Jeffrey Buben is a fixture in the Washington dining scene. Having built institutions such as Vidalia and Bistro Bis, he has also trained many young chefs destined for their own places—chefs like Peter Smith (PS 7’s), RJ Cooper (Rogue 24), and Eric Ziebold (CityZen). But a longstanding reputation hasn’t stopped the chef-restaurateur from taking on one of the most ambitious projects to date: Woodward Table, a 230-seat, regionally inspired restaurant with an adjoining casual eatery blocks from the White House. The new spot was in full swing when we visited Tuesday; here are six things to expect.
Fried Chicken Biscuits To Go
The logo on the window of the 30-seat Woodward Takeout Food reads “WTF,” but the origins of the eats on offer are clear: Practically everything is made on the premises and to order. In the morning you’ll find fresh-squeezed juices, pastries like baked muffins and chocolate-banana bread with house-made marshmallow fluff, and hearty breakfast sandwiches such as the chicken biscuit—a freshly baked round layered with buttermilk fried chicken, cheddar, bacon, and smoked honey butter; a similar combo exists on a toasted bun at lunch. The afternoon brings soups, salads—welcome back, turkey Waldorf—flatbreads, and robust sandwiches. For the sweet-toothed luncher, there’s also a root beer float with house-made vanilla ice cream.
Familiar Comforts With a Twist
All three of the Woodward dining areas—including the 75-seat bar area, the main dining room, and the Takeout Food area—boast menus full of classic comfort dishes with a signature Buben spin. You’ll see eggs Benedict compressed into a portable breakfast sandwich (fried egg, smoked pork loin, creamy tarragon aïoli) and a duck Reuben on WTF’s menu at lunch with grilled rye, duck confit, red sauerkraut, Swiss, and the kitchen’s own take on Thousand Island. Happy hour may bring an order of grilled cheese fingers studded with caramelized onions; at dinner you’ll find roast lobster over creamy rice grits and barbecued lamb ribs glazed with Coca-Cola barbecue sauce.
If there’s one trend that’s both telling of the present dining culture and promising for its future, it’s young chefs opening small, ambitious restaurants (think Toki Underground or Little Serow). The latest: Suna, a tasting-menu-only eatery tucked inside the former apartment and office space above Acqua Al 2 in Capitol Hill’s Eastern Market neighborhood.
Though Acqua’s Ari Gejdenson is the owner—he lived in the space before it was converted to a restaurant— the 36-seat, reservations-only operation is wholly separate from the bustling neighborhood trattoria downstairs. Chef Johnny Spero’s résumé includes time at Komi, Town House in Chilhowie, Virginia, and Copenhagen’s ultra-famous Noma, and his concept for Suna reflects these influences. Walk up a low-lit staircase from street level and you’ll find a serene yet cozy dining room lined with painted brick walls and refinished beams, with only a single menu on the wooden tables. The card offers two options: a four-course tasting menu for $48, or eight courses for $78. Wine pairings can be provided for both, and in the future, cocktails and beers will be designed to complement dishes.
When Farmers & Fishers closed in April 2011 due to the flooding of the Georgetown waterfront, the owners took it as an opportunity to redesign the restaurant and alter the concept. Though roughly 3,500 square feet smaller than its original form, the Founding Farmers sibling debuts on Friday for lunch, dinner, and weekend brunch with an ambitious format that includes a full-scale bakery, an extensive bar program, and a sushi menu. Here are seven things to look for in the revamped space.
Personal Cabins and a Seat in the Larder
You may find yourself in a nautical mood or recalling your grandmother’s pantry, depending on where you’re seated in the dining room. The highly detailed interior is broken up into various sections, including a white-shelved larder room lined with large jars of corn salad and apple kimchee, a semi-enclosed eight-person “bakers’ table” surrounded by a wall of rolling pins, and a sea-themed area complete with ship’s-cabin-like booths tucked into alcoves armed with their own dimmer switches so you can lower the lights for warm-night-on-the-water ambience.
A new dining option will soon be available in the West End this month—as we reported, Jardenea hopes to open November 15 inside the Melrose, the recently made-over boutique hotel at 2430 Pennsylvania Avenue, Northwest. We popped in to see what chef Nate Lindsay—an import from Jardenea’s sister restaurant in Florida, Azurea (average Yelp rating: 4.5 stars)—would be serving for breakfast, lunch, and dinner at the farm-focused new spot. Hit up the slideshow for a look at the offerings.
You know a hot dog is great when you’re willing to drive more than an hour outside Washington to get it. We’ve been commuting to Purcellville, Virginia for our dog cravings at co-owners Lionel Holmes and Pamela Swanson’s Haute Dog & Fries, but the trip just got much shorter with the launch of a replica Haute Dogs in Old Town, Alexandria.
Watch out, Jumbo Slice—there’s a new late-night game in town. Döner Bistro soft-opened yesterday afternoon, and is set to be the new place for post-bar noshing. But don’t get us wrong. We stopped by in the sober light of day, and would happily return for lunch. The eponymous sandwich—a German-Turkish hybrid with spiced beef or chicken, topped with slaw, tomatoes, and garlic-yogurt sauce—is the rare genre of food you’d want to eat before, during, and after a few beers. Here are five things to look for when you drop by.
Electric Meat Shavers
Not only is this a great name for an indie band, but you’ll find employees wielding these machines, shaving thin slices of spiced beef and chicken off of rotating spits. The gyro-style “meat cones” (possibly the Electric Meat Shavers’ opening act) aren’t the typical variety you’ll find in fast food spots, shipped from afar and packed with preservatives. These are made in house: Meats are marinated overnight in a mix of spices, sliced thin, molded onto spits, and then slow-roasted on the rotisserie. Once you place an order, the tender meat is shaved off and placed in toasted flat bread, topped with tomatoes, cucumbers, tangy slaw, and garlic-yogurt sauce.
Fried Foods (Eventually)
The fryer is just getting set up today, so you probably won’t find the full menu until early next week. Right now, döner, salads, bratwurst, and currywurst—sliced brats spread with curried ketchup—are what you’ll be ordering along with your stein. Once the restaurant is officially open, look for falafel, veal schnitzel, and hand-cut, double-fried pommes.
If freshly made tortillas, 110 tequilas, and tacos stuffed with slow-cooked meats sounds enticing, then check out Fuego Cocina, now open in Clarendon.
Head past the entry-level 30-seat bar and up a spiral staircase to the dining room, and you’ll probably recognize the tall guy in the open kitchen. Chef Jeff Tunks is on his seventh Passion Food Hospitality restaurant with business partners David Wizenberg and Gus DiMillo, including the most recently opened District Commons/Burger Tap and Shake and the Latin-themed eatery Ceiba.
The new Arlington venture is more wallet-friendly than its South American cousin, and the menu draws strictly from Mexico. To that end, the kitchen is helmed by chef de cuisine Alfredo Solis, a Mexico City native who’s cooked alongside Tunks for the past 11 years. You’ll find classics such as thin, freshly fried chips and corn tortillas flattened on a wooden press and cooked to order. Nine varieties of tacos are stuffed with crispy fish, grilled shrimp, or one of several slow-cooked meats, such as braised beef tongue and pork al pastor, prepared street-food-style: marinated in achiote and sour orange, sliced thin, layered on a spit with onions and pineapple, slow-roasted, and shaved to order, like a Mexican shawarma.
There’s plenty evolving restaurant-wise along 14th Street, between Stephen Starr’s Parc Deux build-out, a still-unnamed Southeast Asian spot from Mark Kuller (Proof, Estadio), and eight Italian eateries in the works. So it’s nice to see that one Logan area restaurant’s opening is imminent: Drafting Table, slated to debut October 1 in the former ACKC space.
Restaurant names like Family Meal and Drafting Table may have insider-y appeal, but when it comes to working up an appetite, few have done it better than the newly opened Grilled Oyster Company, a Chesapeake-influenced seafood restaurant in Potomac.
Pentagon City gets a meat-focused new dining spot today with the opening of Epic Smokehouse, a barbecue/steakhouse mashup from longtime friends and former coworkers at the Palm, Wayne Halleran and Joon Yang. Epic is opening with lunch and dinner, and brunch is in the works. Here are five things to look for in the 86-seat dining room.