this story was in the Winter 2014 issue of Food & Home magazine
OLD CHINATOWN LANDMARK GETS NEW LIFE
By Maureen “Mo” McFadden
There’s a catch phrase in the American lexicon, “You can’t go home again,” but I beg to differ because my favorite watering hole, located at 126 E. Canon Perdido Street once home to the legendary Jimmy’s Oriental Gardens re-opened as the Pickle Room on October 5, 2013. Entering that night, was like walking back in time; proving I could go home again to the “Cheers” like bar where ‘everybody knew my name.’ Legions of fans agreed and they all showed up for the grand opening. Restored lovingly by the father and son team of Bob and Clay Lovejoy, the Pickle Room is welcoming new admirers as well as embracing the old regulars who, like me, found friendships and camaraderie inside its walls. The vibe is still alive.
The room is pitch perfect with the signature pagoda roof now matching the length of the restored red bar, the original oriental lanterns, vintage Asian pin-up girl posters, the “double happiness” symbols and a giant good luck red knot on the gold painted walls, make this a room an authentic throw back while honoring the people who worked and lived there for 66 years – the Chung Family. The original outdoor sign now dominates the back wall of the bar. Tommy Chung, who took over the reins from his dad Jimmy in the 1970s, gave the Lovejoy’s his blessing to use the sign. One of the most important parts of the successful equation was to include Willy Gilbert, who dominated as bartender, DJ, conversationalist, and master joke-teller at Jimmy’s for more than 25 years. He came back to manage the bar and works a few nights a week. Yes, Willy’s eclectic jazz soundtrack is back fueled by a great sound system from Sonos.
Willy and the Lovejoys’ have assembled rock star line up of well-known bartenders including: Chris Wright (who tended bar at Piatti’s for 15 years before it closed), “Jersey” Dave (formerly at Piatti’s and Palmieri’s), PJ Sweet (from Chase and Wine Cask) and “Boston” Jack (whose Bloody Mary was named one of the ten best in the U.S.). These men all come with advanced degrees in mixology, warmth and knowledge of how to create loyal customers – important ingredients for any cocktail lounge. House special signature drinks include: Willy’s Hornitas Margarita; Tommy’s Mai Tai; Old Fashioned; Singapore Sling; and Moscow Mule. The Pickle-tini and shots of pickle juice drawn from the large pickle jar as backs for shots of hard liquor bring the name Pickle Room to life… so, you can get pickled there, literally. (Just take a cab home if you do get pickled).
But wait, it gets better. Chef Weston Richards, whose work at Julian and Wine Cask has been heralded, helped to design the menu with Clay. One of the most popular items on the menu is a hybrid of deli + Chinese cuisine – the Reuben Eggroll. The gastronomic delight has three eggrolls filled with pastrami & Swiss cheese served with Russian dressing dipping sauce that has a slight bite of horseradish. It is a taste sensation. If you appreciate a really good hamburger – look no further. Clay, who had his own meat business in Ventura, grinds all the beef in house making the burger one of the juiciest on the planet. Munch the deep fried pickles with panko crust or try the shrimp – both a treat for the taste buds.
Longtime regular of the bar is artist Gary Chafe whose painting of the old Jimmy’s now adorns a t-shirt available for purchase.
Open six days a week: Happy Hour is Monday through Friday 4:30 to 6pm; Kitchen opens at 5:30 Monday to Saturday. Closing times Monday – Wednesday 11 pm and Thursday through Saturday till 1 am. Kitchen closes earlier. Phone: (805) 965-1015. For more info visit: https://www.facebook.com/PickleRoom