Beet-ing the odds at 1857 Jackson House

By Tom Maglio
Posted 8/14/23

I’m not an “adventurous” sort of guy when it comes to dining. A creature of habit, I know what sort of food I like, and stay firmly in my lane. Sure, I like a broad range of food, …

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Beet-ing the odds at 1857 Jackson House

Delaware State News/Tom Maglio


I’m not an “adventurous” sort of guy when it comes to dining. A creature of habit, I know what sort of food I like, and stay firmly in my lane. Sure, I like a broad range of food, from Vietnamise to Cajun to your more expected fare of burgers, tacos and the like. For a guy who writes a lot about eating food, most of my culinary palette is very caveman-esque. Tom like steak, this steak cooked good, so Tom eat steak, etc.

I know what I like in my fajitas, my pho and my burgers, and so on. And so, like most people, I don’t order what I don’t normally eat, thus limiting my horizons when it comes to food.

But recently at 1857 Jackson House in Downtown Dover, those horizons were broadened, and I was reminded that adventure can be both exciting and delicious.

My colleague had been pushing me to try the fine dining establishment, which has opened within the old location of the former Governor’s Café. He had loved it, touting it to be both charmingly boutique and culinarily fresh and exciting.

Starting with the server-recommended Dip Trio, I used tasty grilled flat bread to scoop garlic hummus (safe so far), whipped feta topped with zhug (turns out, that’s an herby Middle Eastern hot sauce. I had to web search that at home), and beet baba ganoush, a combination of words that would’ve scared me off, had I not been ordering for work. I’m so glad I did, as each dip was better than the last, the baba ganoush being my beety, break-out favorite. Jackson House made me like beets, folks, and I can’t stress how much I usually hate beets.

The success of the dish made me willing to break out of my comfort zone even more, and so before long a rack of lamb on creamy polenta lay between my knife and fork. Now, if you’re wondering what polenta is, so was I. Turns out, it’s got a corn flavor, creamy texture, and pairs very well with roasted garlic chips, seasoned root vegetables, and rich, peppery jus from the rack of lambs adorning it. At least, it does when it comes out of 1857 Jackson House’s Head Chef Chamaigne Stone’s kitchen. (By the way, Laura Walter, my co-writer on this column, patiently explained to me that polenta is a sort cornmeal porridge, and made me feel very uncultured. It’s her superpower.)

Chef Chamaigne and I ended up chatting a while about her background and goals at Jackson House. “I want to make people try things they wouldn’t normally try … and I want them to love it,” she said, an enthusiastic, confident tone in her voice. Well earned, as this was what happened to me.

Beets, people. Beet baba ganoush. It was my favorite thing. Am I cultured now? Probably not, but I at least feel a bit more cultured than I was.

With her wanting me to at least sample some of her favorites, I found myself with a caprese salad, a stuffed gyro, and a shrimp pasta soaked in garlic white wine sauce. These were more solidly in my comfort zone, I admit.

The leftovers were still delicious the next day, with outside-the-box pairings and additions that made my first meal so exciting. My wife made sure that nothing I brought home survived to see a third day, and was more than a little disappointed that I beat her to the second half of the gyro for lunch. Suffice it to say, 1857 Jackson House could be a future Dover Dinner Date.

And it won’t break the bank, either: for a limited-menu fine dining establishment, I could see us getting out the door for around $50, give or take. Maybe not the first place I’d bring the whole family, price wise, but it makes for an impressive and flavorful dinner for two.

If I can get her to try the beets, I’ll let you know. If not, well, more for me.

Find 1857 Jackson House at 144 Kings Highway SW, Dover, Del.

Bay to the Beach: Byways is a regular column in which we explore interesting places and projects on the Delmarva Peninsula. Videos and more photos at

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