Funky and fun, Jackie's stands out in Silver Spring
Nov. 23, 2004
M.J. Pleasure

Brian Lewis/The Gazette

Jackie's Restaurant in Silver Spring offers grilled salmon with basmati rice, vegetable and caper salad (left) and smoked rockfish with the house mustard and greens.

* Jackie's Restaurant

8081 Georgia Ave., Silver Spring

(Entrance on Sligo Avenue)

301-565-9700, fax 301-565-9701

Hours: Tuesday-Friday 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m., Tuesday-Sunday 5:30-10 p.m.

Entrée prices: $11-$19

Credit cards: All major cards


The buzz about Jackie's preceded its opening by several months. When word got out that respected D.C. chef Ann Cashion would create the menu, future diners were chomping at the bit.

The muse of the eponymous Cashion's Eat Place in Adams Morgan chose a menu of comfort food. Furthermore, she chose as chef, her former protégé Sam Adkins. Partners Jackie Greenbaum and her ex-husband Patrick Higgins selected a D.C. firm to convert the one-time body shop, in a row of the same, into a delightful gathering place. The large, open space retains its high ceiling and exposed ductwork, bare brick walls and cement floors. Industrial-style shop lights supplement more contemporary lighting. Transparent brightly colored acrylic circles highlight the lounge and entry.

The bar, lounge and central seating area are below street level. Across the rear wall, an open kitchen allows diners and cooks to view each other. Along two sides, grillwork tops high-backed booths with eye-catching pink leatherette seats and mixed mod print upholstery. Vibrant throw pillows line a long banquette on the remaining side. "I had a dress out of that material in the '60s," a friend declares, pointing to a pillow.

Everyone -- young and old, couples and families -- seems at ease here -- except perhaps Jackie herself. Circulating around the room, easy to identify by a print miniskirt that could have been worthy pillow material, Greenbaum admits they are down a server on this busy night. Yes, things have been progressing at a leisurely pace but that is fine with us.

Jackie's menu hits the right notes. Before we have even tasted a bite, our companions vow to return. Why? The daily specials, called nostalgia plates, provide five good reasons. Braised beef brisket with latkes and sweet and sour cabbage on Tuesday. Skillet-fried chicken with potato salad on Wednesday. Braised pork shoulder with fresh bacon and creamy collard sauce and fries on Thursday. Jackie's cioppino on Friday, and meatloaf with green beans and mashed potatoes on Saturday.

Related to these are the yesterday's special sandwiches offered at lunchtime: brisket on Wednesday, chicken salad on Thursday and the Cuban sandwich on Friday.

Colorful Fiestaware salt and pepper shakers on each table resemble billiard balls. Our delicious selection of bread and rolls arrive in a napkin-lined, mesh colander.

Large white plates provide a dramatic setting for the food, for example, a mixed seafood appetizer of tender bits of calamari, two jumbo shrimp, a smattering of sea scallops and a dish of zesty green Romescu sauce for dipping.

The traditional sauce of tomatoes, olives and capers enlivens strips of calamari rather than the usual pasta in calamari pasta alla Putanesca.

A warm, slightly runny goat's milk Camembert graces a salad of field greens and pine nuts. Batter-fried seasonal vegetables with bell pepper sauce prove better than most encountered as Japanese tempuras.

As the main event, the chicken breast, sunny yellow, juicy and glazed with red wine vinegar, is one of the finest. Golden matchstick fries and fresh salad greens complete the picture.

Roasted duck breast with Saba (soy and balsamic vinegar) glaze is rare, tender and juicy and accompanied by sautéed spinach and moist spoon bread. Grilled organic flat steak with parsley butter and fries is simplicity itself.

Moist-fleshed Mediterranean rockfish, cooked in an herbed salt crust, comes to the table filleted with its silvery skin and coarse salt crust as accents. Its complement, baby potatoes, are nicely browned.

Flavorsome eggplant and roasted tomatoes, served with mixed grains (wheatberries and quinoa) and greens, is the sort of dish that gives vegetarian food a good name.

Everyone agrees that the chocolate brownies, soft at the center, topped with walnuts and vanilla ice cream is the dessert to die for. Anything else -- sunshine cake (lemon pound cake), sorbet and an ice cream waffle sandwich -- comes in second.

Enhance this comfort food with a cocktail from the bar or a variety of wines ($16 to $53 a bottle, $7 to $11 a glass).

Unlike the profusion of chain restaurants filling the new downtown Silver Spring, Jackie's is one of a kind. Hurrah for that!