Wednesday, December 27, 2006

GOING AND COMING: Dupont Circle's short-lived Le Pigalle is history. But aiming to take over the formerly French space as soon as Jan. 5 is Jack's Restaurant and Bar (1527 17th St. NW; 202-332-6767).

At the helm is a veteran chef, Herbert Kerschbaumer, a Swiss native who got his start in Washington in 1981 at the late La Nicoise (remember the waiters on roller skates?) and went on to cook at Cafe Promenade in the Mayflower Hotel, open a catering company and launch a restaurant of his own in the Palisades, Bistro Bernoise. After a 2 1/2 -year absence from the city, during which time he lived in Europe and Brazil with his wife (and new general manager), Thelma Kerschbaumer, the 47-year-old chef returned in August. He plans to redecorate the interior to "make it more cozy," tone down the bright color scheme and separate the bar from the kitchen. As for the menu, diners can expect to find something for everyone: Mushroom risotto will share space on the list with lamb shanks, fish soup and grilled steak. There will be half-price burger nights (probably Wednesday) to pull in the neighbors and fondue nights (probably Tuesday) just for the fun of it.

Strange but true: The inspiration for the restaurant's name is a friend's tree-obsessed German shepherd named Jack. Kerschbaumer once saw the dog shaking a trunk "10 times his size" and admired his enthusiasm and tenacity, qualities he wants to emulate at Jack's.

NEWS FROM THE SHORE: Richard Hamilton, restaurant patron, says he loves ordering wine to drink with his wife but hates to see his young son grow impatient when they want to linger over a bottle. So when Richard Hamilton, chef, crafted the menu for the new Restaurant Local (101 E. Dover St.; 410-819-8088) at the Tidewater Inn in Easton, Md., he added a few frills: miniature Etch-A-Sketches and DVD players to entertain his littlest customers. (Foodwise, the kiddie draws include "smiley-face" fried potatoes, miniature hot dogs, and fish sticks made with rockfish and dredged in cornmeal and Japanese bread crumbs. The fish sticks were "approved by a 7-year-old," the chef's son, Christian, according to Hamilton.)

The Oklahoma native was lured to the Eastern Shore from the Chanler hotel and Spiced Pear Restaurant in Newport, R.I.; past jobs include chef de cuisine positions at MGM resort properties in Las Vegas and Magnolia's in Nashville. Hamilton likens his latest project on Maryland's Eastern Shore to the Gramercy Tavern in New York and distinguishes his 82-seat dining room from Easton's high-end destinations by referring to Restaurant Local as "more hip, more fun, more everyday." The two-part menu combines "Composed Plates" (think crab cakes and rockfish) with a category of steaks, chops and a la carte side dishes and sauces called "Just Protein." The place's name is the question the chef says he heard from prospective customers in the area: Is this a restaurant for locals?

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