If at first you don’t succeed, come back. That’s what Nate Waugaman did recently when he landed the top kitchen job at the adjoining Tallula and EatBar in Arlington – four years after he first auditioned for it.
No hard feelings, though. “I’m in a better spot” now to helm the two restaurants, says the former executive chef of Addie’s in Rockville and the short-lived Mealey’s Table in New Market.
Waugaman, 36, is wasting no time overhauling the menus in the two dining rooms. He says his new employer, the Neighborhood Restaurant Group, has given him “a lot of freedom” to make changes.
At Talulla, he’s added peanut-crusted oysters, braised beef tongue, a vegetable crudo, sirloin with potato gratin and roasted corn vinaigrette, and pan-roasted chicken with ricotta dumplings and fresh peas. Prices have also been cut. “A neighborhood restaurant shouldn’t have $30 entrees,” says the chef, whose main courses run from $18 to $25.
EatBar, which Waugaman views as a “foodie gastropub,” has begun to serve dishes he gravitates to, snacks including marrow bones, the house-made scrapple he made popular at Addie’s and popcorn balls tapping the flavor that won’t go away: bacon. A vegetarian category offers balance in the form of heirloom tomatoes and tempura wax beans with a spring onion emulsion.
Waugaman, who once served as personal chef to Redskins owner Dan Snyder, expects to have all his ideas in print within the next few weeks.
Recalling his 1 ½ years cooking for Snyder and kin, the chef says, “I need the energy of a restaurant” to thrive. “Imagine seeing the same high-maintenance diner every day of your life.” Gotcha.