- The Washington Times - Monday, March 25, 2002

Sally Buben's restaurant is named after the world-famous onions that grow only in one region of Georgia onions that are sweet enough to eat like apples.
Mrs. Buben, who established Vidalia with her husband, Jeffrey, says the name "really reflects the regional American cuisine that we serve."
In homage to its namesake, Vidalia's menu features many dishes incorporating Vidalia onions. The restaurant goes through almost 40,000 pounds of these onions each year.
The restaurant, well lit and quiet, is ideal for a business lunch. The decor is cheerful, with sponge-painted yellow walls and attractive landscape paintings. Tables are far enough apart to provide for privacy and spacious enough to allow for business lunch meetings.
The service is incredibly gracious at Vidalia, and the wait staff is attentive yet not intrusive. The menu at Vidalia is extensive, with a wide variety of regional dishes, including chef Peter Smith's famous shrimp and grits.
Southern hospitality is evident right from the start. Soon after you order, the server brings a basket of warm breads. These include a flatbread infused with the taste of Italian sausage ground anise, fennel and sea salt. The cornbread is impossibly moist. Another bread is covered with carmelized onions. The bread is served with house-made onion marmalade a concoction Mrs. Buben describes as "carmelized and reduced sweet onions." The breads are warm and satisfying.
For starters, my companion ordered the roasted tomato soup, while I chose the roasted beet and Belgian endive salad. Her soup was creamy and very rich, topped with dollops of green basil cream. My salad was an interesting mixture of sweet beets playing against the bitter endive, and included crunchy hazelnuts, and toasted brioche in a light vinaigrette.
For an entree, I selected Viola's chicken with dumplings. The platter that arrived was enormous, with two pan-roasted chicken breasts, several small dumplings, pearl onions, carrots, and celery in a rich chive cream sauce. My companion ordered the spicy chicken salad, which won the "best entree" contest hands down. Her salad was inspired by the many flavors of Asia, with spicy Thai basil, mint, watercress, and lots of slivered green onions. The salad was studded with crispy fried lotus chips, an elegant addition to the color mix of green herbs, red pepper strips, and cashews.
For dessert, I ordered the famous house specialty, lemon chess pie. This was the best pie I'd ever had. The recipe is adapted from one of Mrs. Buben's old family recipes. The pie was served with fresh berries and heavy whipped cream. My companion ordered the Valhrona chocolate torte. It arrived as a large pyramid of chocolate cake turned on its side accompanied with chocolate sauce, raspberry puree, and liquered raspberries served in a cookie basket. It was rich and very satisfying, though it did not taste as fresh as the lemon chess pie.
Vidalia is an excellent place to treat your business clients. The ambience is friendly and relaxing, full of Southern charm, and the service is impeccable. However, the main reason to come to Vidalia is the food. It is an excellent blend of fusion cooking with flavors that compose a symphony for the palate.

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