Monday, September 28, 2009
However, we are both now experimenting with humanely-raised meats which makes Jackie's really an ideal place to dine. But first, I'll start by saying that as we walked south on the Avenue, we did make an attempt to check out the new Nicaro. But you know what, we could not make our way through the door. There was just something about it that didn't sit right. And then when we reviewed the menu and saw a fish sub as one of the featured dishes, that kinda clinched it for us.
Now that may sound a bit harsh, and don't get me wrong, I have no problems with a good submarine sandwich, but this is not what I think of when I think of Nicaro. But I guess I'm thinking of the old Nicaro. However, after reading their review in the Gazette last week, I'm glad we kept walking to Jackie's. The typically easy to please Gazette found a Nicaro steak, "undercooked, tough and chewy with a significant rim of fat" along with a less than impressive wait staff. In addition, the Gazette stated that Nicaro adds an 18% gratuity to all parties of four or more. Unbelievable. While customers can ask for the gratuity to be removed, it is unacceptable that it even shows up at all.
All right, enough of that. I do want to give Jackie's plenty of props for a terrific meal. First off, even on a busy Friday night with no reservation, we were seated quickly. It was nice the host remembered us after all this time. Second, while perusing the menu we quickly noticed the more than reasonable wine prices. These prices were not just reasonable for DC, but SS too. At least two of our choices - a Malbec and a Tempranillo were $6 and $7 respectively. And not just for short pours either.
So far so good. And given our expanded diet, there was a lot more on the menu from which to choose. I will say for those who don't eat meat or fish, the menu is limited. I believe that night there was only one veggie entree. However, I would not be surprised at all if you asked, or called ahead, that the chef would not be able to put together a veggie plate. We all had plenty of good veggies with our entrees, so you might want to give this a try.
We started with three appetizers - the sauteed peppers to the left, a nice beet salad, and a plate of fried oysters with pickled veggies. All three were winners. The peppers were served with a pesto-like sauce and corn bread. These were more mild than hot peppers, and full of flavor. The beet salad was simple, but very fresh and not drowned in dressing that often can ruin a salad. And how can you go wrong with fried oysters? These plump little devils had a thin layer of breading and were perfectly cooked. I would have been happy to eat an entire plate as my entree.
For our main courses we did two meats and one fish. The two meats were a skirt steak and a pork loin. And to be sure of their origin, I checked with the server and both were local and humanely-raised. My wife went with a Carolina Wreckfish - a member of the bass family and listed as a "best choice" by the Monterey Bay Aquarium.
Of the three, I think my pork loin was everyone's least favorite, nonetheless it was still a great piece of pork. It just had trouble competing with the medium-rare and juicy steak along with the flaky and very tasty Wreckfish. Now I do want to be clear, all three of these entrees were still above the $20 mark, but given the quality of the dishes, the wonderful sides that accompanied them, and knowing that they came from local farms (at least the meats), we had no problem paying those prices. It made it easier knowing the wine we ordered was at such good prices.
The meal ended with a couple Tawny ports. Was a fabulous way to round off a great meal. We'll certainly be back soon to see what else Jackie's has to offer. If you have a little money to drop on dinner and don't want to head to the city - and you're OK with meat - I would heartily recommend Jackie's as an option.
Friday, September 18, 2009
I was out of town for a week - in Pittsburgh - but I am back and ready to eat some good SS grub.
While I was out, I did have to make a couple pilgrimages. First, to Primanti Brothers. If you're not familiar with them, their sandwiches are served on good Italian bread along with your choice of meats, or fish (even imported sardines), egg or cheese. In addition, they also come with a big handful of french fries shoved on top and cole slaw. Not the healthiest sandwich around, but definitely a Pittsburgh classic. I had the colossal fish and a couple beers. When in Rome, right? I mean who can pass up the classic taste of an Iron City Light. Certainly not me.
My second pilgrimage was for pierogies to a classic spot just outside the city in the working-class town of McKees Rocks. The place is called Pierogies Plus. It is run by a bunch of older Polish ladies and man, do they make some mean pierogies. I brought back 5 dozen with me - some plain, potato/cheese, sauerkraut - a nice mix. I haven't fried any of them up yet - with butter and onions of course - but I have plenty of times in the past and I know these will be spectacular.
But now since I'm back in SoCo, I need to find some worthwhile news to write about. I'll do some digging this weekend and see what I can unearth. Is it time to give the new Nicaro a try? Not sure I'm ready for that.
Wednesday, September 2, 2009
But alas, when we tried the door at the Big Creek Café, it was locked tight. Damn those God fearing Greeks. Just kidding, I’m sure those guys work hard enough. They need the place shut down one day a week just for recovery -- whether it’s physical or spiritual. But instead of heading north on
In actuality we were planning to get a couple calzones at Vicino (they are quite good), but then we walked past Taste of Jerusalem (
But we figured it was the afternoon this time, we planned to eat al fresco anyway, and we could see from the menu that the mezza prices were reasonable. We tried four different dishes. Two were really good, and two were just so-so. I’ll start with the latter.
The two so-so dishes were spinach fatayer and the lebneh. We’ve had spinach pies a lot of times before and these just didn’t rate with the others. First I don’t think there was enough spinach filling, and second, the dough was a little too soggy on the inside. I would have liked it to have been more flaky. The other dish, lebneh (home-made cheese topped with olive oil), was a decent starter, but it didn’t pack a whole lot of taste. It might have been a bit too mild for my taste. But either way, it would have been much improved had the pitas we were served to scoop up the cheese had been of better quality.
OK, but I did say we really liked two dishes – those were the hummus and the falafel. We scarfed down both of those pretty quick – even with the lackluster pitas. The hummus was very tasty, not too much tahini, with a nice puddle of olive oil in the middle. While we really liked the hummus, the falafel was fabulous. These were 5 little heavenly balls of fried of chick peas. In my opinion, these rate better than the ones served at both our Georgia Ave Greek places and at Lebanese Taverna. And I’m glad I got them on their own and not in a falafel sandwich, because I think the pitas would most definitely have taken away from those fine little chick pea balls. On top of all that, these two dishes were the cheapest of the four - $4.95 and $5.50 respectively. I will also say the service was friendly and prompt.
I am not quite ready to say I’ll be back there soon. But I certainly will be tempted to go back for lunch at some point and order more hummus and falafel. They have a lot of other good veggie options to try as well – Baba Ghannouge, Tabboule, M’Saka, and lentil soup to name a few.
I’m a bit surprised to see that ToJ has lasted as long as it has. It never appears terribly busy. With three other restaurants in the hood serving similar fare – typically at lower prices – I’ll be keeping my eye on them to see if they can keep their doors open. I hope they can and I’ll try to throw more of my business their way.