew. If that is not enough, Julian Van Winkle will be in the house providing his fine bourbon from the Old Rip Van Winkle Distillery and mixologist extraordinaire Greg Best will be turning out some of his famous creations with those fine spirits.
The evening promises to be a great time and we're looking forward to seeing some old friends, making some new ones and fully satiating our gullets. Check it and other happenings out on the CW&F website.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Big Apple Here We Come

It's official, we've been invited back to the 2010 installment of the Big Apple Barbecue Block Party. The experience was absolutely incredible last year. New Yorker's blew us away with their voracious appetite for barbecue as well as their curiosity for this gem of Southern cuisine and its place in our culture. The hospitality of the Blue Smoke crew and the Union Square Hospitality Group was absolutely first class to boot.

We are thrilled to be invited back. Check their website out and be sure to stay tuned here for updates closer to the event.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Holy Smoke!!!

Well, there's not any way to really put into terms that we are just flat out, knocked down, drug out, hung up and delirious over the fact that Nick has been nominated for the best restaurateur by the James Beard Foundation. What to say? Not much to be honest because we're really caught off guard by this whole thing.

So, the soliloquy aside, we are humbled. Nick has said many times over that we are all in this together and hey, that's it. We here at Jim 'N Nick's rely everyday on the fact that we are family. Hell, if we're not then we're really just playing a cruel joke on each other because we all spend so damn much time with each other that we ought to be family anyway! And when we say family around here we start by looking first at the people who come in to share our table day in and day out. The fact that we have guests who choose to make "us" "their" restaurant is more humbling to us than any award ever could be. They are why we're here, they are why people notice we're here and they, save the soliloquy, are why we'll keep doing what we do.

Hey, we are happy about this nomination. Actually proud as new parents and you can bet your last drop of barbecue sauce on that. But at the end of the day we know why we're here and why we'll be here tomorrow and that is what we're most thankful for. To put it humbly, and in terms of where we come from, we're living in high cotton! Thank you James Beard Foundation for the recognition and thank you, our gracious guests for making this nomination possible.