Where Bad For You Is Good

At Overwood in Alexandria, follow the fryer.

At Overwood, the over-the-top treats include a heap of fried calamari.

Overwood calls itself a “wood-fired American kitchen,” so you’d probably guess that the draw at this brick-lined Old Town dining room would be charred meats and fish crisscrossed with grill marks. You’d guess wrong.

Yes, you’ll see flames in the open kitchen, but it’s the hissing, popping fryer that should get top billing. Here, the bad-for-you eats are what’s best. A nearly half-foot-tall stack of thickly sliced green tomatoes—breaded, fried, and oozing peppery cheese—is finished off with Jackson Pollock–like scribbles of jalapeño aïoli and reduced balsamic vinegar. Simpler but no less tasty is an array of mozzarella-filled ravioli crisped to puffiness in the fryer and paired with chunky tomato sauce. A heap of lightly battered calamari hides frizzles of lemon and red onion.

Beware when you go beyond the fry basket. There’s hardly any pleasure in a lifeless Caesar salad or a barely dressed heap of arugula with only a few wedges of red and yellow beets and a couple of crumbles of goat cheese. Same goes for a plate of two thin pork chops set atop a mountain of grainy mashed potatoes and served with black beans so runny that they flood the plate. The chops’ salty brine may keep them tender, but it masks any meaty flavor. On a plate of too-bready crab cakes, it’s the boardwalk-style fries that steal the show.

For dessert, go for the Elvis Pie—a towering pileup of chocolate mousse, peanut butter, and bananas on an Oreo crust. It’s giddily over the top, decadent, and delicious. Kind of like those fried green tomatoes.

Overwood, 220 N. Lee St., Alexandria; 703-535-3340; Entrées $10.95 to $25.95.

Ann Limpert
Executive Food Editor/Critic

Ann Limpert joined Washingtonian in late 2003. She was previously an editorial assistant at Entertainment Weekly and a cook in New York restaurant kitchens, and she is a graduate of the Institute of Culinary Education. She lives in Petworth.