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Huntington Restaurant Celebrating 75 Years

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For The State Journal

HUNTINGTON – Change isn't something you're likely to find on the menu at Jim's Steak and Spaghetti. Changes don't come often at Jim's, one of Huntington's most popular restaurants.

Manager Jimmie Tweel Carder laughs as she quotes a long-time customer, Cabell County Circuit Clerk Jeff Hood: "If you want change, go to the bank. Don't go to Jim's." Still, its reluctance to change has proven to be a winning recipe for Jim's, which on Saturday. June 8, celebrates its 75th anniversary.

"We'll be open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. that day, serving a limited menu at rollback prices," Carder says.

Huntington Mayor Steve Williams will be on hand to help kick off the daylong celebration. Dale Jones and the Backyard Dixieland Jazz Stompers will play from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., and musician Tom Holcomb will entertain from 3 to 8 p.m.

The secret to the restaurant's success over the years? "Quality, consistency and a friendly atmosphere," says Carder.

Family-owned and situated in the same location at 920 5th Avenue throughout its long history, Jim's is a Huntington institution that's served lunch and dinner to generations of Tri-State residents and out-of-town visitors. The restaurant's walls are covered with photographs of celebrity visitors who've dropped in over the years. A photograph hangs over the booth where John F. Kennedy sat during his successful 1960 presidential primary campaign.

Arriving at Jim's, you'll be greeted by a hostess who, if you've arrived at the lunch or dinner rush hour, will politely ask you to take a place in line until a booth opens up.  Once you're seated, you'll be served by a waitress wearing a crisp white uniform and white shoes.

A brief history on the restaurant's website traces its origin to 1938 when, shortly after their engagement, Sally Rahall looked at Jim Tweel, her husband-to-be and declared, "Now that we're engaged, you need to find a job."

Shortly thereafter, Jim purchased the Kennedy Dairy Store. There he and Sally sold cheeseburgers, ice cream cones and milkshakes. In 1944, a man by the name of Roberto Elmoro stopped in and told Jim he wanted to help him start a spaghetti house. Using Elmoro's original recipe and expanding the restaurant to include the room next door, the Spaghetti House opened on July 14, 1944.

The restaurant continued to grow, and in 1948, the dairy bar and spaghetti house were combined to become Jim's Grill and Spaghetti House. In 1962, Jim expanded again. After some remodeling, the restaurant was given a new sign and its current name, Jim's Steak and Spaghetti House. Not much has changed at Jim's in the half-century since.

Over the years, Jim Tweel became one of the most familiar faces in downtown Huntington. Long-time patrons still remember him standing at the front counter in his crisp white shirt, cufflinks and fancy tie – an omni-present smile on his face.

Jim Tweel died in 2005, and his daughter Jimmie now manages the restaurant, continuing it in much the same fashion as her father, making only an occasional concession to changing times. Jim Tweel refused to honor credit cards, insisting that patrons pay by cash or check. Carder has continued that policy but not long ago installed an ATM so that patrons can use their plastic to obtain folding money they can use to pay their checks.