San Jose’s soul food restaurant Jackie’s Place rises from its ashes – in a new larger location

To learn the story of chef-entrepreneur Jackie Jackson, read the Wall of Painted Poems at her new San Jose restaurant, “Jackie’s Place.”

There’s “Hondo, TX”, Jackson’s birthplace, and so many family recipes. And “(408) BELIEVE”, for San Jose, where she graduated from Piedmont Hills High School and took root after a few years in Santa Barbara. Words to follow: “Don’t forget your roots”, “#BLM” and “Don’t Be Eye Candy, Be Soul Food. »A tribute to the desserts of his mother and grandmother, which occupy dear places on the menu:” Sweet potato pie from Laverne “and” Buttermilk pie from Mama Frankie “.

And above all: “It’s a family thing.

After a difficult year in which she lost her restaurant on Sixth Street first to the COVID-19 shutdown and then, last May, to a fire, Jackson emerged with a new restaurant. in large and spacious excavations. The address has long been a favorite on the San Jose food scene: 840 N. First St.

We met this caterer turned restaurateur to learn about her culinary history, discover the soul food and barbecue menu and find out what she has planned for this next chapter. (Spoiler alert: Jambalaya is coming.)

The BBQ ribs with potato and bean salad and the chicken and strawberry waffles have many fans at Jackie’s Place in San Jose. (Randy Vazquez / Bay Area News Group)

Q: Who first inspired you to cook?

A: I never had any professional training per se, but I learned from a professional. I have been cooking since I was about 8 years old. I was taught by my mother, Laverne Ford, who was a chef for most of her adult life. She had a present in the kitchen. Everything she cooked up was amazing and looked beautiful. (As a kid, I also loved watching cooking shows with Julia Child and Yan Can Cook!)

We had a large family and with that, large family reunions. Food was at the forefront of our lives, and cooking was the activity my mom and I did together. She not only taught me how to cook, but also how to cook for large groups of people. I ended up raising eight kids so this was one of the best skills I could have learned. I don’t think I can cook for less than six people!

Q: You built a career in the restaurant business before opening your first brick-and-mortar business in 2018. What types of events?

A: My first official restoration job 27 years ago was for a high school graduation ceremony hosted by the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority. It was for 300 guests, and I managed to do it in a small Alum Rock banquet hall kitchen on my own. I started dealing with close friends and family, then their business associates and colleagues, and eventually my business and client list expanded to companies like TiVo, the San Francisco 49ers. , the City of San Jose and the Morrison & Foerster law firm.

Q: You are a rarity: you reopened to a larger space during the pandemic. How did the location of North First Street come about?

A: After last year’s fire, we had to take the time to regroup and figure out what our next moves would be. Honestly, we weren’t sure how to move forward, especially in the midst of a pandemic. Our Japantown location was condemned, and reopening didn’t seem like an option.

One day, one of our employees contacted us to let us know that there was a building on North First Street for rent. I was hesitant, but decided to check it out anyway. The moment I entered the building I knew this place would be the new Jackie’s Place. The owners of the premises, Louis and Effie Pappas, welcomed me with open arms! They were kind, accommodating and reassuring. You don’t meet people like this all the time.

It wasn’t until I met them that I realized I had been to this place before. It used to be the Bold Knight restaurant, and my church hosted a Christmas gala in the banquet hall. My mother, who was suffering from dementia at the time, was there. She barely spoke, but while visiting the restaurant with the Pappas family, I realized this was the place where my mom sang her last solo.

Everything became clear to me. I needed to reopen! Not only to carry on its heritage, but to create a place where memories are formed. A place that my children and their children would be proud of. A place where the community can become a part of the JP family.

SAN JOSE – APRIL 8: The Cobbler fishing with vanilla ice cream at Jackie’s Place in San Jose. (Randy Vazquez / Bay Area News Group)

Q: What is your dish of pride and joy?

A: I take pride in all of my dishes and cook each one with love, but one of my favorite dishes is the smothered chicken, not only because it’s saturated with sauce, but because it brings me back to those get-togethers. family. That’s what soul food is for. This is the type of food that should give you comfort.

Q: Someone is walking into your restaurant for the first time. What should they order?

A: Combination plate The best of both worlds. It’s all in the name. We specialize in soul food and barbecue, so why not buy both? You also get two sides: your choice of macaroni and cheese, candied yams, collard greens, fried corn, potato salad, cornbread or many more options. When it comes to desserts, our Banana Pudding and Sweet Potato Pie are second to none.

Q: Are there new dishes on the North First Street menu?

A: We now serve chicken, waffles and oxtails every day. We’ve added entrees, soups, sandwiches and bar drinks, and we’ll be adding fried green tomatoes, jambalaya, and shrimp hush puppies very soon.

Q: What advice would you give to other women of color with entrepreneurial dreams?

A: I am a Christian and sincerely believe that everything in life is according to God’s purpose. I could have left in 2020 after the pandemic and the fire, I could have counted my losses and not met the Pappas family … but if I really take a moment to think about it, all of these things were needed to bring me where I am today.

My new role model is the advice I would give: “For every setback, God makes a major comeback. If you are passionate about your job and love what you do, don’t let tribulations weigh you down. Keep this dream and keep going!

Details: Open for outdoor dining and take-out from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday to Saturday. Look for indoor meals at social distance to start in late May. 840 N. First St., San José. 408-490-4653;

Banana pudding is one of the best sellers at Jackie’s Place. Order it to eat out or buy it ready to go at the reception desk. (Randy Vazquez / Bay Area News Group)

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