Are you aware that Jim’s Steak and Spaghetti House started as an ice cream shop by Jim Tweel in 1938 where a nickel bought you an ice cream cone, a dime a shake and for 15 cents you could purchase a hamburger? In 1944 it was expanded to include Jim’s Spaghetti and Grill. It is still a family-owned business and is now managed by Jimmie Tweel Carder, Jim’s daughter. In 2019 it brought national attention for Huntington and the Tri-State as the only restaurant in West Virginia ever to win the coveted James Beard Award. It was famous long before this, in my opinion.
I remember a female waitress in a crisp, starched white uniform with an apron tied at the waist wearing white shoes, motioning me to slide into a cozy booth for dinner and her gesturing to a picture on the wall. There was John F. Kennedy sitting in the very seat that I now occupied having dinner and I couldn’t help but feel a sense of respect for this small corner of Jim’s Steak and Spaghetti House, located in downtown Huntington at 920 5th Ave. All around the restaurant were pictures of artists likened to Billy Joel, famous sports figures such as Mohammed Ali, and others who had stopped by Jim’s when in town for a small or large plate of their famous spaghetti. Jim himself used to greet you at the door but now a hostess shows you to either a green booth or the famous counter — whichever you prefer.
No one has haddock fish filet like Jim’s. It’s thick, all white and flaky fish, perfectly fried to a golden brown and can be ordered as a sandwich or meal; add a side of their signature cole slaw and, not always listed on the menu, homemade butter beans will have you completely satisfied with your menu selection. I can never decide so I usually opt for the small spaghetti and a side order of the golden fish filet. But I never forget their sweet tasting cole slaw. Yummy! More often than not, like many others, I order a pint of slaw and homemade sauce to go for later in the week.
Add a slice of pie, especially their legendary strawberry pie, available only once a year starting the Tuesday after Mother’s Day, and it is true that people actually take off work that day to stand in line with others outside the restaurant to get their memorable slice. Last year, it was reported that more than 10,000 slices passed through the kitchen that week. They limit each customer to only two slices. A customer was quoted as saying “I can see why this little bit of heaven has a huge following.”
The last time I ate there, I bumped into Peggy Thornbury Stringer in town visiting her good friend Donnetta Cox. Both agreed that Jim’s is one of their favorite dinner spots.
I finish by saying that Jim’s customers enter with a smile expecting quality, consistency and a family-friendly atmosphere and exit with a broader smile, knowing that they weren’t disappointed in the least.
Bonum olus manducet,
G.G., Cibus amans