"It's about bringing people together," said local owner Keith Jones. "We look at all of our guests as friends and family coming together as a group. You don't go do a ‘sushi.' You go to a barbecue. It's an event. It's a get-together of the highest order."
The food isn't too shabby either. As soon as you enter the parking lot, the aroma of hickory smoke wafts out of the 24-hour smokehouse, putting your tastebuds on alert and letting you know this place is serious about its barbecue. Inside, they serve up savory plateloads of tender, smoked meats, flavorful sides, excellent lemonades and sweet teas, sweet corn muffins and creamy slices of pie.
All the food is made from scratch every day, from the hand-rolled dough of the pie crusts to the smoked meats, said Jones.
"The main ingredient is passion," he said. "Whether it's ribs or butts or burgers, it's the pride and passion of the chef that you can really taste." This passion was recently on display at the Big Apple Barbecue in New York, where Jim ‘n Nick's was invited along with other top barbecue establishments around the country.
Jim ‘n Nick's began in Birmingham, Ala., more than 20 years ago with a father and son team and evolved into a unique concept. Rather than a traditional corporate franchise model, Jim ‘n Nick's seeks out local owners to partner with and designs each restaurant for the local community, explained Jones.
The restaurant opened up in Rockdale three years ago after Jones found the area to be "a nice, tight- knit community."
"It turned out to be a very good marriage," he said. "We tried to do what we could for the city and county and in turn they supported us very well here."
This focus on the local community leads the restaurant to give back 3 percent of its gross sales to the community.
This fall, the local Jim ‘n Nick's will serve more than 2,000 people on Sept. 17 in its fourth annual fundraiser with the United Way. For the event, the restaurant partners with the Rockdale Career Academy, bringing professional chefs to work in the school's kitchens to give students the experience of creating quality meals for a huge number of people.
"Rockdale has exceeded my expectations when it comes to local involvement," said Jones. "We try to do what we can for the community and it turned out to be very
good for us."