In 1974, Jimmy Minadakis converted a former farmhouse turned bingo hall into what would be his legacy restaurant in Baltimore, Maryland. “He came over from Greece with nothing, started working as a busboy in Washington D.C.,” said his middle son, Nik Minadakis. Jimmy saved up money to move to Baltimore where he opened a bar with his brother. After closing their bar Jimmy opened his namesake restaurant that endures 46 years later.
Nik moved to Florida ten years ago and opened up the food truck six years ago. His goal was to bring the sumptuous flavors and well-loved reputation of Jimmy’s in Maryland to the Sunshine State in hopes of one day opening a brick and mortar here.
Today, Nik’s older brother John and younger brother Tony run the northeast family eatery. Nik carries on the legacy here with his wife Frances and two sons Demetri and Pavlo.
Nik’s food truck, Jimmy’s Famous Seafood Express is an homage to their Maryland location. He says that’s worked out well down here not only for the new fans of their food, but the many Marylanders that make the connection, often asking, ‘Jimmy’s! So, which son are you?’
Make it Crabby
“It’s Maryland-style seafood – fresh crab meat, fresh Gulf shrimp – everything is fresh and prepared to order,” said Nik. He uses the same seafood suppliers as their restaurant to maintain that same quality of the product for his food trucks and the Lakeland restaurant he plans to open within the year.
“Our most popular dish is by far the crab cake. It’s 6 ounces of all Jumbo Lump Maryland crab – all fresh crab meat.”
People also flock to the truck to get their hands on Jimmy’s Kung Pao Shrimp Tacos and Mahi Tacos. Whatever you do – make it crabby! You can add their crab dip to anything on the menu. You can add fries to any meal and make those crabby too, topped with their infamous crab dip, crab meat, Old Bay, and chipotle sauce.
Nik described their crab dip as “a Maryland tradition.” They put it on pretzels or dip their homemade onion loaf. People even order extra sides of it to use in their culinary endeavors at home. What can’t be made better by topping it with crab dip? For more of a surf and turf vibe, treat yourself to a Crabby Patty – an 8 oz. hamburger patty smothered in crab dip and topped off with fresh crab meat. Their Grouper sandwich and Crabby Chicken sandwich are popular as well.
Jimmy’s Famous Seafood Express travels all over Central Florida, frequenting lunch spots and breweries around Polk County like Brew Hub, Grove Roots, Swan Brewing, Front Page Brewing, and La La Land Liquor & Lounge. Nik is in the process of converting his second Greek food truck into another Jimmy’s Famous Seafood Express to meet the demand for their mouthwatering Maryland-inspired fare. Check their Facebook to see their location schedule!
The plan from the start was to open a brick and mortar restaurant in Lakeland mirroring their Maryland concept. “Within the next year we will absolutely have a restaurant,” Nik said. He plans to offer their food truck favorites and add even more to the Lakeland food scene including steamed crabs on the weekends, and a variety of raw, grilled, and baked oysters.
The food and digs will be fresh. He wants to cultivate a “laid back and fun” atmosphere. Nik plans to keep the famous food trucks in action too.
A Community Focus
“Jimmy’s is not just a restaurant – we do a lot for the community too. That’s how we were raised, it started with my dad and my mom,” he said. “He always taught us to be there for others and to help others if you’re in the position to help.”
“You’re not just supporting us for our food, you’re also investing your money back into the community.” During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Jimmy’s donated over 3,500 meals to essential and emergency workers.
Nik likes to see the reverberations of their positive energy and actions. Bartow Ford took a note from Jimmy’s and donated 800 meals, GEICO donated 1,000 meals, and Mark Lanier with State Farm donated 400, according to Nik.
Their Baltimore restaurant employs more than 100 people. During the pandemic, they didn’t have to let anyone go. They opened three food trucks to ensure that all of their staff were able to continue to earn a living.
Every year, Jimmy’s Seafood Express supports Toys for Tots and puts together a Thanksgiving meal for the Salvation Army. “We take the food trucks down there and instead of giving them the typical turkey dinner they’re going to get four times for the two weeks of Thanksgiving, we donate a seafood dinner,” he said.
Additionally, Jimmy’s started a scholarship in honor of a family member who passed away two years ago. “We started a scholarship in her name, the Maria Nikolaidis Scholarship Fund,” Nik said. They put together a golf tournament, raising over $8,000 for a student to be able to attend All Saints Academy in Maria’s name.
This overflowing giving spirit is a mentality the Minadakis brothers share – instilled by their father. Jimmy passed away 17 years ago and Nik said every day they wake up to make him proud. “We have to keep him proud – it’s not make him proud once. We have his name,” he said.
Jimmy’s Famous Seafood Express
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