Hours: 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday; 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Prices: Most sandwiches $3 to $4; entrees $7 to $10. Cards: MasterCard, Visa.
Operated by the owners of the Silo Inn, Jake's Crab and Rib in Olney -- not to be confused with Jake's Restaurant in Rockville -- is a no-frills place, with bright lights, Formica booths (even the seats are Formica and hard as a rock) and waitresses in jeans and T-shirts.
But it's spotlessly clean, well organized and reasonably priced, and most of the food -- soups, sandwiches, seafood, barbecue -- is solidly good.
(If you would rather watch the Redskins on a giant television screen in a restaurant than a small screen in your living room, that's available, too, with happy-hour prices on the drinks.)
The bean soup, an occasional daily special, is exemplary -- plenty of white beans -- firm, not mushy -- big chunks of ham and a pleasant, smoky flavor. Judging from this, the crab soup, advertised on the menu as "Jake's Original," is probably first class. New England clam chowder, on the other hand, was a disaster, so grossly overthickened with flour it tasted like a seafood-flavored gravy.
Oysters and clams on the half shell were impeccably fresh, and the spiced shrimp, a generous portion for $4.95, were reasonably firm and sweet without either the rubberiness or mushiness that often plague this dish.
Discovering that a restaurant serves its seafood only fried generally turns us off, but in Jake's case the frying is so skillful you have to be impressed. Tempura it's not, but it's far closer than most American seafood restaurants can come.
Jake's fried fish, for example, is snowy white and succulent under the batter (if a bit overcooked), and the fried oysters aren't just anonymous little lumps, but still squirting a bit of brine. Fried shrimp are good, too, despite being a bit dry, and although we didn't sample them, we'd guess that the fried softshell crabs are a solid bet as well.
One of the hardest fried foods to pull off successfully is crab cakes. The trick is big lumps of crab meat, a minimum of handling (which assures airiness and keeps those lumps big), hardly any binder and quick-frying in fresh oil. Jake's version is certainly above average -- there are indeed some big lumps and the frying is faultless -- but the cakes are pressed into dense patties, which inevitably produces a certain mushiness. Good, but not championship contenders.
The barbecued ribs at Jake's are impressive -- big, meaty, large portions, reasonable priced. And the barbecue sauce is right on target, a bit sweet, a bit hot, a bit tart, a bit smoky -- with all of those flavors nicely in balance. The barbecued chicken is a decent version, too, with the same good sauce glazing the crusty skin; but the meat is disappointingly dry and doesn't really seem to absorb the barbecue flavor.
Desserts? Reasonably good pies, made for the restaurant, with light, flaky crusts and decent fillings.