Category Archives: Silver Spring

Jackie’s Revisited

Had it really been four and a half years since we last ate at Jackie’s (8081 Georgia, Silver Spring)?  Our experience in summer 2009 wasn’t so hot, unless you count the semi-pornographic conversation at the table next to us.  At the end of 2010, they got a new chef and a rave WaPo review.  They have changed chefs AGAIN since then, Adam Harvey took over the kitchen this past spring, and in any case the changes are quite apparent, even though the decor remains equally funky and fun.

The menu is completely different, and yet overall not necessarily better or worse than it was in 2009.  Jackie’s has jumped on the small-plates bandwagon, which can be fun, but is almost always a terrible value.  If every dish is great, then the experience can be sublime, but when quality is mixed, and portion sizes are just large enough for a party of four to have a bite or two of each offering, it can all go downhill.

Our selections were fine, although the attractive presentation generally exceeded the flavor. Fried calamari, Wagyu beef, lamb “Ketta”, spareribs, pumpkin salad (without much pumpkin), endive salad…all good, but nothing really memorable, especially when you just get a few morsels of each.  Not huge portions for the price.  The crispy chicken banh mi is fun, served in a basket, but the flavors didn’t quite work for me. Mrs. Me ordered the soup (shitake soup I think), and I think she liked it a lot, but I don’t really remember that either.

On the positive side, service was excellent, friendly and efficient and attentive but not intrusive, a huge improvement on previous visits.  The wine list has many affordable and interesting selections, better value than the average wine program at similar restaurants.  Cocktails are expertly done (I enjoyed a sazerac) — not surprising, given Sidebar next door. Jackie’s knows beverages. It’s fun to watch the action in the open kitchen at the back of the dining room, although we found it a bit off-putting to arrive slightly on the early side for dinner, before the restaurant got busy, to find a row of stone-faced gray-clad line cooks glaring at us as we were seated.  Once they stopped staring and started cooking it got better.

Jackie’s can get loud, with all the brick and metal, but if you get a booth you’re pretty cozy, although we were too cozy at first, with the heater running full blast right above our heads (they turned it down and all was well).  Just don’t get stuck in the row of two-tops, nearly on top of one another, much too close for comfort even if your next-table-neighbors aren’t having inappropriate conversations.

In general I think Jackie’s is a better experience than it was a few years ago, but I’m still not sold on the food.  Mrs. Me and I are not big into the small plates thing, so take that bias into consideration when reviewing this review.  If you love tapas-style American bistro food, you will probably like Jackie’s a lot.

Piratz, Inc.

This is pretty great, courtesy of  Silver Spring’s beloved-by-some Piratz Tavern has gotten a makeover from SpikeTV and is now the Corporate Bar & Grill.  Many commenters are complaining about the irony of the silly Piratz becoming blandly corporatized, but there may be multiple levels of irony here. Judging from the empty-suit logo above the door, the proprietors may be putting one over on us all with a tongue-in-cheek anti-corporatist subtext.  If that’s really what’s going on, then nicely done, sirs.  Hilarious.  On the off chance it isn’t intentional satire, then at least maybe the food will be better…

It’s almost a real-life Crimson Permanent Assurance!  (Pythons!)

Quick Kao Thai Review

There hasn’t been much eatin’ (out) in Wheaton over the past month, a deficit that must be remedied over the rest of 2011, but there was some eatin’ out elsewhere.  For example: we tried Silver Spring’s relatively new Kao Thai (8650 Colesville), which turns out to be no threat to Wheaton’s Thai restaurant dominance.  KT has pretty good pad prik khing, but not as good as Ruan’s exemplary version.  Pra Ram, a dish not offered in Wheaton as far as I know, is okay, kind of bland peanut sauce. KT’s Panang curry is thin and wan, not close to Nava’s league.  Pad Thai is fine.  Overall not bad, but not worth leaving Wheaton for.

Revitalization of Jackie’s

All this redevelopment talk is making me thirsty (and giving me a headache). So let’s get back to food, and give Silver Spring some love and attention: this weekend’s Post Magazine features a strongly positive review of Jackie’s (8081 Georgia, speaking of good restaurants on feral-looking streets outside the downtown core), raving particularly about the new chef.  We love Jackie’s funky decor and mostly have liked the food, and now sounds like we need to revisit. The key is to get a booth, because the place is loud, and the non-booth tables are packed waaaay too close together.  Especially avoid the two-tops at all costs.

We also need to hit the new-in-2010 Sidebar, next door to and owned by Jackie’s, about which we hear good things.

McGinty’s Public House (Silver Spring)

Pub quiz night at McGinty’s! I had never been before, tucked into the Ellsworth side of Silver Spring’s central core of restaurants. The quiz is held upstairs in a huge open room, nice space.  Shouldn’t take 2.5 hours to get through a sixty-question pub quiz, though.  Maybe I’m just bitter: top three teams out of a field of 21 won prizes, and we finished fourth.  D’oh!

Fish bites ($5 at happy hour) were excellent, though the other components of the mini-fish’n’chips platter were less successful: over-salted fries and bland tartar sauce.  I ate it all anyway, so couldn’t have been that bad. Harp good, Diet Coke watery. Friends had soup and bacony potato skins, all looked good.  Servers were kind of spacey, but maybe it was just one of those nights. I will brush up on my trivia so I can go back and dominate both pub quiz and the happy hour menu.

Just Up The 95

Dan Dan the Just Up The Pike Man is moving up to Philly soon, says he’ll keep blogging but his MoCo content will surely lessen. JUTP is the most-read (my daily hits tripled the first time he linked to me), most influential MoCo blog; I don’t know where he finds the time to post so extensively every day. Skateboarders, food bloggers, and lots of folks in between will miss you here, Dan, and hope you return in 2012 for more East County blogging excellence. In the meantime, enjoy cheesesteak paradise.

Washingtonian 2010 Cheap Eats

Washingtonian Magazine’s annual top 100 Cheap Eats edition came out a month or so ago in hard copy (June 2010 issue) but it wasn’t online immediately so I ignored it, then forgot about it, then noticed it has appeared online so now I’m gonna talk about it.

Wheaton scores four of the spots, all fairly predictable, and of course well-deserved: Nava and Ruan for Thai food, and Hollywood East (no longer on the boulevard though, is it) and Full Key for Chinese food.

I don’t know if Silver Spring’s good eats are too expensive to make the list or if Washingtonian just doesn’t like them, but SS scored only a trifecta: Mandalay (which I can vouch for), Ray’s the Classics (“cheap”? Hmm…certainly good though), and Kabob n Karahi, about which I know nothing; I’m surprised not to see Ghar-e-Kebab or White Oak’s Bombay, given the rave comments here lately (Langley Park’s Woodlands did make the list).  General Store in Forest Glen also makes the cut.

Beyond that, Rockville has apparently cornered the market on good cheap Chinese food: five of seven Rockville restaurants listed are Chinese; there are twelve Chinese places in all on the list, making it the most populous category.

These kinds of lists are always subjective, lots more places that aren’t listed easily could be, etc etc, but it’s always fun to see who’s there, makes for good discussion, and is a good reminder of how many quality inexpensive dining options we have in these here parts.  Now go forth and chow down.

Tres Leches, Pizza, Carnies

We tried the tres leches cake (successfully distinguishing it from flan this time — Mrs. Me is better about desserts than I am) from Caramelo Bakery (11301 Georgia) and it was good, not great, consistency was right but they added unnecessary strawberry jelly layers. Looked like birthday cake.  We also ate more of their excellent empanadas.

Meanwhile, everyone seems to like Pacci’s Neapolitan Pizza (8113 Georgia) in Silver Spring. We will get there eventually.

Also there’s carny food at the Wheaton Mall’s “Westfield Carnival” through July 4. Just don’t eat too many corn dogs before you get on the Tilt-o-Whirl.

Restaurants Silver Springing Up All Over

In terms of price-to-quality, and even to some extent variety and just quality period, I think Wheaton overall stacks up well against Silver Spring (not to mention the rest of MoCo — Bethesda is so overrated!), but this month the excitement is all to the South. 8407 just opened a couple of weeks ago (sans tikis) and already the Gazette is on the case (maybe a little early for a review, hmmm?).  Jackie’s opened their new Sidebar (get it? Bar, to the side of Jackie’s!?) on April 1. Fire Station 1 brewpub is coming. These are all examples of why the despised Red Lobster ought never be allowed to define the Silver Sprung dining scene. The SS trend is in the right direction IMO, especially since some of the older holes-in-wall are surviving alongside the gentrification. Remains to be seen whether Wheaton will benefit in similar ways over the next 10-20 years…

Fire Station 1 Brew Pub, Almost

Silver Spring’s much-anticipated brewpub, aka Fire Station 1, is finally almost ready to open at Georgia and Silver Spring at the site of the old fire station, which moved across Georgia. We’ve been waiting for years. It was supposed to be owned by the Hook and Ladder beer folks, but neither website refers to the other, so it is unclear if they are actually related in the end. The menu is really long and diverse, which makes me worry about the food quality, but hopefully at least the appetizers will be solid. If they get the atmosphere right, they’ll be fine, and even if they don’t, they’ll probably be fine. I think this will be a very very popular watering  hole. No official opening date as far as I know, but soon.