A small Jacksonville restaurant with a big reputation for classic Southern fried chicken, smothered pork chops, ox tails and strawberry cake — all made fresh from scratch — soon will open its second down-home eatery.
Shut Em Down Authentic Southern Restaurant is a family owned and operated restaurant focusing on homemade, from-scratch comfort and soul food. The modest-looking restaurant at 6315 San Juan Ave. has earned a loyal following since it opened six years ago
Firmly rooted on the Westside, the restaurant is expanding. Owners Richard and Cathy Jones plan to open a second Shut Em Down ASR next month at 6426 Bowden Road on the Southside.
“We’re hoping to open by the end of of February,” said Cathy Jones, taking a brief break from painting at the new location to talk with the Times-Union.
The menu will mirror the offerings at the original restaurant, she said.
“Everyone knows us for our fried chicken. They say we have the best fried chicken in Jacksonville. They say it tastes like their grandma’s,” Jones said. “They also say our collard greens are one of the best collard greens they’ve tasted around the area.”
The restaurant’s smothered pork chops and ox tails, she said round out their top three dishes. All are from family recipes.
“They are the things that we’d cook for Sunday dinners. We’d have family over, and friends would stop by and come grab food,” said Jones, who along with her husband, cooked many of those Sunday meals.
The couple are restaurant veterans. Both were teenagers when they began working in restaurants and worked their way up in the industry. They had always talked about opening their own place.
Fulfilling that longtime dream, Richard Jones founded Shut Em Down in 2014. His wife, Cathy, and his brother, Thomas, subsequently joined him in the business.
They initially opened in the Argyle area but out-grew that location in three years, so they relocated to San Juan Avenue on the Westside.
“He and I do all the cooking,” she said of her husband. Her youngest daughter and brother-in-law are learning the business so they can have two cooks at each location. Richard Jones focuses on the meat, while she handles the side dishes and desserts.
Her cakes, especially strawberry, are big sellers.
“I make different cakes and I have no rhyme or reason when I make what or whatever. I just make whatever comes to mind,” she said. Some are family recipes that she’s inherited, while others are those that she has found and tweaked to her family’s taste.
As important as the cooking, so too, is a welcoming atmosphere of genuine Southern hospitality. Employees at the San Juan site know many of their customers by name, and just as important — whether they drink their tea sweet or “un” (short-hand for unsweet).
“We knew that we could do well as long as we served good, quality food, had a clean restaurant and had great customer service ... making people feel welcome. And if we’re consistent in all those things, then we couldn’t fail,” she said.
The new place will share the same name — “Shut Em Down Authentic Southern Restaurant.”
That name, she said, came about because they felt confident in their cooking and business skills that they would shut down the competition.
Diners give them high marks.
“It’s real food, and they do it right and everybody is so nice,” said Barbara Sutcliffe, who favors Shut Em Down’s meatloaf and smothered pork chops as well as collard greens, string beans and mac & cheese. “And you can’t beat their cakes. They have all different kinds of cakes and they’re all so good.”
The Bowden Road location will have about 40 seats — about half as many as the San Juan Avenue restaurant. The new eatery will be geared to better accommodate take-out, Jones said.
She said those are about the only changes planned.
“We want to keep our recipes and our food exactly the same, whether we open one or 10 other restaurants. That is really important to us,” Jones said of their “no short-cuts” cooking style.