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Rib-Roaring Meals

[whitespace] Jon-Jon's
Photograph by Christopher Gardner

Laissez Les Jon-Jon's Roulez: Grilled delights are served up with warmth and good humor by the owners of Jon-Jon's.

Jon-Jon's serves up good barbecue and the best soul-food sides west of the Mississippi

By Joseph Izzo Jr.

WE WERE WALKING down Post Street on our way to Jon-Jon's--the barbecue place everybody's been talking about--discussing the controversy surrounding the restoration of DaVinci's The Last Supper.

Call it synchronicity, but when we sat down at our table across from a woman feasting on fried catfish--an occasional specialty here--we saw an Afrocentric version of Leonardo's masterpiece in which all members of the dinner party are black. It hangs on the wall amid other pieces, including depictions of celebrated African Americans and a map of the African continent.

Imagine that. What are the chances?

As I ran my eyes over the selections on the menu, I cast an eye upward at this provocative rendering and considered the implications of this coincidence. It left me imagining, "What if this was really my last supper and Jon-Jon's was the purveyor of the final victuals?" Not a bad idea.

To be straight with you, I've had better beef at the Central Texas in Castroville, and far better ribs at the now defunct Flint's up in Oakland, but Jon-Jon's holds its own, serving decent barbecue and some of the best soul-food sides west of the Mississippi. It's been open less than seven months and the place is hopping with business. People like it and they're telling their friends.

If you've lived in San Jose for any length of time, you know about Flo's--remember, that breakfast joint over on Post full of morning gab, the smell of bacon and popping newspapers. Well, Jon-Jon's has taken over the space and made a few changes, but nothing so obvious as to dispel the memories of Flo's.

It's still the diner it always was with the nostalgic '50s counter dotted with red stools that swivel the full 360 degrees. The kitchen--its griddle and all other culinary machinery--is still in full view, including the cooks, who assemble the barbecue plates, dish up greens and black-eyed peas and slice ribs with martial dexterity.

The spirit of breakfast is alive and well here at Jon-Jon's (albeit a late breakfast on weekdays, from 7am on Saturdays). Portions are ample and all the traditional combinations are represented. In keeping with the Southern theme, you can now have grits in place of potatoes, biscuits--delicious--instead of toast.

If you come for lunch or dinner, count on the ribs. It's the best barbecue on the menu ($10 for five pieces). The chefs understand the rudiments of cooking ribs--they do it long and slow over an even heat until the meat is full of smoke, sweet and succulent, and tears from the bones in a single breath. And they're addictive too. The more I ate, the more I wanted. If you have problems with your triglycerides, be judicious. They're full of fat--yum--and very rich.

So are the hot links ($9 for two, or $12 with the ribs). The first incision released a flow of juice and wafting aromas of pepper and spice, which are the keystones of this famous barbecue specialty. For lunch, you can have your link on a bun for $4.50, a bargain.

We were less impressed with both the chicken ($10 for four pieces) and the tri-tip ($11.50). I found the beef dry. I won't say overcooked, but close. The liberal application of sauce--very sweet, not spicy hot--revived the beef to some degree, but did not help the chicken, our least favorite.

All the side dishes, including the moist, buttery cornbread and the extraordinary sweet potato pie (for dessert), bore the signature of authentic Southern-style cooking. My companion and I concurred that we could've had bowls of greens and cornbread with nothing else and been fully satisfied. The greens were cooked in a country broth--a wonderful soup in itself--flavored with pieces of pork meat. We had double servings of the black-eyed peas simmered slow to fork-tender perfection. The yams were candy sweet, full of flavor and color. We enjoyed the potato salad--a serviceable picnic variety--but it paled in comparison to the other sides.

For dessert, don't leave without a piece of sweet potato pie; it's some of the best we've had. It was so good, we had them pack up two more for takeout.

Jon-Jon's is run by warm, good-natured people, the type who'll sit down at your table, fan themselves with a napkin and tell you just how it is. They don't fool around with fancy descriptions. The specialties--like the catfish and sweet potato pie--are listed on papers tacked to the wall. They point, you read. Plates are delivered without fuss, but always with a smile and a friendly word. As the menu states, this is the place "where great families meet to eat." Believe it!

Jon-Jon's Southern Style Cuisine
Address: 154 Post St., San Jose
Phone: 408/279-0232
Hours: Tue.-Wed. 10:30am-6pm, Thu. 10:30am-8pm, Fri 10:30am-10pm, Sat. 7am-10pm
Dinner Entrees: $9-$13
Other Locations: Eastridge Mall, third floor (408/238-5936); and 1305 Old Oakland Road (408/297-5799).

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From the July 15-21, 1999 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 1999 Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

For more information about the San Jose/Silicon Valley area, visit sanjose.com.

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