Soulful Food

Surrounded by crumbling stores with newspaper-covered windows stands a teal historic landmark. A glowing sign in the window reads "A Nice Place for Nice People." Entering Jumbo's, you're greeted with the same welcoming smile and attentive service that have made this restaurant thrive for the past fifty years. Robert "Bobby" Flam started working in his father's business when he was only ten. "In the Fifties, this was a middle-class white neighborhood. In the Sixties, it started to change," he recalls.

Jumbo's evolved with the times. In 1966, it was among Miami's first four restaurants to integrate; it is the only one still open for business. In 1967, Bobby hired three of the first African American employees of a white-owned integrated restaurant: Tommy Williams, Martha Sanford, and Eunice Cason, who worked at Jumbo's for 25 years until she passed away. "All of my employees from the Sixties are deceased," he says. Ten of Bobby's previous workers have gone on to become wealthy, thriving businesspeople. "They call and say thank you, now that they've gone on to be much more successful than I am," he laughs. Bobby sees the potential in his eager employees and promotes them from within. "I haven't hired a cook off the street in 25 years," he declares. "You don't have to be the best waitress in the world. If you're not friendly, you can't work for me." Bobby has learned from other people's mistakes. "The difference between me and the average guy is, I'm more positive than the average guy. And I've got staying power. I have no plans to retire," he affirms. The steady stream of customers reveals no reason why he should.

Although Jumbo's serves everything from seafood salad to sautéed chicken livers, this restaurant is best known for deep-fried soul food dished out with a heavy hand. Fried shrimp, fried chicken, fried grouper. Jumbo's is not the kind of place you go if you're on a low-carb diet. Or any kind of diet, period. "Good food, good prices, good friends," Bobby Flam smiles. "And if you can't finish your food, you'll have enough for lunch tomorrow."

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Patrice Elizabeth Grell Yursik

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