Down on Jefferson, between 13th and 14th, dearly beloved Mesob moved into the warm, squat space Nellie's Place used to inhabit. While I'm sure everyone was glad that this fine Ethiopian establishment has found a home, concerned citizens who care about a decent breakfast in the Central District/Capitol Hill area hung our heads in despair. Since the abrupt and disturbing closure of Ms. Helen's restaurant after the 2001 earthquake, those of us who have been mourning Ms. Helen's loss absolutely could not get out of bed. Why try? Sammie Sue's closed up shop, too. Glo's is too tiny, and the Coastal Kitchen does not offer everyday, everyman prices.

I have wonderful news. Rise up, and see that Nellie's Place has been reincarnated in the larger, equally squat building next door to its former location.

J. J. Jackson, Soul Food Chef (as identified by the title embroidered on his chef's jacket), kept the beautiful diner counter and stools, added some homey tables and chairs, swears he's ripping out the fluorescent lights, and has remounted his daily specials board proudly--a welcome relief from the well-intentioned but morosely rendered vegetarian restaurant that used to inhabit this space.

As I was enjoying the best breakfast I've eaten since a visit to Tacoma's Southern Kitchen, Mr. Jackson shut off the jazz and pressed the entire lunch crowd into singing happy birthday to a customer. While complimenting the birthday lady on the improvement of her physique year after year, the charismatic and stylish chef fried up tender sweet corn cakes, home fries, and thick, peppered bacon in a flash ($3.95), and piled chunks of house-roasted turkey with wedges of delightful bacon and ripe beefsteak tomatoes and lettuce to assemble a hearty, real-deal Turkey Club ($4.95 with fries), the likes of which I had never before experienced. Collard and mustard greens, mac 'n' cheese, and all the down-home cooking you could hope for are generally available (check the dry-erase board above the grill), and all at real diner prices (but featuring quality restaurant ingredients).

I recommend stopping by for the Thursday oxtail dinner special ($8.95), but leave room for peach cobbler or sweet-potato pound cake with maple glaze and cinnamon-sprinkled cream topping ($2.95). And thank the man who put together an establishment humble enough to offer a PB&J on his menu, yet fabulous enough to bring culinary brilliance and simple good sense and soul into soul food traditions.

Nellie's Place

1319 E Jefferson (Central District), 322-1902. Tues-Fri 7 am-9 pm; Sat 9 am-9 pm, Sun 9 am-7 pm.