Good to Go

Jackson's Roasting & Carving Co.

Stefanie Reiser turned her coffee bar in Arlington's Ballston area into a custom-order sandwich shop.
Stefanie Reiser turned her coffee bar in Arlington's Ballston area into a custom-order sandwich shop. (By James M. Thresher For The Washington Post)
Wednesday, November 12, 2008

An honest sandwich and a good cup of coffee: Sounds like the stuff of a bygone era, if you hope to find them both in the same place.

That's just what Stefanie Reiser had in mind when she "repurposed" her retail space in Arlington's Quincy Plaza apartment building as Jackson's Roasting & Carving Co. The 45-year-old Reston resident and former longtime lobbyist had operated a coffee and espresso bar there since November 2006. The joe was good enough -- from the Caffe Pronto Roastery in Annapolis -- but tenants were scarce. She wanted to offer more.

"I've had a love of food as long as I can remember," Reiser says. "And I wanted to offer people a real hand-carved meat sandwich, like the ones I grew up eating at places in Iowa."

Bolstered by a few years of retail experience, extensive research and the benefit of increased foot traffic, Reiser closed for a mere two days in midsummer, installing ovens, a carving table and a counter fixings setup to accommodate custom orders.

Each day, she and her friendly crew slow-roast hunks of top round, turkey breast and smoked ham or pork loin. They make a mean meatloaf and lean, beer-braised corned beef. The meats are brought out front to the carving boards starting at 11 or so, when breakfast orders end. Sandwich and panini makings are cut to order.

That's the honest part, Reiser says. What you see is what you get.

What we found at Jackson's on a recent foray were breakfast burritos (all varieties $5.50) filled with hearty portions of scrambled eggs, cheese and, sometimes, whatever's left from the previous day's carving boards. The Top o' the Morning, wrapped in a blessedly thin flour tortilla, contained juicy bits of corned beef and Thousand Island dressing; sounds a bit odd, but it worked.

Sandwiches are not overstuffed behemoths. They start at $7.50, choice of bread, cheese, garnishes and condiments included. Add-ons such as bacon, slaw, guacamole and double portions of meat cost a bit more. The moist meatloaf is a standout and provides a jumping-off point for creative topping combinations such as provolone cheese with balsamic ketchup.

Step past the carving board and you can still come up with a good combo sandwich. Reiser's roasted chicken salad is well seasoned and made without too much mayonnaise; the albacore tuna salad is creamy and graced with celery and lemon pepper (both are priced at $6.95).

Jackson's makes sides that are available for sampling while your sandwich is being built. We especially liked the herby red bliss potato salad and the crunchy, slightly sweet tailgate slaw ($2.50 per order).

The only thing that's not plainly apparent is the reason for the name. Why Jackson's?

"He's my Jack Russell terrier," Reiser says. "I love him, and I love this place."

-- Bonnie S. Benwick

Jackson's Roasting & Carving Co. 933 N. Quincy St., Arlington, 703-312-1073; Hours: Mondays through Fridays, 7 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Saturdays, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

© 2008 The Washington Post Company