Casey Jones, a much-loved roadhouse with distractions ranging from pool to keno, is the kind of place one might expect to find in La Plata. Its smoky, laid-back atmosphere is most frantic on Thursday nights when the parking lot is filled to overflowing for half-price pizza night. It's a favorite hangout any night of the week.

But down-home Casey Jones has an elegant twin, just on the other side of a small vestibule. This is The Crossing, an Arts and Crafts reverie that serves perhaps the most sophisticated food in Southern Maryland.

Fava beans, beggar's purses, fry bread, polenta, foie gras, cauliflower pure{acute}e, fennel, balsamic vinegar and cilantro oil are just a few of the exotica on the menu, without explanation or excuse. And the eager, if not always expert, wait staff talk about the garde-manger and the sous chef as if they are homegrown terms, not something out of the brigade system of the classic French restaurant kitchen.

All this in a space that largely housed a coin-operated laundry and barbershop until four years ago and suffered so much damage in the April 28 tornado that it took two months for the restaurant to reopen.

The pure Craftsman style of designer Gustav Stickley is the inspiration for The Crossing's decor and the restaurant itself. A quotation from Stickley -- "Where good work may be done because of the silent influences of space, freedom and sincerity" -- is stenciled on the soffit of the open kitchen that fills a corner of the wood-paneled and stone interior.

A small entry, complete with a sofa and chairs, includes a coffee table with books about the Arts and Crafts movement. The softly rounded shapes and muted glazes of Rookwood, Roseville and McCoy pottery sit on the low walls that divide the large rectangular room into booths and on the backs of banquettes, which are covered with geometrically detailed upholstery. Copper carriage lights provide a gentle glow to the dining room, and tea lights nestled in copper votives adorn each table.

Even the china chosen for various courses seems to reflect architect Frank Lloyd Wright's sentiment that form and function should be joined. The soup bowls are gentle ovals; the seared romaine of the house Caesar salad is on a rectangular platter; pasta is served in deep, rimmed bowls with a small ridge to hold a condiment such as basil oil.

The Craftsman philosophy that design should be affordable, welcoming and comforting is extended by owners Paul and Lisa Bales to encompass the restaurant itself. It all seems a throwback to a kinder, gentler time.

The food coming out of the kitchen is no throwback. While grounded in the classics of French and American cuisine, the combinations are thoughtful, modern, attractive and filled with flavor.

One night's crab-filled beggar's purse appetizer used an egg roll wrapper rather than a crepe as the fabric, which in turn was flash-fried and sauced with lemon beurre blanc before being nestled on a bed of saute{acute}ed leeks. The sweet crab was a perfect counterpoint to the zing of the lemon. The dish was beautiful and tasted as good as it looked.

That could be said of almost any dish here, whether on the lunch menu of sandwiches, salads and light meals or on the more complex dinner menu. The kitchen is not afraid to experiment with even the most standard preparations -- corn salsa with sticky rice risotto accompanied rare slices of flank steak one day -- choosing their ingredients according to what is most fresh and in season.

And so, on a recent night, tiny, fresh fava beans surrounded thick, juicy tournedos of pork, which were encased in the thinnest of pastry (those egg roll wrappers again), then placed atop a rich cauliflower pure{acute}e. The tastes were earthy and intense, with just a hint of springtime that warmed the cold winter's night.

Such attention to detail is a hallmark of the house. Fish isn't simply purchased from a wholesaler; it arrives by FedEx daily, directly from where it was caught. Meats are from the best organic suppliers, and vegetables come mainly from local organic farmers.

The wine list not only includes informative explanations of the types of wines (fruity reds, big reds) but is well-edited and represents exceptional restaurant values -- bottles are marked up a few dollars above retail.

There is special attention to local crab meat, which stars on the menu as a thick, luscious cream soup -- accented with balsamico and lumps of crab -- in an appetizer that includes Native American fry bread and corn salsa, and especially in the lump crab cakes, served with triangles of fried polenta (the Italian version of cornmeal mush).

There is an unusual clarity and purity of flavors in every dish. The hot turkey sandwich at lunch, for example, is a thick pile of thinly sliced roasted turkey. The duck breast, pan roasted just to rare, is juxtaposed with saute{acute}ed foie gras, caramelized on the outside but juicy rare inside.

The only misstep seemed to be the pasta palate, The Crossing's version of create-your-own pasta. There is a wide selection of toppings -- from steak and seafood to vegetables and cheese -- and four tasty sauces. But self-selection didn't produce the kind of vivid tastes found on the rest of the menu.

The only problem with the desserts, which include a rich but not dense flourless chocolate cake served with bananas Foster and banana ice cream, creme bru^le{acute}e and two versions of baked Alaska, comes if your server forgets to tell you that the made-to-order fruit cobbler takes 40 minutes. But even that is okay; it's worth the wait.

The Crossing at Casey Jones, 417 E. Charles St., La Plata, 301-932-6226. Reservations recommended at The Crossing. Menu items from The Crossing may also be ordered at Casey Jones, as well as those on a separate grill menu, after 2:30 p.m. Dinner appetizers at The Crossing cost $4.50-$12.95; dinner meals are $16.95-$28.95. Prime rib is $13.95 on Tuesdays. Casey Jones is open 11 a.m.-2 a.m. Monday-Saturday. The Crossing is open 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Monday-Friday; 5-9:30 p.m. Monday-Thursday; and 5-10 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Wheelchair accessible.

The primary forces behind The Crossing at Casey Jones: owners Paul Bales and Lisa Bales, seated, and executive chef Gary Fick, in the La Plata restaurant's mural room. Fick shows the warm Bartlett pear almond cake, and the Baleses present the crab Navajo appetizer.