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Old Town's American Wood-Fired Kitchen

A custom sandstone bar offers eclectic cocktails, 12 tap beers, and international wines.

What's in a name? Everything in the case of one of Old Town Alexandria's newest restaurants.

Overwood, at 220 N. Lee St., boasts a "wood-fired American kitchen," and that is exactly what executive chef and part owner B. "Rami" Errami uses to bring forth his wide array of dishes that offer a treat for every palate.

In fact, most every entree menu item is prepared either in the kitchen's wood-fired oven or on its wood-fired grill. That includes such offerings as Norwegian salmon, rockfish, lamb shank, New York strip steaks, French-cut pork chops, and a specialized meatloaf created from beef, veal and pork.

"To accomplish this we go through about two cords of apple and cherry wood every 10 days. The oven is used mainly for our fish selections and the grill for the meats," Errami said as he conducted a tour of the totally new kitchen/food preparation areas.

Not only is the cuisine at Overwood a long overdue and welcomed addition to Alexandria's restaurant entourage, but also it’s the physical plant itself. Located in the former home of the ECCO Cafe, the design and decor has been totally redone to give a feeling of open relaxation combined with understated elegance.

"We completely gutted the whole place and started from scratch. Everything is brand new," said Joe Chapman, another owner and general manager the 174-seat establishment that includes a custom made sandwood bar with plasma, flat screen television — one of two within the restaurant.

All total, there are five owners who joined forces to create Overwood. In addition to Errami and Chapman, there are Bill McFadden, Ryan Duncan, and Joe Corey.

Duncan and Corey also own the "The Boulevard Wood Grill" on Wilson Boulevard in Clarendon. Chapman, prior to Overwood's opening on March 27, was with Faccia Luna on South Washington Street for six years while Errami was the executive chef at the Faccia Luna in Arlington.

Served by a staff of 60, both fulltime and part-time, the main dining room extends from being clustered around the bar, separated by a chest-high break wall, to the area immediately adjacent to the open-view kitchen. Both table and booth seating is available throughout this area.

Off to both sides of the primary dining area are two smaller, more intimate, rooms that can be used for private functions or large groups without intermixing with the other patrons. The area behind the hostess stand, seats 40, and is the one designated for private functions, according to Chapman.

"It has undergone the least change since the ECCO. We also will use it for regular dining when not reserved for a private function," he said. The other, more secluded area is to the right of the main dining area, once utilized as a florist shop specializing in personally designed arrangements for all occasions -- how appropriate for Overwood.

"ALL OUR MEAT and fish is brought in fresh everyday. And we specifically cut and filet the fish ourselves," Errami said.

"Our Black Strap Baby-Back ribs are slow cooked for 24 hours before they are served. All our meats are zero-to-one in fat content. When you order a 12-ounce steak here you can be assured you will receive 11 ounces of meat not four or five ounces of fat and the rest meat," he stated. Some fat is needed in beef for marbleizing.

Overwood's bacon and cheese burgers and jumbo-lump crab cakes are served on buns made with olive oil, not butter, that not only makes them far healthier but also adds considerably to their firmness and taste. "Everything is non-transfat here and we are a totally smoke free restaurant," Errami said.

French fries are made daily from Idaho russet potatoes as are the buttermilk-mashed potatoes. Following the main meal patrons have an array of deserts from which to choose that are also prepared on site daily.

For those wishing to limit their intake to salads, Overwood's menu features four dinner size options — woodoven Norwegian salmon, woodgrilled steak or chicken, and a woodgrilled chicken Caesar. All main course entree can also be complemented by a mixed green, classic Caesar or red and gold beet side salad.

Starters include Point Judith calamari, P.E.I. fresh steamed mussels, fried green tomatoes, and St. Louis toasted ravioli. A varied international wine list, draft beers or bottled brew are all available to complement every dining choice.

A completely ala carte menu, Overwood's prices range from $5.25 to

$7.95 for the starters; $9.95 to 13.95 for the "Big Salads;" and $9.95 to $24.95 for a main course from either land or sea. Both the bacon/cheese burger and grilled chicken club sandwiches are priced at $8.95. Sides range from $2.95 to $4.95.

Open seven days a week, Overwood offers lunch and dinner, as well as brunch on both Saturday and Sunday. The latter, served buffet style, runs from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday and 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sunday. Regular hours of operation are Monday through Thursday 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m.; Friday 11:30 a.m. to midnight; Saturday 11 a.m. to midnight; and Sunday 10:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Located on the first floor of the Crilly Warehouse, Overwood can be reached by calling 703-535-3340, although they do not accept reservations except for private functions. Information is also available on their Web site at www.Theoverwood.com.

"Business so far has been great and the neighbors have been very supportive. We are looking forward to a long and successful venture," Chapman said.