Wild Onion Cafe

$$$$ ($14 and under)

Editorial Review

Mr. President, this quick-service cafe's for you.

Six months before you won the 2008 election, chef Rasheed Abdurrahman had a good feeling about your chances. He wanted to bring healthfully prepared foods to Prince George's County and teach people how to cook that way as well. So he named his new place in honor of your home town, a.k.a. "Shikako," a word that is of Indian origin and refers to the many wild onions and leeks that grew where the city of broad shoulders now stands.

The 46-year-old Bowie resident trained at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y., and has worked in the kitchens at Kinkead's and the Hay-Adams hotel. Now he mans the spacious kitchen in a bright, appealing eatery that seats 65, and he teaches there two nights a week for the culinary program of Prince George's Community College.

"I want people to come here every day and find something fresh," Abdurrahman says.

A variety of salads for mixing and matching fill one cool case, while sandwiches, wraps and panini with organic meats are built to order nearby. Large and meaty shrimp are poached in white wine and water, then dressed in house-made honey mustard, mayonnaise and Old Bay seasoning to create a terrific salad (about $18.50 per pound). Soups start with the chef's own stocks. Three are made daily. On the day we visited, the Maryland crab soup was thick with vegetables and sweet crabmeat, and the chicken-and-rice soup was infused with dill and tasted homemade (small, $3.95; medium, $4.95; large, $7.95).

Although not particularly healthful, the chef's macaroni and cheese is a runaway favorite with Wild Onion customers ($8.50 per pound). Monterey Jack and cheddar cheeses, a bechamel sauce plus a judicious amount of sauteed onion make it about the creamiest and best we've had. It is one of the hot foods made fresh each day, along with spice-rubbed rotisserie chicken and other entrees that come and go, such as organic turkey meatloaf and ginger-lime vegetable stir-fry. Lunch- or dinner-size combo plates of an entree plus two sides cost between $7 and $12. Abdurrahman makes sure vegan options are always available.

He says the other favorite has been his Obama cupcakes, which he began making on Jan. 20 after he read that the commander in chief likes sweet potato pie.

"Cupcakes are in vogue, so I added sweet potato to the batter and nutmeg to the buttercream icing," Abdurrahman says. At $2, these behemoths can satisfy a pair of sweet-toothed Obama fans, as well as anyone who resides at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

A stimulus plan that's working! Mr. President, the chef says stop by anytime to see for yourself.

-- Bonnie S. Benwick (Good to Go, April 8, 2009)