$$$$ ($14 and under)

Editorial Review

Woodward Takeout Food in downtown Washington
By Nevin Martell
Wednesday, December 26, 2012

When Jeffrey Buben decided to expand his empire beyond Vidalia and Bistro Bis, he had one new concept in mind: Woodward Table. But then the 54-year-old chef-restaurateur took over the former Potenza space downtown, which features a separate takeaway area, and so Woodward Takeout Food (WTF) was born.

With an open bakery/kitchen and cases, counters and glass jars brimming with just-made delights, the space manages to feel both nostalgic and modern.

Buben wanted the Woodward eateries to be distinctly different yet echo each other. Accordingly, WTF features classic American comfort foods reimagined with cheffy flourishes and an emphasis on house-made ingredients. Because it’s essentially a deli, WTF focuses on sandwiches, which include some of the best in the District.

They all are built upon house-made breads. The top-selling Chick Chick ($9.75) arrives on a lightly toasted potato roll slathered with mayonnaise and cranberry relish. In between are a few crisped rashers, bread-and-butter pickles, a canopy of Boston lettuce and a crackly fried chicken breast coated with a poultry seasoning reminiscent of Thanksgiving stuffing, with hints of thyme, garlic and paprika.

The duck Reuben is playful ($11): confit dressed with a cider shallot dressing instead of Thousand Island and vinegared red cabbage as a sauerkraut substitute. Melted Gruyere -- for a touch of nuttiness -- and the traditional Swiss top it off, then it’s pressed between slices of sourdough rye. A fair amount oozes out the sides, so make sure you ask for a fork and plenty of napkins.

Five breakfast sandwiches and other morning favorites are served until 11 a.m., though the early fan-favorite fried chicken on buttermilk biscuit piled with cheddar, bacon and smoked honey ($6.50) is available until closing time.

Expect to wait about five minutes for your order, unless you order one of the highly recommended flatbreads, which can take up to 15 minutes. With chewy rounded edges and a crispier center, they’re worth the wait. That is especially true of the Benton’s Own, topped with shards of thin-sliced country ham, sweet bacon marmalade, smoked ham hock and a little cheddar ($13.75).

Though main courses here are filling, it would be criminal to leave without sampling a dessert, or two, from pastry chef Beverly Bates, who has worked with Buben on and off over the past seven years. A sweet, custardy lemon square with a shortbread crust ($2.75) is so soft that I eat it with a spoon, while the oatmeal pecan and cranberry cookie ($2.50) has a nice balance of chewiness and crunch. Both go well with the well-executed coffee, espresso and tea offerings ($1.95 to $4.50), though you may prefer to go old school with glass-bottled sodas such as Cheerwine, Nehi and RC Cola ($3 each).