How Jimmy's Conquered Dallas

How did a humble neighborhood bodega become the city's sausage king? With a recipe restaurants couldn't resist.

The way Badovinus tells it, there was no greater condiment than that bright orange oil, and Jimmy's sausage has topped multiple pies at the restaurant since. Soon, other pizzerias followed. Adelmo's, Urban Crust and Bryan Street Tavern all still feature the DiCarlos' links.

Eventually restaurants that had nothing to do with Italian food wanted in on the action, and the farm-to-table movement gave Jimmy's another push. The proliferation of menu buzzwords like "organic" and "local" ushered in the new age of ultra-conscious ingredient sourcing. But with Texas' harsh climate, radishes grown within an hour's drive from Dallas were hard to come by. Jimmy's filled the gap by letting restaurants crumble and sprinkle its sausage onto anything for instant locavorism.

When chef Graham Dodds helped open Bolsa, the Oak Cliff garage-turned-restaurant, he was emphatic about sourcing locally farmed and crafted ingredients. He quickly earned a reputation for embracing local businesses — and adding Jimmy's sausage to his flatbreads helped him do it. The sausage stayed on the menu after Dodds moved on, and was only pulled when Bolsa started making their own charcuterie.

Parigi, the Oak Lawn bistro that opened in 1984, relies on Jimmy's, too. Chef Chad Houser joined the kitchen in 2006, and he's used the ground pork in various dishes for years, including a bolognese that employs Jimmy's hot Italian. The pork lends depth and fat and heat to the hearty ragu. "Jimmy's is the best ever," he says. "You can taste when someone is proud of what they are making."

Garreth Dickey, the chef at Dish, a restaurant and lounge on Cedar Springs Avenue, says the product stands on its own merits. That it's local is simply a bonus. "It has the perfect balance of sweet and salty to make you crave that sausage," he says. "The spice hits you just at the end."


Jimmy's sausage has a flavor profile like most Italian sausage, driven by the anise of fennel seeds with crushed red pepper for heat. But it's got its own character, too. It's coarsely ground, giving the product a sturdy texture and heft. It's so heavy with garlic you can smell the pungency through the white butcher paper when you take it home. And despite the fact that commercial sales have doubled the amount of sausage the store has to produce in recent years, White and his kitchen staff still work in small batches, one plastic bin at a time.

You'll see White behind the deli counter almost every day, often decked out in Yankees gear — a reminder that, while local businesses have embraced Jimmy's, its business isn't built on provincialism. Another employee stocks shelves in a pinstripe Jason Giambi jersey. Mike's son, James DiCarlo, wears Eagles gear — Eagles! — while working the front register and pulling espressos. Tell White you're a Boston fan (or a fan of any other team for that matter) and he'll tell you, "That's all right — all Yankees fans have to start somewhere."

The result is a place of comfort for Northerners: You'll occasionally spot a Phillies ball cap on a customer buying deli meat, a White Sox shirt on a guy ordering a sandwich. They've all come here looking for the same thing, just in different variations: reminders of home.

There's Taylor Pork Roll in the deli case, a processed pork product you'd only know if you grew up in Jersey or had a parent who did. Pizza dough is available in frozen balls from the Garden State, too. Italian beef sandwiches stand out on the menu board. Vienna beef sends meat, bread and giardiniera down from Chicago, and the kitchen staff throws together sopping wet sandwiches with them. There's neon green relish and sport peppers in the back on the deli counter. Without much effort, you could drag your hot dogs through the garden at home and pretend you were at a Cubs game.

Miss a roast pork sandwich from the streets of Philly? Jimmy's version would never stand up to John's Roast Pork on Snyder Avenue (it's missing that sesame-seed-studded roll), but the flavors will still take you there. Jimmy's has amassed ingredients and dishes that Northerners grew up on and thought they might not ever see again when they moved to Dallas. For them the grocery offers nostalgia, the comfort foods from their youth.

For lifelong Dallasites, though, Jimmy's offers a different sort of romance: a neighborhood grocery that feels like an Italian market as old as Main Street, even if it isn't. You'll see them gather at the patio tables out front when the weather allows, eating sandwiches wrapped in white butcher paper or foil and drinking Italian sodas and wine. They may be celebrating a tapestry of borrowed cultures, but the DiCarlos and their customers have undoubtedly made them their own, and made them part of Dallas' food identity along the way.

« Previous Page
 |
 
1
 
2
 
3
 
All
 
My Voice Nation Help
18 comments
Twinwillow
Twinwillow

Thank goodness for Jimmy's. I was one of those who was devastated when Al's closed. It was only after that I was told about Jimmy's. I've been a happy and frequent customer since.

Big George
Big George

The Italian Beef sandwiches are pretty good but would be authentically GREAT if served on REAL Gonnella Buns. I agree that the sauage IS DA BEST in town and I have been buying it for years, uncased for my thin crust, home made, Pizzas!

McKinney Mommas
McKinney Mommas

Nice to see Jimmy's featured here. After I moved here from living in Connecticut for 6 years, Jimmy's was a GREAT place to remind me of all the little "mom and pop" Italian shops we used to eat at in New Haven, CT. If you haven't already - check it out!

Diggity_Dave
Diggity_Dave

Thanks a ton from someone who recently moved to Dallas and is always looking for local hotspots!

G_David
G_David

I didn't know until I read this story, but Jimmy's had just gone all-Italian all the time when I started going there. I assumed it had looked like that for decades. If I can listen to my stomach growl for the next couple of hours, I'm stopping in for the Italian stallion on my way home today.

Oak Cliff Clavin
Oak Cliff Clavin

Nice piece Scott, you've managed to find much of the best Dallas has to offer in a short time. However, I would've thought that all phalliic-shaped cased-meat stories were Alice's domain, contractually speaking.

Danny
Danny

A three page article and no address for Jimmy's.

G_David
G_David

In the time it took to make that comment, you could have Googled it 3, maybe 4 times. Or you could have moved your cursor over that Google map and seen the address AND a picture of the place.

guero
guero

I thought it was a great story. I used to live around there and have been a customer of Jimmy's for over twenty years. Nice Job!

Guest
Guest

Scott, please tell us more about up north. Pretty pretty please. We just loooooove it. It's not pretentious at all and you DEFINITELY do not come off as an ass.

John Neely Bryan
John Neely Bryan

Pal, it is hard to find great BBQ & Tex-mex in the North, and it is equally hard to find great sandwiches in Texas. Are you content with Subway or Quiznos? Scott isn't the one coming off as an ass here, I thought it was a fine article.

primi_timpano
primi_timpano

Nice article. So much to say about Jimmy's. Best Italian wine selection in town. Good home made marinara. Great dried and fresh pasta. Unbelievable sandwiches. Then there is the neighborhood. Spicer and the Asian community garden are around the corner. The renamed Guero's is just down the street. Further east on fitzhugh the michoacan market had an interesting meat selection, nopes, a decent taco bar, and occasionally, squash blossoms. Still further east is Thai Noodle. You could spend all Saturday on Fitzhugh.

John Hix
John Hix

Title of this article is an immense exaggeration and hopefully not indicative of the culinary taste of Dallas. Shame on you the author.

 
Loading...