It would be easy to gush about the food at Jim Denny’s, or to spend hundreds of words talking about the wonderfully nostalgic feel of the place, or even to wax poetic about simpler times and forgotten values that so few eateries still embody. But, for the sake of brevity, I’ll try to sum up the Jim Denny’s experience in two words: Nailed it!
How exactly does the Lane Family, owners of the venerable institution, nail it, you ask? In the following ways:
Burger: Nailed it! A simple and delicious burger, nothing fancy. As opposed to the Squeeze Inn’s “Squeeze with Cheese” which is a wonderfully delicious grease bomb, the burgers at JD’s are fresh, flavorful and light on the grease. Also, you have your choice of sizes, the Joey burger (1/3 lb.), the Superburger (1/2 lb.) or the Megaburger (1 lb. which is served with a side of nitro glycerin and an defibrillator).
Atmosphere: Nailed it! You can’t change much about a lunch counter with 10 stools, so keep it clean, add a few touches that hearken back to the middle of the century and fill the place with the odor of meat on the grill.
Service: Nailed it! While being served by the lovely counter help, I was addressed as “honey” (4 times), “dear” (2 times), hon (5 times) and “sweetcheeks” (1 time). It was marvelous.
Sides: A lunch counter does not survive on burgers alone. JD’s offers macaroni salad, potato salad, fries, chili and soups all made fresh daily by Patsy, who adds my favorite ingredient to her potato salad, mustard. I love a good mustardy potato salad. Nailed it! (Thought I’d forgotten, didn’t you?)
Keeping up with the times: NI! The Lanes, in their infinite wisdom, know that the history and legend of Jim Denny’s is just as important as the food. They also know that the biggest consumers of nostalgia are not the older diners, who are usually set in their ways, but the younger set who are looking to reconnect with a past that seems overwhelmed by chain restaurants, fast food oligarchies and prepackaged lunchables stuffed with enough preservatives to pickle a bull moose. To reach that younger audience, JD’s has a Myspace profile
and a very hip website with merchandise, menus and a brief history lesson on the front page. Effectively having it both ways, JD’s is both a bastion of nostalgia and a modern business model, changing the way the burgers are sold online.
Nailing It!: Put it all together and you’ve got one great eating experience. I couldn’t have been happier walking out of Jim Denny’s with a full stomach, warm heart and sweet cheeks.
Jim Denny’s-12th and H St. Sacramento
Food ***1/2 Atmosphere **** Serivce ****