A basket of warm, savory rolls with honey butter is placed in front of you as soon as you sit down. Servers refill your Coke before you think to ask, then scrawl smiley faces on the to-go boxes. All-booth seating means there’s not a bad table.
Comfort, in the room and on the plate, is the biggest reason the Great American Restaurants brand—which includes such establishments as Coastal Flats, Carlyle, and Artie’s—has garnered such loyal audiences. Jackson’s Mighty Fine Food & Lucky Lounge appears destined to follow those successes: The Saturday-night wait at the 260-seat restaurant clocks in at about an hour and a half. You can avoid standing around with a buzzer by calling ahead and putting your name on the list.
The menu, a mash-up of the last decade’s culinary trends, veers from miso-glazed black cod to steak frites to sushi and spring rolls. Meals sometimes sag in the middle, save for reliable main courses like crab cakes and sea bass in ginger broth—entrées also served at the restaurant’s siblings. Better to focus mostly on starters: chopped-pecan-accented deviled eggs with decadent sugar-brûléed bacon strips; a duo of dips that includes zingy guacamole and a riff on pimiento cheese; and a gratin of mac and cheese, its golden crust hiding generous chunks of fresh lobster.
Things pick up at the end with such desserts as lemon pie, with a thick marshmallow meringue and graham-cracker crust, and a warm, pillowy chocolate waffle, which is served at every Great American Restaurants outpost for a reason: It’s the very definition of comfort.
This review appeared in the December, 2008 issue of The Washingtonian.