Jim Morris gets the smoker ready outside of his new Niles restaurant, Jim’s Smokin’ Cafe. (Leader photo/CRAIG HAUPERT)
Jim Morris gets the smoker ready outside of his new Niles restaurant, Jim’s Smokin’ Cafe. (Leader photo/CRAIG HAUPERT)

Archived Story

Movie theater gets restaurant

Published 8:40am Thursday, June 5, 2014

Niles grad opens barbecue inside Wonderland Cinema

Barbecue lovers in Niles do not have to travel far to satisfy their fix.

Niles High School graduate Jim Morris has opened a new restaurant — Jim’s Smokin’ Cafe — at 402 N. Front St., located inside the Wonderland Cinema.

The menu isn’t large, but includes the barbecue staples such as pulled pork, barbecue beef sandwiches and homemade bourbon baked beans.

“I’ll put my pulled pork up against anybody’s,” said Morris, who graduated from Niles in 1987.

What makes his pulled pork special?

The 45-year-old said it is the seasoning and the fact that he doesn’t smoke it too long.

“The joke is everyone wants to be Memphis or Kansas City style and I’m not. I am just trying to do what tastes good,” he said. “I respect everybody that barbecues but what I found is people in this area do not like heavy smoke. Mine is a mixture between smoke and braise.”

Other items include the island pork taco, beef burrito, pasta salad, coleslaw and garden salad. He makes his own barbecue sauces and currently has two varieties: jalapeno balsamic (nicknamed the “OMG sauce”) and a habanero version.

Check out the Facebook page — facebook.com/jimssmokincafe — for daily specials, like fire roasted chicken salad.

“I am constantly playing around, doing a lot of experiments,” he said.

A former auto sales manager, Morris opened the cafe on Friday.

He said he has always enjoyed cooking, but got heavy into it the past several years with the advent of Food Network television programming.

“My biggest fun was seeing something on Food TV and duplicating the recipe. That is basically what taught me a lot of this stuff,” he said. “I give a lot of kudos to (chefs) Emeril (Lagasse) and Bobby Flay.”

Morris has been catering private events on the side for the past four years while working in the auto business. When he got out of the car industry in April, he decided to find the answer to a question that had been pestering him — can I succeed as a restaurant owner?

“If something has been nagging you for a long time, you are not going to be able to do anything else right until you try it,” he said. “It’s been a blast so far.”

As for the car business — he’s not missing it.

“No matter how good of a deal somebody got on their car, they still feel like they got (a bad deal),” he said. “People aren’t expecting the food to be as good as it is. It is nice having positive feedback.”


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