Sunday, September 18, 2011

One Look…

and I knew that I was going to love this place. The Jimtown Country Store, that is.

Somehow I missed the installment of Diners, Drive-ins and Dives when Guy Fieri visited this combination country store and café, but Chuck remembered and through thorough research found that it was located in Healdsburg, CA, a mere forty-five miles from our campground in Napa. A perfect distance for a nice drive through wine country.

“The Jimtown Store is a classic wooden building that looks like a cross between the old West and the houses found in a 1934 game of Monopoly. It has a hand-lettered, old-fashioned sign in soothing green and yellow tones that beckons you into the parking lot.

“Big tubs of flowers and leafy plants are welcoming. As you approach the front door, you might overhear a gang of leather-clad motorcyclists discussing the best way to brine a turkey, while getting back on their bikes.

“Inside, there's a blackboard chalked in a range of colors, touting the day's culinary specials. Carrie Brown, a hands-on shopkeeper (‘I live this 24/7; my home's on the property right behind the store’), will likely greet you and ask if there's anything in particular you're interested in” (www.healdsburg.patch. com).

“Jimtown continues to be a community store for the 21st century, a cross between a cafe and an information center for locals and travelers. It’s a true democratic spot where neighbors meet for coffee, and wine industry executives, winemakers, vineyard managers, and workers alike break for lunch. Children come for afterschool snacks, and tourists rest and refuel between wine tastings” (

The store and café has three distinct areas. Just inside the doors is the heart of the market where you can purchase local cheeses, spicy bread and butter pickles, wines, and the Jimtown Store’s own condiments, plus decorative housewares including the spatterwear dishes on which your meal will be served. The front room also contains the menu board and ordering counter.

Just down a short hallway lies a room that serves as both a dining area and retail space. The dining tables in this room are all covered with the colorful Mexican oilcloth that the store sells for $10.00 per yard.

Through a door on the left lies the outdoor dining patio with an arbor that—this being wine country—is covered with grape vines. Here you find brightly painted picnic tables contrasting with weathered grey privacy fencing.

The short menu (the Jimtown Store is open for breakfast and lunch only) is a mix of the familiar and the new. The store’s specialties are pulled pork sandwiches and chicken sopas which are reminiscent of lasagna where corn tortillas have been substituted for lasagna noodles. Owner Carrie Brown states on the store’s website: “Our kitchen…prepares hearty seasonal soups, salads, entrees, signature sandwiches, and desserts daily from scratch. Inspiration comes from favorite American family recipes, drawn from the culinary traditions of generations of immigrants, from European settlers to more recent arrivals from Mexico and across the Pacific. Our food is prepared using home-grown California ingredients.... We honor the growers by preparing dishes with restraint, letting the flavors complement one another, each allowed its own voice.”

We both decided to go the sandwich route with the chunky chicken salad sandwich for Chuck and the peppered turkey with chipotle hummus spread for me.

Both were served on very good crusty baguettes from the La Brea Bakery and both reflected the restraint described in the preceding paragraph.

But it was our two sides that stole the show. I ordered a cup of the seasonal watermelon gazpacho which the store describes as “so good we're keeping it on the menu in hopes of a long summer. Cool and refreshing, sweet and savory with a hint of spicy chilies and fresh cilantro! Served with our house made tortilla chips.” With a minimum of liquid other than the melon and tomato juices, this also made for a tasty salsa when eaten with the tortilla chips.

Of course, Mr. Potato had to have a side of “Mom’s Potato Salad,” which was, as Guy Fieri would say “off the hook.” Made with red potatoes, eggs, chopped scallions, celery, and baby peas (Yes, you read that right—peas) in a light dressing of sour cream, mayo, mustard, and herbs, this was a potato salad for the ages.

How good was the potato salad? So good that we made the forty-mile drive a week later so that I could buy a copy of the Jimtown Store Cookbook in which the recipe appears. I could have guessed and come close, but I wanted the exact proportions for the dressing. And, since we were there, didn’t we have to eat lunch?

Chuck, sticking with a sure thing, repeated his lunch from the prior week. As did I with the watermelon gazpacho. Then I veered in a different direction. I added a side of the buttermilk cole slaw, which I liked more than did Chuck. The buttermilk gave a slight tang to the light dressing and the acid softened the cabbage.

My sandwich was the grilled eggplant with provolone cheese and the Store’s homemade romesco sauce made with roasted red peppers, ground almonds, olive oil, and vinegar and is a popular sauce in Spain. This time the assembled sandwich had been pressed so that the top and bottom crusts of the La Brea bread became extra crunchy.

How should one describe this 5.0 Addie spot almost in the middle of nowhere? To again quote Carrie Brown: “People keep asking us--are we a Diner? Are we a Drive-in? Are we a Dive? I guess we’re just ourselves. We’re just Jimtown” (

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