Editor’s Note: The Biz Beat is a series highlighting local small businesses and restaurants in Silicon Valley.
After being burnt to the ground in a devastating fire, Jackie’s Place rose from the ashes to dish out authentic soul food passed down through four generations of family recipes.
The restaurant, located at 840 N. First St. offers a combination of Texas barbecue and soul food. While the chili and Uncle Greg’s barbecue ribs reflect owner Jacquelyn “Jackie” Jackson’s Texan roots, the soul food comes from her maternal side, including her mother Laverne’s Sweet Potato Pie and grandma Frankie’s Buttermilk Pie.
Everything is made from scratch. Jackson and her children start early peeling potatoes and cutting onions and greens. They brine chicken and smoke and season the barbecue.
Customer Jared Blancett likes the restaurant’s environment, which features a word wall that shares the Jackson family’s history and philosophy: “Don’t Forget your Roots,” “#BLM,” “Feel Good Food,” “Soul For Real,” “Love & Hope” and “Inspire.”
He raves about the amazing food.
“You feel like home when you come here,” Blancett told San José Spotlight.
Regular customer Quaylin Braggs said it’s the best place in San Jose to eat and wishes it was open more often than Thursday to Sunday.
“I would come every day if I could,” he said. “Soul food is good for the soul, but it’s not easy to cook every day and still be good.”
He recommends the seafood gumbo, complete with crab, chicken, Andouille sausage and shrimp. The eatery also offers traditional chicken and waffles with homemade maple syrup.
Setbacks and COVID
For Jackson, the COVID-19 pandemic started a chain reaction of multiple setbacks that would’ve broken most people.
The first location on Sixth Street had a line that snaked down the block and around the corner. In March 2020, the eatery was forced to close when emergency shutdown orders were imposed. When it reopened in May, a fire burned down the restaurant.
Jackson steeled herself and held on.
“Everybody else was shutting down while I was figuring out how to reopen,” she told San José Spotlight.
After the fire, the owner raised the rent and Jackson left. When she toured her current location on First Street, building owners Louis and Effie Pappas convinced her to move in.
Jackson’s daughter, co-owner Kiana Jackson, said the owners didn’t want to sell the building to anyone who was going to tear it down.
“They have a passion for food,” Kiana Jackson said, “and gave us an incredible deal.”
Jackie’s Place reopened less than a year later in March 2021 with five of her children as partners.
“I couldn’t run this place by myself,” she said, adding it has a full bar and kitchen with a bakery.
She was also buoyed by a GoFundMe campaign started by a friend which raised $25,000.
“The community wanted us back,” Jackie Jackson said. “People dropped checks in the mail and sent letters saying, ‘We got your back.’ I was empowered by the support.”
But struggles continued. Her children caught COVID, along with half her employees, and the restaurant was forced to close again. This time, during the most lucrative time of the year—Dec. 20-Jan. 6. Upon reopening, more than half her workers didn’t return.
“We already were having a hard time hiring people,” she said. “We’ve had challenges on all sides.”
San Jose Food Club’s kickoff will help get out the word about Jackie’s Place. On March 19, the restaurant will offer a specialty menu, including black salmon with Cajun seafood king sauce.
Kiana Jackson said the exclusive menu lets them branch out and serve food that’s “above and beyond” their regular offerings.
“It’s comfort food and something we want to share with the community,” she said. “That’s what Jackie’s Place is all about; bringing something new to the South Bay that is women-led, family-run and Black-owned.”
Jackie Jackson is resolute about keeping the business going.
“We’re holding out hope that our business grows,” she said, “and that the community won’t just support us for Black History Month but the other 11 months, too.”
Contact Lorraine Gabbert at [email protected]