Jimbo’s is a place like no other. They sell baked potatoes. Well, actually, they sell “fixings,” the baked potato is almost incidental. Jimbo’s is really a hot dog joint. It seems as if it should be named “Jumbo’s,” but it isn’t.
Jimbo’s is a tiny, tiny little food shop located along with others in the downtown Nashville, so called, “historic arcade,” an enclosed walkway of little shops that was the predecessor of the modern shopping mall back in the days of the dinosaur… well, almost. It is mostly office workers and tourists who wander in from nearby hotels that frequent the arcade these days. They tell me that Jimbo’s hot dogs are really good. I don’t like hot dogs. However, the second most popular item is Jimbo’s baked potato.
Jimbo’s service is reminiscent of the service at the notorious “Soup Nazi” of Seinfeld fame. That is, people must stand in a very long line, usually flowing out the door and into the mall area. Once the customer gets inside the door, the tiny place is very small, hot and smothery and the putrid smell of chili and onion stings the nostrils. Proper Jimbo etiquette is to stand against the wall on one side of the narrow alcove and form a slow-moving line all the way to the back . Once at the back of the shop, customers are allowed to step forward to the counter one at a time, place an order, and then scoot sideways along the counter with their food back to where they started at the front door.
Potatoes are loaded, half-loaded, or one can specify ones’ own ingredients from a list scribbled on the greasy wall menu with a magic marker. “Loaded” comes with chili, sour cream, bacon, cheese, butter, broccoli, onions, and jalapenos. I don’t like jalapenos, which means I must “special order.” Orders are filled by a young man of foreign appearance and paid for at a front door cash register where a young woman, also foreign looking, works.
They are very polite, but I am never quite certain that they will understand what I want. I am very careful to be very exact. And, of course, the entire line is watching and waiting impatiently. Don’t dare screw up the order or you will hold up the whole hungry line.
I get mine with butter, broccoli, bacon and cheese. That way I can find the baked potato under the fixings. When I get chili, the potato is hopelessly lost under the extras and eaten without even being noticed. What a waste.
“Yes, mam?” says the young man.
“Baked potato,” I reply without wasting words.
He grabs a foil-baked potato with one hand and a styrofoam carryout plate with the other. He begins to cut the potato open before I even tell him what I want on it.
“What you want on it?” he says.
“Butter, broccoli, bacon, and cheese.” As fast as I can, I rattle off the list of fixings. I try to make it easy. God forbid I should make a mistake and hold up the whole line.
“Butter, broccoli, bacon, cheese?” Yes, I nod stupidly, praying I have not made a dumb error and ordered something not on the list.
The man works with the factory-like precision of an assembly line worker. His hands fairly fly as he loads down the potato: butter, broccoli, bacon and cheese. Once the potato is assembled, the styrofoam dish goes on the counter and I humbly scoot it along to the register where it is wrapped in cellophane along with a plastic fork and napkin. They used to add a peppermint, but have quit giving them out now. I’m afraid to complain. Money is exchanged and I escape out the door until next time – heady with relief and fresh air.
Finding a place to eat the potato is the next problem.