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Stephen's Restaurant Jazz Cafe

440 N Kent St

Winchester, VA

Permanently closed.

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Sunday, July 14, 2013

On Friday, July 12, 2013 I elected to go into Winchester for lunch at the D-1 Sub Shop at 440 North Kent Street. I found the address, but a new-looking sign said that it was now Stephen's Restaurant Jazz Café. The business occupies the first floor of a frame building, with an outside stairway to an upstairs apartment.

Going inside showed that the interior appeared to have been newly remodeled from its previous occupant. The entry area has seating at a counter with nine stools along the wall to your left, with a wide-screen TV. A refrigerated display on the right offers a display of canned soft drinks.

A doorway of sorts through a divider leads you to the major seating area in the back. It has three booths along the wall to your right, and four tables along the left wall. Rest rooms are in an alcove on the left, and the kitchen is through a door in the back wall.

A large wide-screen TV is on this side of the divider between rooms, along with a selection of DVDs and associated electronics for music playback. This back room has a hardwood floor, a white ceiling, and white walls with windows, all making the place light and airy.

Stephen's is open only four days a week: Thursday through Sunday, from 11:00 AM to 8:00 PM each of these days. Credit cards are not honored; payment is cash only. Carryout service is available; the phone number is (540) 431-5384.

The menu uses the names of black jazz musicians for the headings of its main divisions, along with a short biographical note, thus: Fats Waller Wings, Ella Fitzgerald Fish, Jazz Menu Specials, Billie Holiday Hotdogs, Count Basie Burgers, and Sonny Rollins' Sides.

The server and chef advised me that there would be a short delay in serving me; he was busy preparing a carryout request for seven orders. I decided on a conventional cheeseburger with fries and a Dr. Pepper. Incidentally, I was the only patron the entire time I was there, except for a women who picked up the carryout orders at 12:30 PM.

When my food came, the cheeseburger was nothing special and barely OK; the beef patty was skimpy but the fries were nice and crispy. This is a neighborhood restaurant in the low-income section of North Kent Street, and one should keep that in mind and not expect gourmet food. I don't believe I'll be back, but I wish them well.

Incidentally, the place may take its name from its proximity to a historical marker in front of the house next door for jazz musician John Kirby, born in Winchester in 1908. He grew up here and went on to play in jazz bands in New York, eventually leading his own band as the bass player. In 1993 he was inducted into the Big Band and Jazz Hall of Fame.

— Perry Crabill