RIP: Loc Le – the man behind Jimmy’s Egg

There are a few restaurant chains from Oklahoma, but not many that are as iconic as Jimmy’s Egg. If you’ve never eaten there, you’ve never had breakfast. Owner Loc Le was a Vietnamese immigrant who bought a diner and turned it into an empire, expanding to eight states and over 60 locations.

Last week, he tragically passed away from (guess what?) COVID-19. From The Oklahoman:

Loc Van Le, who purchased a single breakfast cafe in 1980 and turned it into a multi-state franchise, died of complications from the coronavirus on Thursday night. He was 75.

As it mourns the passing of its patriarch, the Le (pronounced Lee) family is keeping vigil for its matriarch Kim, who remains hospitalized with the virus.

Born in Da Nang, Vietnam, to an affluent family in 1945, Loc Le was one of eight children. Before the fall of Saigon in 1975, Le had followed in the entrepreneurial footsteps of his family.

Loc’s wife is currently in a coma. Some of their children have been running the business, including their newest restaurant, Riviere Bahn Mi (who were supposed to be guests on the Free Queso podcast and then… ya know, the shit went down).

Jimmy’s Egg has a very deep place in my heart. I’ve eaten there since I was a child, getting pancakes and sausage links with my family. As I grew older, the associations changed.

Sometimes, it would be with my friends, wide-eyed in the morning. I’ve had plenty of one-night-stand-style breakfast dates there, eating perfectly fried over-easy eggs while making awkward conversation. Hangover breakfasts after a night at the Hi-Lo, hoping the smell of the griddle and the coffee overcomes my smoky hair.

Jimmy’s Egg is a timeless restaurant, the kind that if it opened up today all the food would cost twice as much and would be more elaborate. I hate to call it a ‘dive,’ because that can be a derivative term, but it holds up a culture of dining that is quickly eroding: a place where you can eat a cheap meal in a space that is free of judgement.

Loc Van Le built a chain that maintained that culture. He is a legend in the Oklahoma City food scene, and his passing is a hard hit.