I’ve participated in more than a few substantive conversations over the past year on how much is too much to pay for a sandwich. Each has concluded along this similar line: There’s an important difference between an expensive sandwich and an overpriced one, and as long as you’re getting good value for your buck, $9 and beyond isn’t necessarily unreasonable. Downtown Washington, D.C., is the kind of high-density, commerce-heavy neighborhood where spending this kind of money on a mediocre sandwich isn’t just easy, it’s widely accepted by denizens as a matter of course. (The food trucks are changing this much for the better, it’s worth noting — but that’s a topic for another post.)
Fortunately for those of us who live and/or work in D.C.’s central business district, the past 18 months have seen a concentrated proliferation of high-minded sandwich shops where that same $9 will get you more than a ho-hum ham and cheese. One of the more recent of these outposts is WTF, a lunch-only takeout counter within Woodward Table, a sprawling expanse of a restaurant in the former Potenza space at H Street NW and 15th Street NW. What is unique about Woodward Table is that is primarily an upscale, white-tablecloth establishment from a successful and well-known restaurateur (Jeff Buben) whose menu features items like sunchoke puree and toasted pumpkin seeds. That an eatery at this level would apply the same amount of attention and care in crafting its sandwich menu as it does its dinner menu is admirable, and many of the creations offered at WTF are among the most intriguing I’ve seen in some time.
Laid out like a classic deli, space is at a premium at WTF. A spattering of bistro tables compete for floor space with the ordering and pick-up queues. Though a menu board lists the names of the available sandwiches, most require some elaboration beyond their sometimes cutesy monikers, and full menus are nowhere to be seen. Tip: Take a look at the online menu before you arrive, and have a couple choices in mind.
On my first visit, earlier this week, I opted for the Fowl Play, featuring sliced smoked turkey breast and chopped chicken livers topped with turkey bacon, duck cracklings, pickled red onion and arugula on multigrain. The combination is simultaneously delicate and smoky, and well-proportioned amounts of each ingredient result in the kind of structural integrity that I appreciate. (I’m a sandwich neat freak.) The sharpness of the pickled onion is immediately evident, but not so much that one couldn’t later conduct a conversation in a crowded elevator car without overwhelming his counterparts. Even the slight toughness of the turkey bacon, an item I’m not generally fond of, didn’t detract from an exceedingly positive sandwich experience.
Elsewhere on the WTF bill of fare, the Duck Reuben and Porky Pig sound like promising candidates for a second visit, and an equally interesting, albeit less extensive breakfast menu is available for early birds. For those of us downtowners who have suffered too long under the tyranny of ordinary sandwiches imposed by the Subways, Au Bon Pains and Quiznos that dot our urban landscape, WTF is a welcome breath of fresh air and, I hope, a sign of things to come.