Not long after Jim Matson of Juicy Jim's Pizzeria began making pizza, he received a letter from his landlord instructing him to stop. The Domino's next door on Highland apparently had a contract with a non-compete clause for the two-bay structure. Thereafter, Matson focused on his signature cheese steaks and hoagies.
But the native New Jerseyan was not giving up on pies. When Double Deuce, just across Highland, closed last year, Matson jumped at the opportunity to open a pizzeria — a mere 50 yards from Domino's.
While his decision to open a pizzeria so close to Domino's might be construed as cheeky, it certainly isn't hostile. Matson has been interested in serving pizzas and authentic Italian dishes since he was a young boy in New Jersey, working at a cheese steak and pizza joint called Greasy Tony's. "I was cooking. I learned how to make all his food: pizzas, cheese steaks, hoagies. And in here, I'm doing pasta meals, which I learned from Tony's mother."
Everything is made-to-order, including the pizzas. "I make the dough; I shred the cheese; I make the gravy," Matson says. "It's like a designer pie, but they're not overpriced."
Matson also proudly notes his authentic garlic bread with real butter and garlic, pastas with red-wine shrimp sauce or white clam sauce, and stuffed shells. You can build your own stromboli from an extensive list of ingredients, including homemade meatballs (again from Tony's mother), Italian sausage, spinach, fresh garlic, and a number of different meat and vegetable toppings. Meat lovers should check out Matson's meat-stuffed pie, which is a ham, sausage, pepperoni, steak, and chicken pizza with a crust on top, basted in oil and garlic and topped with more cheese.
Matson envisions the pizzeria as a family place until 9 p.m., when the bar becomes 21 and up. They have Fat Tire, Yazoo, Dos Equis, and Ghost River on tap, as well as a number of bottled domestics and imports. A pool table, two jukeboxes, and a pinball machine make this a perfect casual spot for nearby university students and local families. Juicy Jim's is open every day from 11 a.m. to 3 a.m. and offers delivery within a certain range.
Juicy Jim's Pizzeria, 551 S. Highland (435-6243)
Mourners for the late El Chico off Poplar near Highland will be interested to see how La Hacienda fares in the same space. La Hacienda, which also has locations in Bartlett and Cordova, is one of at least four restaurants in the vicinity serving standard Mexican fare at reasonable prices. Expect a wide variety of menu options and combinations and a fair number of vegetarian dishes. Not much has changed in the way of décor, so if you've been missing the old El Chico hangout, go grab a margarita and drown your sorrows in your favorite booth.
La Hacienda is open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and from 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. Head in for a different happy hour special every day until 8:30 p.m.
La Hacienda, 3491 Poplar (452-9848)
Humdingers has opened a second location at 1134 North Germantown Parkway in Cordova. The unique South African cuisine has been a hit for the locally owned restaurant, offering a variety of chicken, fish, and shrimp dishes with a range of sauces. Their signature spice comes from the very hot piri piri chili pepper native to southern Africa, but they also serve milder dishes for more sensitive palates.
The new Humdingers location is still working on procuring a beer and liquor license, but they're already cranking out local favorites like grilled fish and piri piri chicken. And like the original location at Poplar and Massey, the second store has an open kitchen where you can watch as your dish is prepared. Humdingers is open every day from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Humdingers, 1134 N. Germantown Pkwy. (271-2912)