TASTY TRAVELS: Barbecue and more

By Ginna Parsons/NEMS Daily Journal

Jim Beane never really intended to open a restaurant 14 years ago in downtown Tupelo. He just enjoyed barbecuing for people in his spare time and he’d help his brother-in-law with the Tupelo Hog Roasters when he could.
“Then it got to where I was just cooking for people more and more and finally I bit the bullet and bought this place,” said Beane. “Our grand opening was the same day as the coliseum opened. We had ours at 2 o’clock and I think they had theirs at 7.”
Bar-B-Q by Jim, located across the street from the BancorpSouth Arena and next to the bus station in downtown Tupelo, specializes in pulled pork barbecue with all the fixings, especially the homemade baked beans, and plate lunches.
“The baked bean recipe I came up with on my own,” he said. “I do them the way we like to eat them. They do have our pulled pork in them but the rest of the recipe is a secret.”
The plate lunches are about as popular as the barbecue, a testament to Beane’s business acumen.
“We offered plate lunches about two weeks after we opened,” he said. “I just think you need something other than barbecue. If three people come in here to eat, one of them might not want barbecue. One might just want vegetables.”

Loyal customers
Beane, president of the Tupelo Restaurant Association, said his catering business, Cotton Bowl Catering, has taken a hit as the economy has slowed down. He doesn’t have as many carry-out jobs because companies aren’t treating employees to lunch as often as they used to.
“At first I wasn’t going to do catering, but when you’ve got people who say, ‘Jim, I need 100 steaks,’ then you do it,” he said. “You do everything in the catering business.”
But thankfully, the recent spate of hot weather has brought more customers in to dine at lunch, his busiest time of day.
“Lately with the heat hitting we’ve been busier than ever, but people want smaller portions,” he said.
Beane figures about 70 percent of his customers are regulars, with some coming in three or more times a week.
Like John Nail of Mississippi Methodist Senior Services.
“I usually get the plate lunch, but I have fallbacks in case they have choices I can’t eat because of dietary restrictions,” Nail said. “Barbecue is one of those fallbacks. And I’ll go out of my way to be there on Thursdays when he has catfish. The only time I’m not there on Thursday is if I’m out of town or I have a meeting that goes through lunch.”
Nail cited home-cooked food, the variety of dishes and reasonable prices as reasons he frequents the restaurant so often. Familiarity is another.
“You remember that TV show ‘Cheers,’ where everybody knows your name?” he said. “That’s the way it is at Jim’s. Everybody knows my name.”
Ty Robinson of Robinson and Associates, another regular, echoed those sentiments.
“They make me feel welcome,” Robinson said. “They make me feel like I’m part of the family. That’s why I go at least three times a week. They’re a good family and they have good food. It’s a lot better than my cooking.”
Beane by no means takes the credit for the restaurant’s success. That goes to his family and longtime employees.
His wife, Barbara, a teacher, often helps out at the restaurant and his son, Jordan Page and his wife, Amber, are full-time employees. Son Jim II and daughter Betsy have also done their share of work there.
“All my crew has been here for a while,” Beane said. “They watch stuff. They know how I want it done. We watch each other to make sure everything’s just right. If they wouldn’t serve it to their families, it doesn’t make it out the door. You just surround yourself with good people and you’ll make it.”
Beane doesn’t like to brag, but he has served his food to such entertainers as Don Henley of the Eagles, Reba McEntire, Taylor Hicks and Rascal Flatts, thanks to his proximity to the BancorpSouth Arena.
“I don’t know a lot of the entertainers, but I know their road crews,” he said. “They come over here wanting to eat. Sometimes they beat on the back door late at night to get our barbecue.”