On most days, it’s possible to see Jimmy Tannous cooking outside, tongs in hand. In front of him, dozens of chicken thighs sit on a rack suspended above a bed of charcoal coals. Every few seconds, he pokes a thigh, then flips it; when cooked, he pulls it off and replaces it with a new piece of meat. Those thighs are full of flavor, unique, and designed to go with his spectacular sandwiches. When asked for the secret to their unique and decidedly wonderful taste, he points at his chest, and says, “It’s the guy who cooks it.”
Jimmy’s Deli and Taqueria has been a Lake County institution for decades. The deli moved to its current location in Lakeport in 2008 and has been creating great food since then. It’s common, during regular times, to see a line stretching out of the door at lunchtimes. Everyone knows that it’s the place to go for high-quality, inexpensive food that not just fills, but satisfies. If you live in Lake County and haven’t visited, you’re in for a treat.
With close to one hundred different menu items, it’s hard to go wrong with your order. However, I do have some personal favorites. It’s hard for me to pass up the Ultimate Chicken Sandwich. It’s dripping with flavor. Jimmy’s flavorful grilled chicken sets the base; then he adds pesto, marinara sauce, fresh spinach, grilled mushrooms, mozzarella cheese, and sun-dried tomatoes to create a juicy, rich sandwich.
If you prefer burritos, you’ve come to the right spot. For meat, you can choose chicken, tri-tip (which is just as good as the chicken), or prawns. Then the burritos are stuffed with sour cream guacamole, rice, beans, chunky salsa, hot sauce, and jalapeños; it’s both mouthwatering and filling.
Of course, It’s not just sandwiches, tacos, and burritos at Jimmy’s. One of our favorites is the appetizer platter, complete with falafel, hummus, pita, and hot sauce. It’s a treat, and Jimmy’s falafel is incredible (and available in a sandwich as well). And, if you ever get bored, you can choose one of the several vegetarian options or enjoy their flavorful salads.
Last week, Jimmy and his wife Julia spent a few minutes talking about how things have been during the current coronavirus lockdown.
“How are you doing?” Jimmy immediately asks. “If we wrote you a check for $100, would that help you?”
I’m speechless. The reason we’ve been writing so many restaurant reviews during the past month is to help these businesses stay alive during this time, not to seek help for ourselves. Jimmy doesn’t wait for an answer. He waves his hand to Julia, and she steps away for a few minutes, coming back with a signed check in her hand.
“Thank you,” I say, still in shock that a struggling business would help us out. “I’ll make sure you get a good ad while during the coronavirus Shelter in Place for this check.” It’s part of how Jimmy and Julia live. During the day, when Jimmy is working the chicken, he’ll regularly pull off a small piece to share with them. They treat their employees well, and their customers love them. It’s all part of a way of life at Jimmy’s Deli.
“So how have things been,” I ask.
“We had to lay off four people because we’re down 60% to 70% in sales,” he says. “We just work harder now.”
“When it first happened, we had to throw away so much food,” his wife Julia adds, clicking her tongue with the thought of the loss.
“Has it ever been like this for you before?” I ask.
They both look at each other and immediately reply, “The fires.”
“But we’re not going anywhere,” Jimmy adds. “We’ve done it before, and we’re doing it again.”
“And people are so happy and appreciative that we’re open,” Julia says. “They tell us, ‘thank you.’ It makes me feel good.”
Jimmy’s Deli and Taqueria is located at 540 Lakeport Blvd in Lakeport. You can call them at (707)-362-5656, or visit their website at eatjimmys.com. Hours of operation during COVID-19: 10:30 – 3:00 pm.