COMMENTS: When I visited Chef’s Table for the very first time in the early 1990s, I was totally surprised. It may have been one of Washington’s best kept secrets. When you drove into their spacious parking lot, you became immediately aware that you were in for a special treat. It was simply one of the most attractive soul food restaurants that you could find anywhere. The Chef’s Table was best known for its all-you-can-eat soul food buffet. I tried the potato salad, candied yams, pilaf gumbo, turkey gizzards and cornbread muffin. All were excellent choices. The chitterlings, stuffed turkey rolls and Southern fried chicken were also favorites among the patrons who continued to go back for more. Albert Westbrook opened this establishment in 1972. His experience in the restaurant business went back many years. He had worked with his father, Clarence Westbrook, since the age of 8. The elder Westbrook opened his first restaurant, D.C. Doughnut Shop, during the Great Depression in 1932. He went on to establish a chain of 13 restaurants during the period. His restaurant on U Street was one of the largest in Washington during World War II, seating 150 people and catering to all the stars. Al Westbrook did the family tradition well. This was yet another one of America’s historic family enterprises. Epilogue: Considered a “landmark institution” of Washington DC’s Ward 7, the site was purchased in 2009 by Ben Soto, a Washington DC entrepreneur and power broker. He envisions converting the site to retail and residential development, including a sit-down restaurant.
Read about other historic venues featured in the Hall of Memories in “American Blues, Jazz & Soul Food.”