LEWISBURG, W.Va. — Gov. Jim Justice disputed many aspects of a recent profile in Forbes, but not a couple of juicy tidbits in Paragraph 1.
“He has a sandwich named after him at the local Arby’s, while at Hardees there hangs a handwritten note: ‘Hardees Gals — Please take care of Big Jim — A great guy — Donald J. Trump.'”
Justice has long made his appreciation of fast food a mainstay of his rhetoric. Whether he is discussing politics or policy, Justice is likely to allude to Arby’s, Hardee’s, Wendy’s or Applebee’s.
Describing West Virginia’s budget troubles two years ago, Justice mixed convenience food references with an allegory about a dangerous reptile.
He was urging an audience of legislators to snap out of routine and recognize a financial emergency.
“You’ve got your leg jammed down a crocodile’s mouth, and absolutely you’re trying to figure out whether you’re going to Wendy’s or Applebee’s tonight,” Justice said.
“You best better worry about the crocodile that’s about to inhale you. Because that’s what you’ve got.”
A Washington Post profile from shortly after Justice bought The Greenbrier resort out of bankruptcy included an extended scene with the billionaire at a local Applebee’s.
But are the latest revelations truly the case?
Is there a sandwich named after West Virginia’s governor that state residents could try for themselves?
Is there a a document signed by President Donald Trump, alluding to Justice’s Hardee’s habit?
Fact checkers gotta fact check, so MetroNews checked it out. Besides, MetroNews was hungry.
Jim Justice signature sandwich at Arby’s
Fact check: Partially true
The first stop was the Arby’s off the Lewisburg exit, which would be along Justice’s travel route from his home toward Interstate 64, leading to the Capitol in Charleston.
I approached the counter and first studied the menu board. There was a marketing push for King’s Hawaiian sandwiches, stacked high with meats. There was a deal on gyros, curving around more succulent delights.
But Justice’s name was not specifically on the board. No Big Jim. No Little Jimmy. No Grizzly Bear.
We have the meats, but not any named for the governor.
Puzzled, I approached the counter and learned why that is the case. Restaurant staff directed me toward an Arby’s employee named Penny, who is regarded as most familiar with the governor’s daily order.
“It’s something different” every time the governor swings by, Penny said. “Whatever the mood is.”
Encouraged to offer specifics, she elaborated: “It’s turkey, lettuce, tomato, mayonnaise, extra crispy bacon, wheat bread. It’s roast beef, lettuce, tomato, mayonnaise. Caramel cookie, chocolate cookie. Sometimes regular roast beef.”
I wanted to try what the governor eats, so I ordered a double roast beef with lettuce, tomato and mayonnaise. The sandwich was piled high with thinly-sliced beef. I removed the tomatoes because I do not like the fruit of the deadly nightshade. I thought the mayonnaise was a bit much.
Arby’s staff told me Justice orders a large Diet Coke. I like Coke Zero better, so I made a slight variation in the order. I forgot to order a cookie and was still slightly hungry when I finished dining. I found myself wishing the governor likes fries or jalapeno poppers.
This meal might not be “The Jim Justice,” but the net-net of the whole thing is, you have options if you want to eat like West Virginia’s governor at Arby’s.
The double roast beef sandwich and a big fountain drink costs $8.03.
Signed letter from Donald Trump, referencing Justice, at Hardee’s
Fact check: Not fake news
Next stop was Hardee’s, which is just across the highway. I proved this detail immediately, just by looking on the wall. The note from the president to the Hardee’s staff, referencing “Big Jim” has been mounted for all to see.
At Hardee’s, the staff told me to talk to a manager named Shirley. She said the presidential note came about this way:
“Jim Justice came through and we just told him to tell Trump ‘hi’ because he was going to be at The Greenbrier and then that evening Jim Justice brought the letter to us,” Shirley said.
Trump is another fast food enthusiast.
“I was pretty excited. I like Trump,” Shirley said, laughing. “Trump’s the man.”
The staff at Hardee’s then opened up about other details of Justice’s frequent visits.
He is a regular in the mornings. Sometimes, usually during turkey hunting season, this can be quite early. In those instances, Justice is part of a daybreak dining entourage.
“Everybody going turkey hunting in the morning will drive through the drive through. We’re not open so it doesn’t beep in our ear, so he knocks on the window. Scares the [budget veto prop] out of us,” said another Hardee’s employee, Kenzie, who has the early-morning shift.
At that hour, Hardee’s employees said, Justice usually gets a biscuit with egg and sausage so browned that it’s nearly burned. They said he might return for more sausage sandwiches later on.
“Dark sausage and egg biscuits,” Shirley said. “He doesn’t eat lunch here much.”
But that doesn’t mean Justice won’t place another order as the day goes on.
“Oh, his dog gets a hamburger,” Shirley said.
Governor Justice loves dogs.
The order for the dog is very basic.
“A plain hamburger,” said another employee, Angela. “No bread. Just the meat.”
Also: No ketchup, mustard or pickle.
This is rung up as an “Xtra 9:1 Patty.”
It costs 70 cents.
My arrival was too late in the day to order a breakfast sandwich with extra dark sausage. So I ordered what the dog gets. The beef patty comes in a small styrofoam container. It tastes like flame-broiled beef. I ate mine quickly but probably at a slower pace than the dog does.
The beef patty was quality, but if you want to eat like West Virginia’s governor at Hardee’s you should plan to arrive while breakfast is being served.
Knock on the window and be sure the sausage spends extra time on the fryer. And when you leave, tell the Hardee’s Gals to take care of Big Jim.