Jimmy Guidry is well-known throughout Acadiana for his iconic restaurant, Hub City Diner, which features affordable and delicious comfort foods such as hamburger steak, chicken tenders with Curly Q’s, omelets and all sorts of classic American diner food that pleases any palate, young or old.
In this episode of Discover Lafayette, Jimmy sat down with Jan Swift and discussed his journey in the hospitality business, which began when he was ten years old and his mother bought a Dairy Queen in Opelousas. As the youngest child, his job was to pick up the trash as he rode his bike to school each morning. By the time he was twelve, he was handling money; by fourteen, he was grinding beef and helping cook menu items from scratch. As a teen, he realized how much he enjoyed helping others and working with people.
A graduate of USL (now UL – Lafayette) in Marketing, Jimmy bartended for a couple of years and got his start at Uncle Pete’s where he befriended another well-known restauranteur, Charlie Goodson, who has remained one of his best friends. After waiting tables at Beef & Ale, Jimmy opened the Brass Rail in 1973. He quickly opened a second bar, Mother’s Mantle, which provided live entertainment six nights a week, plus Friday afternoons. The second locations of Brass Rail and Mother’s Mantle were opened in Baton Rouge, and Antler’s Restaurant in downtown Lafayette was then purchased and updated. Incredibly, yet another establishment followed, Boo Boo’s Nightclub on the Breaux Bridge Highway, which was an 800 seat honky-tonk open on Friday and Saturday nights and featured T. K. Hulin and Johnny Allen.
Mother’s Mantle was owned by Jimmy Guidry, along with The Brass Rail, Boo Boo’s Nightclub, and Antler’s Restaurant.
Back in those early days of his career, there were no opening and closing ordinances governing times of operation. So Jimmy joking stated, “We were the first to open, around 9 a.m., and the last to close, whenever the last person walked out, which could be 4 a.m. He kept a regimented schedule, rising at 10 a.m. to get to work, taking a break at 2 p.m. to work out, napping, and then getting up at 8 p.m. to get back to work.
By 1981, Jimmy realized he didn’t need to be in the bar business anymore and sold his interest in all endeavors. He joined Cuco’s Mexican Restaurant’s management team and had a fifteen-year run, first as a general manager, and then regional manager. He loved his job and attributes his experience with Cuco’s and his wonderful boss as providing an outstanding training ground for learning systemized procedures for purchasing of food and equipment, leasing, and management. He was eventually ready to take on ownership of his own restaurant.
In 1998, Jimmy was dining with Charlie Goodson and asked if anything in the Lafayette area was available for sale. Charlie had been an early partner in Hub City Diner with chef Pat Mould and George Graham and knew that George may be willing to sell his interest as he had been the sole owner for several years. The sale was consummated and Jimmy Guidry has been the owner of Hub City Diner since 1998.
Hub City Diner is a staple for so many demographics in the community. Regular customers fall into several categories and some show up every day: entrepreneurs show up around 7 a.m. with their Wall Street Journal and study the day’s news; around 8 a.m., the casual guys come in and have meetings with friends and colleagues; at 9 a.m., another group comes in for breakfast. Around 10 a.m., a group of people show up who eat two meals a day and have their first meal at the diner. It all begins again at noon, and so on.
“Over the years, we’ve had people eat all their meals with us, seven days a week, two times per day. When we were closed for a holiday, we’d have their meals delivered.”
Jimmy attributes his continued success to his team, the employees who make it all happen. “You’re only as good as your people.” He has low employee turnover, thus fewer problems and better consistency in the way the food is prepared. His General Manager, Jason Redmon, has been on staff since March 22, 1998, and will soon celebrate his 22nd anniversary with Hub City Diner.
Jimmy Guidry, along with his General Manager, Jason Redmon, when Jimmy received the Restauranteur of the Year Award from the Louisiana Restaurant Association’s Acadiana Chapter.
Around 2004, the Acadiana Arts Council launched “Pelicans on Parade, an endeavor to involve local artists and elementary students in a holistic approach to learning. The pelicans were so popular that the whole community got on board and dozens were commissioned and put on display throughout the region. One pelican particularly enjoyed by all is “Pelvis,” the iconic pelican who resides in the diner and was created by the famed mural artist, Robert Dafford. Jimmy says that everyone wants a picture with Elvis as they enjoy the diner’s ambiance.
“Pelvis” is the resident pelican of Hub City Diner, a work created by the acclaimed mural artist, Robert Dafford.
A cause close to Jimmy’s heart is ending the abuse of animals in our region. He has worked as one of 145 volunteers of Acadiana Animal Aid for the past four years and is a board member. Hands-on and passionate about his involvement, he quoted statistics about the success of the No-Kill shelter, which placed 2000 dogs and 700 cats in the past year with loving owners. 70% of the animals were transported by Acadiana Animal Aid to other areas of the country where rescue animals are scarce due to more humane practices and responsible spay and neutering laws. Jimmy believes we are about fifty years behind on the law side, and additionally, many people can’t afford the cost of neutering their animals.
Recently, Hub City Diner held a two-day event where 100% of the sales went to Acadiana Animal Aid and a successful adoption event was held in the parking lot. The event resulted in two times more animals being adopted out than any prior such adoption drive. Yet most animals are transported by vehicle out of state for adoption, and typically head off to Colorado, Seattle, and other locales pining for a furry friend.
All animals are tested before they are transported to ensure good health, which is facilitated by the full-time veterinarian, two vet techs, and pharmacy on site. Puppies are typically adopted in out of state venues in one day, and older dogs within four days. While on-site at the Acadiana Animal Aid, the animals are treated to classical music 24 hours a day, courtesy of equipment purchased by Jimmy.
We closed out the interview with Jimmy giving a shout out to people who have impacted his life: Preston Guidry who started “Uncle Pete’s” and first hired Jimmy; Ken Guilbeau, founder of The Keg; Carroll Martin, known as the “Godfather of the Bar Business” back in the day; and fellow restauranteurs Charlie Goodson, Jim Gossen, Jack Ainsworth, and Ken Veron. He also spoke proudly of the upcoming group of younger restauranteurs who are making it happen in Downtown Lafayette. The future looks bright for Lafayette’s dining scene for years to come!
For more information on Hub City Diner, visit