Jimmy's Food Store: The quintessential Italian market (in Old East Dallas)
Aug 5, 2009
My first brush with Jimmy's Food Store was several years ago, when the little market was listed in D Magazine's annual "Best of Big D" issue, under "Best Cuban Sandwich". My curiousity was piqued. I didn't know exactly what constituted a Cuban Sandwich, or why it was the specialty of an Italian market named "Jimmy's" in East Dallas, but I knew I would have to try one.
We live in McKinney, a far northern Dallas Suburb, so driving 40 miles each way for a sandwich did not come easy for my husband. He's not so anxious to escape the generic chain restaurants or the virtually identical grocery store chains which rule suburbia.
So one evening, we went to Jimmy's, and I finally had that Cuban sandwich. And, it was a good sandwich. But the sandwich paled in comparison to the rest of the Jimmy's experience. I was hooked immediately.
I'm not the only one in love with Jimmy's Food Store. Just google "Jimmy's Food Store Dallas" to see the many who also love this place.
First of all, Jimmy's is located at 4901 Bryan Street, at Fitzhugh, in Old East Dallas. This is a very eclectic area, and many people may be frightened to go into this part of town. Personally, I say lock your car doors (like I do everywhere I go) and enjoy the neighborhood. To get to Jimmy's you may pass through areas of historic mansions, another block of what once were mansions, and even some areas of urban revival. There are lots of interesting businesses in the area, some of which I will write about here on Lunch (Tom Spicer's FM 1410), and some I haven't quite gotten around to yet (the Chupacabra Ice Cream shop in a former gas station). Note the Dallas school buildings that are so old that they don't have central air, as evidenced by the occasional window A/C/ unit.
Jimmy's is recognizable by its red, white and green awning. Park on either Bryan or Fitzhugh, but try to park close to one of the two doors because you might buy a lot of stuff that will need to be hauled to the car.
On the sidewalk, by each of the doors, there is likely to be an assortment of goods for sale. Sometimes it's onions or tomatoes in a box, sometimes a selection of large herb plants.
Entering the store, grab a cart. You'll probably use it. Around Christmas time, the cart area might be displaced by a huge display of Panettone cakes. Also near the carts is the produce, in a refrigerated case like you might recall from the 1970s or so. The produce seems to be very good, and surprisingly well priced.
Roaming the aisles, you will find many kinds of pasta, canned tomatoes, tomato paste, capers, pepperoncini, crackers, cookies, and other Italian staples. Some of the labels are printed only in Italian. On the far aisles you will find many types of oils in various sizes, from the small bottles to the gallon cans. There are olive oils, avocado oils, and many others. Vinegars too, especially the balsamics. Check the expiration dates on whatever you decide to buy.
The refrigerator case on the far wall is quite possibly the area's best selection of interesting beverages: Dublin Dr. Pepper, Italian sodas, coffee sodas, root beers, cream sodas, sparkling waters, even ginger beer. They also have some chilled beers and wines. You'll never know what is going to be available, so just enjoy what is available on any given day.
The wine selection takes up several aisles in the middle of the store, and it is expansive. And, all Italian. Whatever the grape, if it is Italian, Jimmy's is likely to have it and at a very good price. Buy in bulk and get an even better price. If I recall, 12 - 23 bottles = 10% discount, 24 - 47 bottles = 15% discount, and if you can buy 48+ bottles and will pay with cash or debit, a whopping 20% discount. So if you want Chianti, Barolo, Sangiovese, Sicilia, Proseco, etc., Jimmy's has the variety and the price. Sign up for the email notifications if you are interested in tastings (some are free and some are pricey). And if you just drop in looking for wine, there is always someone there who can help. Don't be ashamed to ask for a good, cheap Chianti. Also, don't worry, they will help you load your car.
Whatever you do, don't ignore the back of the store. Check the whiteboard for available sandwiches. Keep in mind that the sandwiches are a huge draw, award winning. The Caprese sandwich is very good, ask for balsamic vinegar added if you like that. The Cuban sandwich, as you should already know, is famous. Say "yes" to the hot sauce. I have heard that all the sandwiches are available as a salad if you ask. The sandwiches are made to order and sometimes the wait is a little long. This is not the place if you are in a big hurry.
While you are waiting for your sandwich, check out the deli and meat cases. Jimmy's is famous for meats. On any given weekday, you might find area chefs purchasing meat for their restaurants. I've seen the chef from The Zodiac at Neiman Marcus purchasing Italian sausage at Jimmy's. Other restaurants do also. Me, I'm just thrilled to be able to buy a good sized hunk of pancetta for my home use, and I always enjoy the sausage shaped like a pig, with olive slices for eyes. I am disappointed when the sausage pig is gone. Also, check the cheeses as bulk parmesan from Italy is a steal at $9.99 / pound which is Jimmy's perpetual "special".
When your sandwich is finally ready, you might enjoy it at one of the small indoor tables. You can even purchase a bottle of wine to enjoy on the premises. And, if available, there is an intimate room in the back of the shop, known as "The Wine Room". Ask the cashier if the wine room is available.
Oh, and espresso is available at the cash register. $1 for a single shot and $2 for a double.
Jimmy's is open Monday - Saturday 9:00 - 7:30, the sandwich counter closes at 7:00. Phone: 214.823.6180 Fax 214.823.2104 4901 Bryan Street at Fitzhugh Dallas TX, 75206