The Woodall gives globally inspired dishes and drinks local flavor.
“See you next week,” our server says with a smile while grabbing the signed receipt.
We’re not established regulars at The Woodall in Westside Village; this was our first visit. But return we did, a few days later with eager anticipation for brunch. And then for dinner a few days after that. Sure, I was researching, but even after this story is published you may see my husband and me occupying a booth on any given day. There are plenty of reasons to return again and again.
For starters, consider the gougères. These bite-sized, delicate puffs of gooey gruyère and smoked gouda sprinkled with parmesan are worth a trip alone. Though they’re meant to share, I would understand if you hoard a pile for yourself. Pair them with a creative cocktail or glass of wine for a preview of what heaven should taste like.
The lump crab beignets are equally satisfying. Each decadent sphere is a rewarding pop of savory sweet crab tinged with Old Bay seasoning. Wasabi honey mustard adds zing.
The Woodall opened in February 2021, the latest concept by Chef John Metz, CEO and co-founder of Sterling Hospitality, which owns Marlow’s Tavern. Whether you prefer a table, booth or high-top, there’s a seat to suit in the comfortable dining room and outdoor patio. Whitewashed brick, shiny metal, warm woods, brown leather and modern light fixtures warm up the converted warehouse while a mural of eagle talons clasping a silver spoon adds personality.
“My goal with the menu is for it to be very eclectic and internationally inspired, but using all the great freshness of Georgia ingredients,” says Metz.
The Sicilian calamari and rock shrimp are elegantly battered and fried then served scattered across a plate among tempura lemon slices and bits of red pepper and pepperoncini with marinara sauce for dipping. Scoop the different elements into your mouth all at once to experience a harmonious concert of textures and flavors from tart to salty, spicy to sweet.
For an entrée that impresses like a sophisticated yet cheap date, order the open-faced tenderloin sandwich. Thin slices of marinated grilled beef are piled atop grilled focaccia along with smoked gouda, kale pesto, onion confit and tomato. Each bite is packed with upscale ingredients and preparations that surpass expectations of its $16 price tag.
Chicken may be the most noteworthy thing on the menu for its mind-blowing, seemingly protein-defying juiciness, thanks to sous vide cooking in advance. Fried and sandwiched between a biscuit at brunch or brioche bun at dinner or seared for crispskinned paillard paired with tender heirloom carrots, fingerling potatoes and green beans, all swimming in a chicken glacé so good it’s hard not to lick the plate: In whatever final form you order it, chicken at The Woodall is consistently tender, succulent and crave-worthy.
If your heart’s set on ordering the Durham’s Chicken Biscuit at brunch, arrive early since quantities are limited. But if you happen to miss out on that tender fried chicken tucked inside a feathery soft buttermilk biscuit—an homage to Metz’ favorite dish at South Carolina’s Durham’s Convenience Mart—consider The Woodall’s creative spin on two breakfast classics. The jumbo lump crab cake Benedict tops a toasted English muffin with a fried crab cake, sautéed spinach, overeasy fried egg (rather than the traditional poached) and creamed corn béarnaise (in lieu of hollandaise). Sweet crab and corn flavors dominate the overall combo like loving parents. Shrimp and scallop polenta, a twist on shrimp and grits, tops smoked gouda polenta with perfectlycooked seafood plus spinach, tomato, bacon, roast shallot and a pan sauce so buttery you won’t want to miss a drop.
For dessert, don’t miss the Bailey’s butter cake. Packed with rich notes of browned butter, vanilla and bruléed sugar, the tender cake is crowned with whipped cream and strawberries, which it could do without, and wading in a puddle of Bailey’s sauce so scrumptious you may start humming an Irish tune.
Servers are attentive without hovering, so you can enjoy conversation with your dining companions. The relaxed mood may inspire you to linger over a cocktail. Consider well-balanced concoctions such as the Southern Charmer (bourbon, peach nectar, ginger, lemon and lavender bitters) and the Boardroom Rita (tequila, Fresno peppers, clementine orange, Benedictine, maraschino, agave and lime).
The menu changes seasonally, though popular items will remain. “I have a habit of changing stuff I really love,” says Metz. “The goal is to bring in fresh, great flavors every season.”
Sounds like a tasty invitation to return.
Prices: (dinner) small plates: $10-15; salads: $9-12; sandwiches: $14-17; mains: $14-43; sides: $6; desserts: $9-10. (brunch) small plates: $9-14; sandwiches: $11.5-17; mains: $13-29; sides: $5.
Recommended: Southern Charmer, gougères, lump crab beignets, chicken paillard, tempura eggplant fries, Durham’s chicken biscuit, Bailey’s butter cake.
Bottom line: A contemporary eatery that delivers high-quality, globally-inspired food, drinks and service at competitive prices in a relaxed environment.
STORY: Hope S. Philbrick
PHOTOS: Sara Hanna
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