It’s impossible to walk into
Jackie’s in Silver Spring and not feel a little lighter than before you opened the door. The lipstick pinks and smiley-face yellows of the groovy bar and dining room also go a long way to erase the memory of what had been a brick-walled auto garage in another life. The Jackie’s of 2013 channels “The Brady Bunch” and, on its best days, James Beard, too.
The name on the marquee belongs to Jackie Greenbaum, the effervescent restaurateur who has ginned up the dining scene elsewhere with El Chucho in Columbia Heights and more recently, Bar Charley in Dupont Circle. A change of chefs in May put Adam Harvey, 29, in charge of the open kitchen in Silver Spring. Late of the Wine Kitchen in Frederick, Harvey brought with him a solid résumé that included Volt, also in Frederick, and Marcel’s in Washington, where he had been a line cook.
Here’s what you want for dinner right now: buttermilk fried calamari in a jumble with capers, hazelnuts and curls of Parmesan. And wide ribbons of pasta with tender pork cheeks, each bite rich with wine, garlic and tomato in its seasoning. The rage for Vietnamese banh mi is addressed with crisp fried chicken and vinegared vegetables in a brioche roll that’s baked right here. The food and drink go down better when you’re supping in the pillow-strewn lounge and being watched over by smooth servers of whom Washington could use, oh, about 1,000 more.
A few dishes suggest Harvey is back at the posh Volt or Marcel’s. Chicken liver spread on wisps of crostini with stewed mustard seeds, and embedded with sails of fried chicken skin, is one of the most elegant versions of the nosh I’ve ever seen. The kid’s got flair.
But not consistency. Shortly after Harvey stepped into the kitchen, I endured a meal of dry branzino and leathery oysters (in a po’ boy) at Jackie’s. But it was a dinner salvaged by a sumptuous corn-and-crab chowder. Were the main dishes that night a fluke? My last meal, in September, suggests they were. My last tastes also made me hungry to return.
Despite all the fresh choices for lunch and dinner on Capitol Hill — Beuchert’s Saloon and Tash among the recent crop —
Montmartre remains, with some qualifications, my ready response to the question of where to eat in the neighborhood. The kitchen has a knack for dishing out style and substance on (most) every plate.
Lentil soup can be one-note eating. Montmartre dresses up its bowl with bits of prosciutto, parsley oil and a drift of thyme yogurt. The sweetness of scallops is foiled with chorizo and grapefruit oil; the dish is further elevated with a warm salad of shaved cauliflower, asparagus, toasted almonds and more. Hanger steak is cooked just as you ask and served in thick slices over a potato and goat cheese gratin that would be better if the vegetable had been cooked a few minutes longer. (Some of the potato slices had a slight crunch.)