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Crafting Casual, Creative Cuisine

When Steve Silverstein wanted to expand his restaurant franchise outside of Massachusetts, he went about it scientifically, studying the entire East Coast, from the mid-Atlantic region all the way to Florida. He wanted to find the best place for new location, somewhere that would be similar enough to Boston to continue the life of his restaurant, Not Your Average Joe's, and he did: Loudoun. This spring the Lansdowne Town Center will become home to Not Your Average Joe's first out-of-state location and the restaurant's founder could not be happier.

"We are very excited to open," he said. "This is the logical next step for us."

Silverstein said that the growing population of the county, as well as Loudoun's customer base, was important to him when deciding to open in Lansdowne.

"The consumer behavior, how people think, what they want, the guest base [in Loudoun] will behave similarly to [Boston's] guest base," he said.

SILVERSTEIN WAS not in the restaurant business before opening Not Your Average Joe's in 1994. As a father of a young family, Silverstein was looking to open a quality restaurant that he would want to eat in.

"I wanted a place that turned me on, but where kids are accepted as well," he said. "I think we have found a good balance."

Silverstein's idea is now 13 restaurants through Massachusetts. After the first Loudoun store opens, he plans on expanding in another location about seven miles from the Lansdowne location in October 2007.

However, no matter how big the franchise gets, Silverstein plans on keeping his restaurants small, so that they do not lose the intimate feel he believes is so important. The Lansdowne restaurant will be 5,500 square feet and seat 175 people.

"We don't want them too big because then you lose that neighborhood feel," he said.

NOT YOUR AVERAGE Joe's, is also not your average restaurant, Silverstein said, occupying the under served niche between fine dining and family dining.

"What we have is an upscale feeling restaurant, the service has that fine dining feel, the food is made from scratch, but it is offered at an affordable price point," he said. "It is the next generation of casual dining."

Scott Flanagan, the director of operations for the mid-Atlantic region, said that the thing he hears most often from guests is that they cannot believe the quality of the food for the price.

"It is different that you can get that kind of food for that price," Flanagan, a native of Northern Virginia, said. "[In Loudoun] there are not enough restaurants, period, but in that area you've really got a huge gap in that middle space there."

Silverstein said that on any given night some guests will come to Not Your Average Joe's in jeans, while others come straight from work wearing their suits. While he said the restaurant is not intended as a special-events restaurant, many people do choose to celebrate over dinner there, along side families with children.

THE MAIN focuses of the restaurant are service and food, Silverstein and Flanagan said.

"What we have is creative, casual cuisine," Flanagan said. "Some of the items are on our menu are not traditional casual [dining] food."

Flanagan said that while the restaurant has a complete children's menu, adults will be able to enjoy original creations, such as roast beef on ciabatta bread with garlic butter and topped with caramelized onions and melted Swiss cheese.

"It's different, it's fresh," he said. Flanagan added that they do change the restaurant's menu and offer ever-changing specials.

Silverstein, who was in retail before opening Not Your Average Joe's, said customer service comes naturally to him and he has applied his philosophy to his restaurants.

"We have a very guest-friendly environment," he said. "The answer is always yes, now what is the question