Jeffrey Buben—the chef/restaurateur who owns Vidalia in downtown DC and Bistro Bis on Capitol Hill—claims he wasn’t familiar with the acronym WTF when he had the big gold letters etched into the windows of his new fast-casual spot, Woodward Takeout Food. Believe him or not, one thing is certain: That nickname earned the place a lot of attention when it popped up on the Approval Matrix, New York magazine’s zeitgeist bellwether.
Aimed at the working-lunch crowd, WTF—where you’ll find a terrific cheddar biscuit with fried chicken at breakfast and an equally good fried-chicken sandwich with pickles at lunch—is the grab-and-go counterpart to Woodward Table, Buben’s four-month-old restaurant in the 230-seat space vacated last summer by Potenza. Woodward Table’s new bar fills the neighborhood’s happy-hour void with early-evening specials on draft beer and organic wines on tap, best enjoyed with thin, wood-fired flatbreads—we like the one topped with broccoli rabe, red onion, tomato fondue, fresh mozzarella, and basil.
Fans of Vidalia’s Southern-accented cooking will spy familiar-sounding fare on the dinner menu—barbecue shrimp with a slick of grits, Ritz-topped mac and cheese—but on the whole, dishes are done in a more straightforward manner here than at Vidalia. Our early favorites include a homey corned-beef-brisket platter swimming in jus; a crabcake sandwiched inside a potato roll; and a crisp-edged grilled strip steak with umami-heavy mushrooms, whole-grain mustard, and fork-tender cipollini onions. Also memorable: a salad of colorful heirloom carrots with arugula and orange slices, dressed generously in tangy-sweet honey-coriander vinaigrette and sprinkled with spiced hazelnut bits.
For dessert, a side of toasted-coconut sorbet lends a welcome complexity to the dewy pineapple upside-down cake, gently warmed and topped with a bright-red cherry.
This article appears in the March 2013 issue of The Washingtonian.