Jackie’s, Silver Spring, MD

I’ve been to Jackie’s several times under the relatively new tenure of Diana Dávila-Boldin (it’s a coincidence that I went to her previous restaurant, Ardeo + Bardeo, the night before). I believe (based on my early visits) that Diana got off to something of a slow start compared to what I know she’s capable of, but never have I had a better meal at Jackie’s than I did two nights ago.

I’ve always enjoyed the beer selection at Jackie’s (remember the same partnership owns Quarry House Tavern), even though $7 for a draft is getting pricey, the Flying Dog “Old Scratch” Amber (brewed in Frederick, MD) was right up my alley.

Fried Veggie Sambusas ($7) with spicy dipping sauces were expensive, but also very good, and I find it interesting that the East African variant of the spelling is used on the menu considering Diana is Mexican-American, and the primary component seemed to be a black bean mash. Two little pitchers of dipping (or in my case, pouring) sauces were a ‘spicy habanero’ and an ‘herb and mustard’ (or so I was told; it really didn’t seem that herbaceous or mustardy). The fry job on these sambusas was great, the little triangles having an almost deep-fried wonton texture (in the best sense of the description).

Moving on to the Great category, we have the Crispy Smart Chicken ($20) with veal sweetbread stuffing, green beans, chestnut confit, and gravy. One of the best pan-fried half chickens I’ve had in quite some time, both for the quality of the meat (Smart Chicken is a Nebraska-based company), and for the fry job. Oh, what a fry job. And what a great, Thanksgiving-like plate of food. The chesnuts! The stuffing! And damn, the chicken itself which couldn’t have had much more than salt and pepper as seasoning; it didn’t need anything more. I was hesitant to drop a Jackson on a half chicken, and curse me for being so short-sighted. Diana was front and center on the line, and I suspect she had a strong hand in assembling this perfectly executed, comforting, satisfying dish.

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