Young and Hungry

Frank Morales Takes Over as Chef at Jackie’s

frank moralesCarrie and I were planning to eat at Nicaro, mostly to see if the salt bomb of a muffaletta on chef Luis Martinez's menu was an aberration or a sign of lesser things to come. The jazz combo swinging away in the lounge, I'm ashamed to admit, forced us to change our minds. It was Friday night, the tail end of a long week, and I just wanted a quiet dinner with the wife, not an evening of Dave Brubeck covers.

So we walked down to Jackie's on the south end of downtown Silver Spring to see what the heck was going on with Jackie Greenbaum's place now that chef Sam Adkins was apparently shown the door. I was not prepared for what I found: former Rustico chef Frank Morales leading the kitchen.

In all fairness, Greenbaum wasn't exactly prepared for me, either. We met last year to discuss her plans for the still-latent Jackie's a Go-Go, so she knows me by face. She wasn't happy to see it Friday night, because she wasn't ready to make an announcement about Morales. But it's hard to hide your new chef when he's standing right there in the open kitchen.

Greenbaum told me that she and Morales have similar sensibilities. They both have an interest in pushing against the boundaries of the fairly conservative Silver Spring dining market. Not only will Morales, as executive chef, remake much of the menu at Jackie's, but he will help Greenbaum realize her other plans for the converted garage off Georgia Avenue, including a revised vision for the take-out operation next door.

Greenbaum couldn't reveal all the plans she and Morales have cooking, but she did offer up this choice nugget: Jackie's will soon move into beer, the ingredient that consumed Morales at his previous gig at Rustico. Gordon Banks, Greenbaum's manager at sister operation Quarry House, will help Morales navigate the byzantine Montgomery County liquor system to build out Jackie's beer list.

Look for Morales to incorporate suds into Jackie's menu, maybe even food-beer pairings, within four to six weeks. The chef also plans to sell his homemade breads built from beer-based starters.

The new business partners have even grander plans for that Silver Spring garage — and beyond. Stay tuned.

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