One of the few light notes at the 200-seat Woodward Table is its orange-and-blond palette. Every perch finds a diversion. A cozy booth or table in the main dining room puts one in view of the long exhibition kitchen; near the broad windows overlooking 15th Street, diners catch a stream of passersby. For private dining, there’s a handsome Beaux-Arts enclosure that, frankly, looks like the hallway it is. Tying the package together are pumpkin-colored pipes that coordinate with the leather banquettes and chair seats. The setting is more comfortable than it is a subject for Architectural Digest.
Despite the hot pull-apart rolls that signal the start of dinner, I’ve made a habit of launching every meal with a flatbread for the table. Prepared in a pizza oven inherited from Potenza, the crusts are thin and pleasantly chewy. The topping I return to most involves shredded duck, diced sweet potato and petals of Brussels sprouts. A paddle of that, plus something potent from the bar, makes me a happy camper. Spring for the smooth, bourbon-based West Wing, a tip of the hat to the establishment’s kinda-sorta neighbors.
You can’t be a restaurant and not serve kale these days, and this kitchen follows fashion with a toss of the dark greens, apple, dates, caramelized onions and bacon. Finer still is the chopped salad that packs in — open wide, now — sliced radishes, beets, cauliflower, bibb lettuce, tangy goat cheese and apricot bits, everything moistened with champagne vinaigrette.
Craggy fried chicken livers sit on a puddle of cheesy grits, the richness of the appetizer offset by sweet pepper marmalade. Here and there, reminders of Buben’s other family members pop up. Barbecue shrimp with tasso ham and smoked paprika butter would look right at home at Vidalia, for instance. On the other hand, chicken-fried sweetbreads lack the fine crunch and custardlike center that distinguish the Southern model from the pack. A bed of braised red cabbage adds tang to the rich dish.
No matter the day of the week, corned beef brisket feels like Sunday supper. For those who grew up on unfussy home cooking, the heap of braised sliced meat, tiny skin-on potatoes, baby carrots and a fistful of fresh parsley summons reassuring memories. Two diners could easily share the feast.