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Risen from the ashes: Original J&J Wings and Seafood reopens after fire

For ten years, J&J Wings and Seafood has been a local favorite in Southeast Texas with eight stores from Beaumont to Houston, but its humble origins began in Port Arthur in a little building off of Bluebonnet Avenue.

The original store closed its doors for eight months after a fire ravished the small restaurant in early December, which finally reopened on Tuesday.

“I was in Ohio, out of town, when it burned down,” Fatimah Abusaleh, general manager for the location, said. “The police in Port Arthur called me like 27 times, and when I finally answered they said the restaurant caught on fire. It didn’t process at first.

“I think the worst part was that it took so much time for the police to open the door. It was 10 p.m. and we were closed. They tried to open the door but couldn’t because we had a metal gate out front. They couldn’t open the back door either and that’s why it burned so bad, they couldn’t get in to stop it on time.”

J&J Wings and Seafood specialties include a combination of catfish, onion rings, calamari and chicken wings tossed in a secret salt and pepper seasoning. (Cassandra Jenkins/The News)

Abusaleh said the remodeling process was hard and time consuming, but she’s glad to have her store up and running again after almost eight months.

“Everybody is happy to have it reopened,” she said. “I’m happy and my customers are happy. The locals said it just wasn’t the same at the other locations and they got tired of it. I cook and make the seasoning myself — it’s made with a lot of love, so that’s what makes this store special.”

The only difference from the original store is the updated appliances. Abusaleh said she wanted to keep the same great aspects of the restaurant that previous customers loved.

“Everything is the same,” she said. “Just remodeled with new equipment, but same delicious food.”

J&J Wings and Seafood cooks Chinese food, seafood and wings. The menu features different types of lo mein, fried rice, eggrolls, sweet corn nuggets, okra, sweet potatoes, cheese sticks and oysters. Among the list of favorites are the wings, catfish, jumbo shrimp and calamari, which are all made with a signature salt and pepper seasoning.

“Nobody knows how we make this seasoning, except for the friends and family who helped us open the restaurant,” Abusaleh said. “They tried it in one city and it did good, so we opened two store fronts in Beaumont, one in Orange and three in Houston — everybody loved my recipe. We make it special, so it’s a secret.”

Fatimah Abusaleh, general manager of the original J&J Wings and Seafood location in Port Arthur, cooks a fresh batch of her special salt and pepper wings in her newly renovated kitchen on Tuesday. (Cassandra Jenkins/The News)

Abusaleh said the secret recipe came from the Chinese family who owned the original restaurant called J&J Fast Food.

“When we first bought the store, the previous owners sold us the recipe for around $60,000,” she said. “They had only chicken wings and shrimp on the menu. We added the seafood, Chinese food and everything else.”

Abusaleh, along with family members Zena and Mohamed, said they see people from all over the state and beyond come to their restaurant.

“Port Arthur people come here,” she said. “Beaumont people come here. Sometimes people from Austin will come here. During Thanksgiving a lot of people come and buy our salt and pepper turkey to take out of town to Dallas, and someone even took a turkey to New York once. We sell almost 500 turkeys a season.”

Abusaleh hopes the grand reopening will bring new and former customers to the business.

J&J Wings and Seafood is open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. and is located at 1600 Bluebonnet Ave. in Port Arthur with another city location at 4849 TX-43. The restaurant is available on Waitr and Grubhub.

A ribbon cutting for the restaurant will take place next week upon the return of Mayor Thurman Bartie, an exact date has not been announced yet.