Jim’s Fried Chicken
Carrollton: 3100 South Carrollton Avenue
Everybody remembers Jim’s for fried chicken, including a lot of people who never ate there. Here’s why: a big red neon sign saying “Jim’s Fried Chicken” hung outside its big restaurant on the corner of South Carrollton and Earhart. That intersection is traversed by a large percentage of New Orleans people, many of whom cross it twice a day.
After years of seeing that sign–especially on the way home from school or work, when your appetite is primed–how could you not think of Jim’s whenever fried chicken comes to mind? Popeyes later used this same gambit. The sign on its very first location on opening day yelled “Popeyes Famous Fried Chicken.”
Jim’s was open twenty-four hours. That will bring in a lot of people who otherwise might not have tried the place. The heyday of Jim’s was in the 1950s and 1960s, when fried chicken was still considered a gourmet dish, before the fast-food places destroyed that image.
Then there’s the Wistful Palate Effect. The longer it’s been since you experienced something, the better it seems.
I say all this to back up my opinion that Jim’s, for all its fame, was never one of the great places to eat fried chicken in New Orleans. But it comes up so often on the radio show that I had to include it in this book.
On the other hand, Jim’s wasn’t bad. The crust was in fact one of the better ones. I think it was made with cracker meal. It wasn’t seasoned especially well (I wonder how palates used to Popeyes would like it), and sometimes it was a touch soggy.
What I know for a fact is that it was fried to order–a mark of quality in fried chicken. After getting off one 1971 midnight from the Time Saver, a coworker and I couldn’t agree about where to have a late-night supper. I went to Ye Olde College Inn, and he went to Jim’s, a block away. I ordered, ate, read the newspaper, paid, and left. My friend’s car was in front of Jim’s, so I pulled in. He was still waiting for the chicken. Fried chicken takes time.
Jim’s big old original restaurant closed in the late 1970s. It was torn down and replaced with–ironically–a Popeyes. The family reopened in a small space on Airline Highway in Kenner, with the big red sign hanging in front. It continued to cook the same fried chicken for a few more years, then faded away. I hear the sign has made it to Jim’s Feed Store on LA 41 in Pearl River.