Dining on a Shoestring: Taylor Gourmet and Jackson’s Famous Roasting & Carving

A bit of Philly in DC, plus roast beef and ribs in Arlington.

First-time restaurateurs David Mazza and Casey Patten and customer Mike Lynchard outside Taylor Gourmet, a Philly-style Italian deli and market in DC.

Philadelphia natives and high-school friends Casey Patten and David Mazza saw Washington as the place to settle after college. “I’ve always loved the energy here,” says Mazza. “Philly was a little too close to home, and New York was a little too unachievable for what I wanted to do, which was flip houses.”

Flip houses he did—until he and Patten decided to try replicating a taste of home. While they loved DC’s energy, they found no hoagie to satisfy their longings. So they opened Taylor Gourmet (1116 H St., NE; 202-684-7001) in Northeast DC’s burgeoning Atlas District.

The deli’s sesame-seed rolls are couriered daily from Sarcone’s in Philadelphia. Crusty on the outside, soft within, they have that unmistakable fresh-baked aroma. You taste it immediately with the standout Ninth Street Italian hoagie ($6.90 for a six-inch sub, $8.90 for a foot-long), stuffed with prosciutto, capicola, salami, and aged provolone cheese. You don’t have to be a Philly transplant to appreciate the marriage of the spicy, sweet cured meats and the sharp, creamy cheese.

Also satisfying are the well-seasoned and perfectly fried risotto balls, or arancini, and the fried ravioli—an order of each costs $4.50. Both are pleasantly salty, flecked with dried herbs, crusty, and hiding cheesy centers. And each is enhanced by the house-made marinara sauce that comes with them.

Salads are composed of arugula tossed with pastina—tiny pasta similar to couscous—and are named after Philadelphia parks. The Roosevelt Park salad with mushrooms ($7) is filling enough for a lunch on its own, or you can add grilled chicken ($2). The pan-fried chicken-cutlet sandwiches ($6.70 to $9.50), cooked to order, are good, but sometimes the bread dwarfs the filling.

The H Street neighborhood is being redeveloped, and it can be jarring to enter the spanking-new Taylor with its industrially inspired design and clubby music. But Mazza says the deli has been embraced by old-timers and newcomers. And Taylor delivers to most areas of DC for a $2 surcharge.

It sure beats a road trip to Philly.

Jackson’s Famous Roasting & Carving (933 N. Quincy Blvd., Arlington; 703-312-1073) takes a different retro route. On a counter waiting to be carved are house-roasted hunks of herb-crusted turkey and beer-braised corned beef.

If the roast beef was a bit thicker and tougher than it needed to be on a recent visit, it was still worlds beyond what you’d get at Subway or Potbelly.

Along with slowly roasted meats, Jackson’s trades on friendliness. The sous chef bantered with customers about how he couldn’t stop eating the pork ribs that were on special (around $10). Sold. The payoff was a taste that can’t be replicated in a bottle, thanks to a spice rub and a lightly applied sauce spiked with cumin, Tabasco, and chili powder with a touch of honey. They were served with cornbread and a cup of baked beans with large dices of bacon that added smoke to the sweetness.

Okay, so that one isn’t a sandwich. But specials like the ribs—along with satisfying and homey carved roasts—offer pretty compelling reasons to return.

This review appeared in the April, 2009 issue of the Washingtonian.