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.
Casual Booths and Power Booths
As Buben notes, Washingtonians love to dine in booths. You’ll find casual, deep leather ones in the window-walled bar area—they’re easy to sink into with a martini as you watch passersby (or one of the five televisions hung along the wall). Back in the main dining room, an open kitchen is visible to an array of tables, but the power players will likely post in one of the two plush, horseshoe-shaped booths overlooking the kitchen and scene on the floor.
While the team hasn’t rolled out a definite schedule, Buben says Woodward Takeout will be a “playroom” at night, when the to-go operation shuts down. You many find a visiting chef cooking in the kitchen or bakery, or classes such as gingerbread decorating, which he plans to offer in fall.
A Bar Scene (With Snacks)
No downtown spot would be complete without a rollicking happy hour, and Woodward’s bar is no exception. You can cozy up in one of the aforementioned booths, snag a pub table with coworkers, or makes friends at the long bar overlooking glowing wine cases. A cocktail list runs from classic to creative, with libations like the bourbon-based Honey Delight, with honey simple syrup, citrus, pineapple juice, and a wedge of pickled pineapple. On tap: wines from California and Washington State, plus a Virginia cider.
Dog Treats and Neighborly Vibes
While working on his new restaurant, Buben noticed a parade of canines and their owners from the many neighboring apartment buildings. Soon he was whipping up oat-and-grain-based dog biscuits, which he admits are also good for human pets (i.e., children) and adults (i.e., himself). In building what he hopes will be a spot for regulars, he’s also responding to customer requests in the early phases. An example we tasted: a “triple threat” chocolate cookie with white, dark, and milk chunks, designed for an early customer who wanted a satisfying treat to dunk in his morning coffee.
Woodward Table. 1426 H St., NW; 202-347-5353. Open daily from 11:30 to 10:30. Woodward Takeout Food; 202-347-5355. Open Monday through Friday from 8 to 5.