French Dining in the District That's As Good As Dinner in Paris
Do you love French food? Or is it the ambiance that draws you in? The experience of dining at a French restaurant can be just as good as the food -- the multiple courses; the relaxed, go-at-your-own-pace, slowness of enjoying a meal bite for bite; the ambiance that's so uniquely Francais, whether the restaurant mimics a French country inn or a Paris bistro.
There are several restaurants in the district that offer both a delicious menu AND the ambiance of dining in France. The newest French restaurant on the DC dining scene is le Diplomate. Sit under the red awning long enough and you'll imagine you're dining al fresco at a Parisian cafe.
Or escape to the French countryside, er Georgetown, and dine at La Chaumiere. Stepping inside, you'll feel transported to a French country inn with a menu to match. Enjoy dishes such as veal piccata and tripe and delight in desserts like their flourless chocolate cake.
If you prefer dining at a French bistro, there are several to choose from in DC. Grab a table at Capitol Hill bistros Bistro Bis or Montmarte. Enjoy the contemporary atmosphere and menus at Ici Urban Bistro or sip a great French wine at Bistrot Lepic, a family-run bistro and wine bar in Georgetown.
No matter which French restaurant you choose, you'll satisfy your craving in Washington, DC.
10 L'Auberge Chez Francois
This warm, intimate restaurant recollects the quaint roadside inns so revered in the French countryside. Surrounding it is a beautiful garden that helps foster a relaxed environment for guests, who are treated as though they are neighbors -- even family. The prix fixe menu includes a variety of Alsatian dishes, including a choucroute platter cooked in Crémant d'Alsace. Superbly done seafood, duck and veal are also notable. For dessert, guests are encouraged to try the plum or apple tart with cinnamon ice cream. Outstanding wine selection. Six-course dinner, $59-72. L'Auberge Chez Francois is located in Great Falls, VA, a 20 minute drive from DC, and offers ample parking. (703-759-3800)
Warm, burnished tones with accents of wrought iron and terra cotta envelop diners at this elegant establishment. An exhibition kitchen takes a position of prominence, serving notice of the wonderful things that await. These "things," French and Flemish in nature, include saddle of rabbit stuffed with foie gras, pan-seared duck with couscous, and veal osso bucco with wild forest mushrooms and pomme puree. Appetizers like gratin of PEI mussels also titillate the senses. Service is impeccable, and the wine list is divided by region. Its well worth the expensive price tag. Open for dinner only. Dressy attire. Reservations recommended. METRO: Foggy Bottom (202-296-1166)
8 Brasserie Beck
Known for its locally-sourced menu, Brasserie Beck works with local farmers to include organic foods on its menu. Prepared by Chef de Cuisine Anthony Acinapura, the menu features crispy Brussel sprouts, Alsatian grilled flatbread topped with caramelized onions, Gruyere and apple wood smoked bacon, and Beck's ground Angus burger deluxe served with Belgian frites. Bar plates range in price from $5-12 and include pairing suggestions from Beck's extensive Belgian beer list; there are nine selections on draught and over 100 in bottles. The restaurant is open daily for lunch and dinner as well as for brunch on the weekends. METRO: Metro Center. (2024081717)
7 Ici Urban Bistro
Not your typical French restaurant, upscale Ici Urban Bistro prides itself on consistency and presentation. The contemporary menu features only the freshest seasonal ingredients. Food is prepared and presented with tasteful panache -- for example, roasted halibut with toasted gingerbread crust is accompanied by zucchini tagliatelle with white wine and pepper emulsion. The stunning dining room features brightly colored artwork set against a backdrop of rich jewel tones. The well-selected wines reflect the bistro's high standards and are fairly priced, making this elegant affair one of the best deals in DC. Restaurant and bar dining options available. METRO: McPherson Square (202-730-8800)
This charming bistro adds a breath of fresh air to Capitol Hill dining. Its delightful French cuisine is served in a simple, inviting space with yellow walls, an exposed wood ceiling, wooden tables, and an open kitchen. The menu offers a relatively small but excellent selection. Start with zucchini soup, and then order Montmartre's signature braised rabbit. Or, opt for monkfish fillet, roasted salmon or mussels, said to be the best in Washington, DC. Outdoor dining available. Open for lunch, dinner and weekend brunch. Prices are reasonable for the neighborhood and the cuisine. Business casual dress. Reservations suggested. METRO: Eastern Market (202-544-1244)
5 Bistrot Lepic
Golden walls and jewel-toned artwork greet guests at this cozy, family-run bistro. The upbeat, welcoming atmosphere fittingly complements a menu of authentic (and sometimes unusual) dishes. Among the selections are potato-crusted salmon with ouzo sauce, hearty duck-and-lamb cassoulet, and calf's liver served with capers, garlic, black olives and Jerez vinegar. Traditionalists may try braised pig's feet as an appetizer. Prices are reasonable, service is friendly, and a good selection of French wines will please any diner. In addition to lunch and dinner, Bistrot Lepic also serves brunch and a prix fixe jazz night menu. Business casual attire. Reservations recommended. Catering available. METRO: Foggy Bottom (202-333-0111)
4 La Chaumière
La Chaumiere offers an escape from the hectic pace of everyday life in Washington, DC. Amid rush-seated chairs and hanging copper cookware, a central stone fireplace blazes during winter months and adds to the traditional atmosphere of this charming French inn. Menu selections from award-winning Chef de Cuisine Patrick Orange include an enticing cassoulet, veal piccata, and salmon in puff pastry with champagne-dill sauce. More adventurous diners may opt for tripe stewed in Calvados liqueur or calf's brain sautéed in brown butter and capers. Classic French dessert options abound, including a flourless chocolate cake with hazelnut sauce. Daily specials. Business casual attire. Reservations recommended. METRO: Foggy Bottom (202-338-1784)
3 Bistro Bis
Escape the high-stress environment of the business world and decompress in the relaxed atmosphere of this contemporary bistro. Enjoy lively conversation and sophisticated French cuisine inside the dining room warmed by cherry woods or outside on the patio. Owner-chef Jeffrey Buben's classically-inspired menu includes lamb chops Niçoise, escalope of salmon Gascone and duck confit prepared with garlic and thyme. The glass-enclosed kitchen allows guests to watch the skilled chef and his team as they hone their culinary expertise. A destination in its own right, Bistro Bis has become a haven for the trendy and the powerbroker alike. METRO: Union Station (202-661-2700)
2 Le Diplomate
New on the scene but certainly a classic in the making, le Diplomate recreates the experience of the classic Parisian café. Spend an afternoon sipping a frothy cappuccino and people-watching from your outdoor seat under the red awning. Or come for an aperitif paired with a crusty, homemade baguette and a selection of French cheeses. Stop by in the evening for dessert; the menu features classic French desserts like Vanilla Bean Creme Brulee. le Dip (as the locals call it) is open for dinner and weekend brunch but will soon be serving breakfast and lunch as well. METRO: U Street (202-332-3333)
1 Central Michel Richard
Sophisticated in gold tones and clean lines, the atmosphere is inviting and comfortable inside Central Michel Richard, conveniently located in Penn Quarter, near the White House and Capitol Hill. The glass-enclosed wine case and see-through meat locker make this an open and purely unique venue for enjoying traditional American cuisine with a French flair. Signature menu items include a lobster burger served with confit tomato, Central's own mayonnaise and potato tuiles and Tartare of filet mignon served with French fries. A full bar is available featuring an extensive wine list. Happy hour is hosted daily from 5-6:30 p.m. Reservations accepted. Prices are affordable for the neighborhood. METRO: Federal Triangle. (2026260015)
About Shannon Morgan
Shannon Morgan is an award-winning editor and writer and the author of 100 Things to Do in DC Before You Die (2015). She has written for USA TODAY Travel, Food Network magazine, the Washington Independent Review of Books and several regional lifestyle magazines, including Maryland Life. She has appeared on WYPR Baltimore and spoken about social media strategies at local and international conferences. She lives in Maryland with her husband and two children and drinks way more decaf coffee than one writer should.
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