On the Line: James Nunn of Jimmy's Famous American Tavern, Part One

We try our best to meet up with OTL subjects in person. But in the case of James Nunn, it wasn't possible. His responses are succinct; his personality a bit snarky. Jimmy's may be under construction, but this former Guttermouth musician is ready to rock.

Tell us about the cuisine at Jimmy's. How will it stand out from other taverns?
We do regional American. We make everything from scratch, with the best possible ingredients, all sourced responsibly. We really try to respect the ingredients. We do not get too fussy or fancy — just great, honest food.

Where was your most recent meal?

The taquería by my house. I had mole made by the owner's grandmother. Totally amazing!!


Favorite meal growing up:

Your best recent food find:
The tomatoes in my garden are starting to come in, and they are damn good.

What do you recommend for first-timers to Jimmy's Famous American Tavern?
You must find your own path, my child.

Culinarily speaking, Orange County has the best:
Vietnamese food. With Little Saigon right there in the middle of OC, you would be hard-pressed to find better Vietnamese food outside of Vietnam.

One food you can't live without:
I would never be happy if I could not have a good baguette, charcuterie, cheese and good wine. Need I say why?

What is your beverage of choice?
Brown liquor, mostly bourbon or whiskey. Only the really good stuff.

Your earliest food memory:

My dad was in the Navy, so he actually liked chipped beef on toast. I remember having to eat that all the time while growing up.

How did you and restaurateur David Wilhelm meet?

I worked for him at French 75.

Who is Jimmy?
My little friend.

Where else have you worked?

I worked in Hollywood at the Pig 'n Whistle for a while, as well as a restaurant that is no longer around called White Lotus. French 75, too. And a bunch of other places as a line cook, way back when.

Best culinary tip for the home cook:
Don't be afraid to make mistakes. Just go for it and have fun.

Do you know if the draft beers will be San Diego-based?
With San Diego having so many breweries, we will definitely be featuring beers from there, as well as craft beers from all over the U.S.

Favorite chef:
I could never pick one. I am a fan of chefs who don't give a shit about what people think of them. They just follow their own path. Marco Pierre White and Martin Picard seem pretty cool. There are way too many to mention whom I respect.

Strangest thing you've ever eaten:
I don't know what would be considered strange these days. I like to try everything . . . at least once.

On the menu, you state, “Split requests politely declined. . . . Share plates gladly provided upon request.” What is the reasoning behind that?

There are several items that simply can't be split. How do we split a pork shank or anything with a bone. We are not fine dining, so we love the fact that our guests have to pass plates around, talk about the dishes and share our food. Dining should be a fun and social experience.

Favorite places to eat (besides your own):
I like to keep it simple. Good Mexican food, a nice bowl of pho — 370 Common in Laguna Beach is doing a great job.

You're making breakfast. What are you having?
I prefer a European-style breakfast for myself: some salumi, cheese, fresh bread, yogurt with some fresh fruit, and lots of coffee and OJ.

Weirdest customer request (and did you do it?):
I don't know if it's the weirdest, but the saddest request was this guy who always wanted his foie gras totally well-done. I gave it to him more toward medium-well. He was paying for it, but I just could not completely roach it; that would be criminal.

Is there a dish you'd like to learn how to make?
I really want to start getting into making my own charcuterie.

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