First Look: Woodward Table and WTF

The all-American Woodward Table is Jeffrey Buben’s first new restaurant in 15 years—and his most relaxed.
Veteran chef Jeffrey Buben showcases spiffed-up comfort food at Woodward Table (left). Woodward Table’s lamb ribs benefit from a Coca-Cola glaze and crunchy sunflower seeds (right). Photographs by Scott Suchman.
Veteran chef Jeffrey Buben showcases spiffed-up comfort food at Woodward Table (left). Woodward Table’s lamb ribs benefit from a Coca-Cola glaze and crunchy sunflower seeds (right). Photographs by Scott Suchman.

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.

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