The economy is kicking fine-dining restaurants in the teeth. At least budget restaurants are doing somewhat better, as consumers spend more frugally and dine out less often. Case in point: Jim's Deli & Restaurant in Brighton Center, which has queues out the door at the peaks of breakfast, lunch, and dinner, bespeaking this nearly 20-year-old cafeteria-style restaurant's deliciousness and value.
Grab a tray and cutlery as you enter, order from the menu board, then slide past the short-order griddle, entrûes on steam tables, and self-serve cases for bottled soft drinks ($1.25–$1.95). Pay at the register, and only then grab one of 46 booth seats (no seat-saving beforehand). The room is spotless and plain; folks aren't here for the ambience, but the oversize, tasty breakfast plates, sandwiches, burgers, subs, wraps, salads, and dinners. A two-egg breakfast egg plate with two thick griddled ham slices ($4.75) includes toast and excellent Bliss-potato home fries. Big three-egg omelets ($5.50–$7.95) and good pancakes ($5.50–$6.75) draw huge weekend crowds seeking slightly greasy relief from last night's overindulgences.
Lunch features generous subs ($4.95–$6.95), clubs ($7.95), and sandwiches ($6.95–$7.95) made with Boar's Head deli meats and okay breads and rolls. Kebabs of chicken ($10.95) and sirloin tips ($11.95) are the high quality you'd expect from a solid Greek-American kitchen. Among the fine five-ounce burgers is an excellent patty melt ($6.95) with fries. Wraps are surprisingly good, like the Fusion ($6.75), a gorgeous behemoth stuffed with grilled chicken, green peppers, Swiss, onion rings, and red pepper flakes; not exactly health food, but delicious. The only real soft spots in the lineup are unfortunate ones for a diner: dull hash ($3.95), so-so fries ($1.95–$3.75), and weak filter coffee ($1.25).
More happily, the daily-changing dinner specials (mostly $9.95) are fresh, house-made, and impressive. These include heaping plates of roast beef, barbecue-sauced pot roast, roast turkey breast with stuffing, boiled dinner, and wonderful meatloaf. Dinners come with two sides, from good mashed potatoes, decent veggies (like slightly overcooked green beans), rice, and fries, to Greek and Caesar salads. As a bonus, this is a family operation: owner Jim and his brother work the register and the sandwich line, mom does the specials, dad cooks short-order. In times like these, it feels extra good to support a local, family-run business — especially one like Jim's that is so friendly, and hits the value-priced diner/deli mark so squarely.
Jim's Deli & Restaurant, located at 371 Washington Street, in Brighton, is open Monday through Friday, from 6 am to 9 pm; Saturday, from 7 am to 3 pm; and Sunday, from 8 am to 3 pm. Call 617.787.2626.