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Jeff Armstrong brings a gritty determination to Jackson 20

Posted on Sep 29,2008
Filed Under Local Leaders , Community,

Jeff Armstrong

A local recipe for success seems to be working at Jackson 20, from the historical, Americana location down to the meat and potatoes basics that  chef Jeff Armstrong adds to his cuisine.

Armstrong, who grew up in Gaithersburg, favors Virginia ham or a bowl of grits for familiarity in Alexandria.

“Local flavor is kind of familiar,” he said, adding that “we’re a little bit more of a neighborhood restaurant,” even though they are right on the tourism strip of King Street.

Although Armstrong has local roots, his father was in the military so he moved around a bit, staying on his grandmother’s chicken farm in Greensboro, N.C. for a while. It was here that he gained an appreciation for home cooked meals. “Just being around the farm helped me learn how food was cooked,” he said.

One of the most popular American dishes Armstrong fixes is their Buttermilk Fried Chicken, a favorite of many at the restaurant. “He’s great with comfort foods, but at the same time can think outside the box,” said Jackson 20 manager Marcus Garner. “Jeff is a well rounded chef,” Garner added.

Armstrong experienced the wide spectrum of cooking while living in Los Angeles for a while, where he practiced his culinary skills in a fine dining restaurant, a French bistro, an Asian restaurant and a noodle stand.

The West Coast seems to preach the fresh food, healthy sermon, so this was an influence too. “It’s a much lighter style of food, not the meat and potatoes area though,” he said, opting to return to the East Coast where the change of seasons influenced the menu.

Armstrong’s travels also took him to Australia where he worked in a restaurant for a short time, learning “different cooking techniques and a different way restaurants are run,” he said. The chefs there were trained in an English tradition.

Armstrong is concerned about the environment as well, using locally grown produce when in season, and is a follower of the Monterey Seafood Watch, a group that focuses on the endangered seafood list. “I don’t do Chilean Sea Bass,” he said.

Jackson 20, which calls itself an “American Tavern,” is part of the Kimpton Hotels and Restaurant chain, and is located in the Hotel Monaco on King Street. The name is taken from “whimisical nods to Andrew Jackson,” their literature reads, although a different Jackson made the location famous.

On May 24, 1861, Federal troops killed James W. Jackson for flying a Confederate flag. Jackson was the “first martyr to the cause of southern independence,” the plaque on the hotel reads.
-- Submitted by Mike Salmon

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