Who’s Gonna Host The Expensive Political Fundraisers Now?

Silver Spring restaurant Jackie’s, a highly regarded pillar of the food scene here for 11 years, is closing at the end of March.

Jackie’s, restaurateur Jackie Greenbaum’s eponymous Silver Spring restaurant, will shutter by the end of March after an 11-year run.

The closing coincides with the spring opening of Little Coco’s, Greenbaum’s contemporary Italian eatery in Petworth, whose kitchen will be led by current Jackie’s chef Adam Harvey.

Greenbaum said she made the decision to close her first restaurant, along with Sidebar, its sibling cocktail bar, as the scope of the Little Coco’s project increased. Originally she had envisioned something along the lines of El Chucho, her cozy Columbia Heights taqueria, but thanks to additional space, Little Coco’s went from being a pizza spot to one that would offer a larger menu.

Greenbaum said Harvey’s immersion in Italian cuisine (the restaurant is named for Harvey’s Italian-born wife) helped convince her that a more ambitious concept could work.

Keeping Jackie’s up and running wasn’t feasible once Greenbaum had pulled Harvey and other members of his team into Little Coco’s. “Suddenly I had raided the entire staff of Jackie’s,” she said. Most Jackie’s employees will move to Little Coco’s as well.

Greenbaum said Jackie’s had run its course. When it opened, “I really felt we had something to contribute that was missing on the dining scene.” Now with so many other additions, she decided the restaurant wasn’t necessarily doing anything novel or unique.

“We were still strong. We were still doing fine,” Greenbaum said. “I just felt it had its time.”

Greenbaum said what she’s saddest about is taking away one of Silver Spring’s gathering places. She wanted to announce the closing far enough in advance so diners could come in and say goodbye. Over the next three months, Jackie’s will be featuring past hits, including mini Elvis burgers, skillet fried chicken and pork riblets, along with guest chef appearances.

There was a time when the food at Jackie’s was better than you could get anywhere else in Silver Spring. But with the arrival of a host of other very good establishments, Jackie’s was no longer unique. And its prices were in many cases too high compared to those other places. I haven’t eaten dinner at Jackie’s in more than four years – I used to do so several times a year.

But I will miss Sidebar, the cocktail bar that became a watering hole for locals, and a frequently used location for political events and fundraisers. Both Jackie’s and Sidebar were also frequent places for informal political chats – the joke was that if you wanted political scuttlebutt, get a seat at Jackie’s and just listen, and you were bound to learn things you didn’t know (another totally different place to eavesdrop is Mark’s Kitchen in Takoma Park).

So RIP to a foundational building block of the Silver Spring revival. As good as it once was, and as important as it was, the good thing now is that there are plenty of places to go besides Jackie’s. Where the gossip goes, however, remains to seen. When my minions report in on this, I’ll let you know.

Silver Spring Restaurant Week Verdict

Bethesda Magazine has a story today assessing the recent Silver Spring Restaurant Week. Verdict: thumbs up. All I can say is I had a really good excuse to eat a lot of great food.

When Montgomery County Council member Tom Hucker resurrected Silver Spring Restaurant Week after a nearly decade-long hiatus, many wondered if diners would respond.

A few days after the event ended, the answer appears to be yes.
Several restaurant owners and managers whose restaurants participated said they saw an uptick in customers during the event last week. 
“I think it was successful,” Jennifer Meltzer, co-owner of All Set Restaurant & Bar, said. “I think they did, overall, a really nice job.”

Hucker is equally pleased with the results.

“We’re really delighted with the success of restaurant week,” Hucker said. “All the owners we’ve spoken to want to bring it back next year.”

Hucker’s staff is now distributing a formal survey to collect feedback on what they may change for next year’s event, which he says will probably happen around the same time in late summer or early fall.