We never set out to be a Southern restaurant,” declares Jeff Buben, chef and co-owner of Vidalia in Washington, D.C. “We were looking for a name and icon that represented American cooking.”Sallie Buben, Jeff’s wife and business partner, suggested Vidalia onions. It seemed to go with the wood decor they had inherited from the Swiss restaurant that previously occupied the premises, so they settled on it.Before long, Buben says, “customers, after hearing Sallie’s Southern accent on the phone, ...

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