Editors' pick

Vidalia

Southern/Soul
$$$$ ($35 and up)
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Editorial Review

2013 Fall Dining Guide

2013 Fall Dining Guide
By Tom Sietsema
October 10, 2013

Tired of having to read lips during dinner? Book a table at Vidalia. Need a place to take a visitor or toast an anniversary? Owner Jeff Buben's salute to Southern cooking should be at the top of your list.

No restaurant in the city does a more convincing shrimp and grits or pecan pie than this place, a series of dining rooms that, with the help of frosted glass and a sunny palette, erase the reality that you're eating below ground. As hard as it is to pull yourself away from the tried and true on this menu, be sure to check out the specials or whatever chef de cuisine Hamilton Johnson has recently added to the roster. The rewards might be barbecue braised pork cheeks embellished with cheddar grits, pickled jalapeno, spiced peanuts and (we're almost there!) a topping of crisp oysters, and bison short ribs, glossy from a glaze of root beer and butter and poised on creamy potatoes.

Lesser dishes make occasional appearances, but I can forgive Vidalia onions forced on a dry pineapple upside-down cake when the service is pampering and so much else is so right. Vidalia is 21 years old and aging gracefully.

2012 Fall Dining Guide

2012 Fall Dining Guide
By Tom Sietsema
Washington Post Magazine
Sunday, Oct. 21, 2012

Hands down, the city's best bread basket is the one that greets diners who descend to the underground Southern lair nurtured for 19 years by Jeff and Sallie Buben. Onion-laced foccacia, warm corn bread and pillowy dinner rolls are worth the lecture from your trainer. But go slow. There's more greatness on the way, and the owners' hospitality involves pro-athlete portions. Oyster pan roast with champagne cream and country ham is enough seafood indulgence for two. Crisp sweetbreads teeter on delicate waffles, a sophisticated spin on the classic chicken and waffles. Vidalia's signature shrimp and grits could be served in Charleston, and no one would bat an eye. A shake too much salt here and there? It happens. The plates are crowded with enhancements; the quail is shored up with foie gras mousse and crookneck squash plus (open wide!) Carolina rice grits and tomato jam. Vidalia's Southern charm starts with gracious service and runs right through dessert. My current crush is the caramel cake, served like an elegant petit four, but I'll always have a special place for the pecan pie, too.