I can’t believe I’ve been doing restaurant reviews here on Chattavore for nearly a year and a half and I haven’t reviewed a single Cleveland restaurant! It’s not exactly convenient for me, but there are lots of local restaurants there and I’ve totally missed a gold mine of opportunity! I have thought about (and even suggested) Jenkin’s Deli on several occasions but there was always a reason that it didn’t seem like a good idea. Finally, the fact that I didn’t have eggs with which to cook Saturday morning breakfast provided me a perfect excuse for us to have lunch at Jenkin’s (I’ve been there a few times but all before the birth of the blog)!
Jenkin’s Deli has been around since 1976 and has two locations, one in Cleveland and one in Athens. They are the number one restaurant in Cleveland on Urbanspoon…so clearly they are doing something right. When we arrived shortly after noon, they were packed out and we had to wait about 10 minutes to be seated. We could have eaten at the bar without waiting but we didn’t realize that until right before we were seated anyway (by the way, they have an unorthodox approach to seating….when you walk in, instead of giving your name and the number in your party to a host or hostess, you write it down. There was a host and a hostess working and they were not only seating people but cleaning off tables as well).
The walls and the floors in Jenkin’s are very dark wood. It has a decor similar to what you used to see in Applebee’s or TGIFriday’s…lots of music and movie memorabilia plus photos of locals, newspaper clippings, etc. The restaurant has been in this location since very early on, after they outgrew their original location at the Cleveland Mall (I have no idea if that is what is now referred to as Bradley Square Mall or not). I learned this from the 1985 document proclaiming Jenkin’s as Cleveland’s official gathering place that I read while I was waiting to use the restroom….which is my only real beef with this place. It’s a single-person restroom! There was someone in the restroom and two people waiting in line when I got there…so I had lots of reading time. It might be time to figure out plan B for the restroom!
Our server, Hannah, greeted us and took our drink order very quickly. We also decided to order spinach dip off the appetizer menu ($5.99). They offer the typical casual dining appetizers…chips and salsa, fried pickles (which would normally make me salivate, but I wanted some spinach dip!), cheese sticks, and their very popular chicken salad (more about this in a minute). I don’t believe that their chips are homemade, but they were pretty good all the same. I liked the spinach dip but wouldn’t say it was the best I’ve ever had…I prefer a thicker dip with more spinach. This dip was more like a queso with some spinach and a few artichokes mixed in (I like big chunks of artichokes). It was a little spicy-I’m pretty sure there was cayenne in it-but not overly so. It definitely got hotter the more we ate. I would order it again.
I believe I have been to Jenkin’s twice…the first time I had chicken tenders (I was in a different place back then) and the second time I had a burger. I liked both and contemplated ordering a burger again today, but decided instead to go with the chicken salad, which they are known for (and actually sell in bulk quantities for people to take home)….my mom told me it was great. I went with the half-portion chicken salad sandwich, which is served on Texas toast, with the house made kettle chips (yea yea yea! House made chips!) for $5.59. I did really enjoy the chicken salad….it was creamy and perfectly seasoned, no nuts, onions (or if there were, they were very finely chopped), grapes, etc. I would have preferred the sandwich served on whole wheat bread-perhaps from the Bread Basket, which is located almost directly across the street?-but I would definitely order this chicken salad again. Or order it in bulk to try to decode the recipe myself! I loved the chips, thick-cut but not overly thick….very crispy and not too salty. Score!
Philip decided to get the Deli burger ($7.49) plus smoked cheddar for $0.50 and bacon for $1.00. He decided on the fries instead of the chips. The Deli burger is a half-pound burger (they also offer a quarter-pound burger for $5.49) that has a great grilled flavor. It is served with lettuce, tomato, and onion, plus a little paper cup of mayo on the side (ketchup and mustard are on the table). The burger was delicious and the smoked cheddar and bacon finished it perfectly. Philip was less than thrilled with the fries…not that they were bad, but they just weren’t stellar. I think they were probably frozen, which was a bit of a disappointment given that the chips were (a) homemade; and (b) delicious. Anyway, Philip was very happy with his burger.
Our final bill was around $22 before tip (we drank water). Our server was friendly and adorable (she looked like Taylor Swift) and kept our drinks filled…which is a big deal for us. We were very happy.
Jenkin’s offers an interesting variety of dishes…some your “typical” casual dining fare (chicken tenders, fish and chips, chicken strip salad) but others are a little more unusual, like chicken Florentine (topped with spinach dip) and Zippy Chippy chicken (topped with peppers, mushrooms, onions, and Monterey Jack cheese). They have a pretty varied selection of homemade soups (vegetable beef, cream of broccoli, French onion, black bean, chicken and rice, and a soup of the day) and several desserts (I noticed peanut butter pie and French silk pie on the menu board).
One more thing I have to say about Jenkin’s….if you’ve read my About, you know that I am an exceptional education (otherwise known as special education) teacher, and I have an uncle who has Down syndrome. People with disabilities are a huge part of my life, and I have a soft spot for businesses that care about their interests. Some articles hanging on a bulletin board by the restroom profiled a couple of ladies that attend the Trousdale School, a school in Bradley County for adults with disabilities, who are employed by Jenkin’s. If I knew nothing else of this restaurant, that would have won me over on the spot. This is a restaurant that cares about the community and cares about people-all people. If for no other reason than that…you should eat there.
Jenkin’s Deli is located at 88 Mouse Creek Road NW, Cleveland, TN 37312. You can call them at 423-478-1648. There is a website listed on their Urbanspoon page (www.jenkins-deli.com) but it was not working while I was typing this so I suspect it is no longer active. They do have a Facebook page. Check them out!