The art glass produced at Bywater's Studio Inferno is widely admired for its form and beauty. Recently, though, I found myself admiring the form, beauty and flavor of a Reuben sandwich served at the same address, this time from Jims (3000 Royal St., 304-8224), an impressive new sandwich shop that shares the roof with Studio Inferno's glass-blowing kilns.
The pastrami and corned beef were sliced thin and stacked high, the sauerkraut had a pickled crunch, the Swiss and provolone formed a stretchy cap and a seam of Russian dressing ran along the top piece of dense, golden-griddled rye. It's hard to find a truly memorable Reuben in New Orleans, but here was one at an unlikely new lunch spot in Bywater.
Jims is named for co-owners Jim Renier and Jim Vella. They started talking about opening a food business together, and soon the idea for a specialty sandwich shop took shape. What emerged is a menu of sandwiches that come from traditions not strongly represented in New Orleans: deli classics like the Reuben, a cheese steak, a Cuban sandwich, a bratwurst simmered in beer and chicken cordon bleu.
"The first thing people say when they come in is 'What, no po-boys?'" Vella says. "We're not anti po-boy by any means, but we just figured we'd do all-American classics and focus on using the best ingredients we could possibly find."
For years, Vella has run his Vella Vetro art glass studio on the second floor of the Studio Inferno building, so converting what had been Inferno's retail gallery space into an eatery was a natural choice. The restaurant is small and has a suitably artful feel, one melding salvaged woodwork and steel with the classic lines of a diner.
Jims bakes its own bread in-house. The menu offers a few salads, including one with blackened shrimp, cherry tomatoes and hard-boiled eggs. Among the lighter sandwiches are a caprese, a vegetarian version of the cheese steak made with portabello mushrooms, and a straight-up grilled cheese on sourdough. Fries are hand-cut, and there's a refreshing tomato, cucumber and onion salad on the list of sides.
Jims serves lunch Tuesday through Sunday, from 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.