The owner of the southern-themed Vidalia and the French-accented Bistro Bis plans to take over the downtown space, in the historic Woodward Building at 15th and H Streets NW, on Sept. 1 and introduce his multiple ideas in early November.
Aiming to “scratch all our itches under one roof,” Buben says the 140-seat restaurant will celebrate iconic regional cooking — brisket, turtle soup, lobster with spinach souffle — while the take-out area, open for breakfast and lunch, will serve biscuit sandwiches, deviled ham, swordfish clubs and blue plate specials. And yes, he plans to continue making pizza in the big ovens he’s about to own. At night, the 30-seat Woodward Takeout Food will convert to a stage for guest chefs, tasting events and pop-up dining.
The veteran Washington restaurateur has reassembled some of the same crew that helped him update Vidalia a decade ago, including architect Griz Dwight. A bar area with seating for nearly 100 will dominate the front of the operation; the Beaux-Arts hall to the side will highlight private dining. “We want it to feel like it’s been around 50 years — and to be around another” half century, Buben says of the establishment.
He’s asked his chef at Bistro Bis, Joe Harran, to oversee the kitchens of his future operations and he intends to hire some of the current staff from Potenza to support the businesses.
Buben doesn’t see the sprawling site, best-known for its happy hour, as unlucky. “We’re known for going into spaces that don’t work,” he jokes, referring to the underground Vidalia. “We’ve been in a basement for 20 years.”