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Forget the Passport: 'Bon Appetit' at These French Restaurants in D.C.



Many of us dream of visiting France one day. The wine! The history! The architecture! The art! The food! Did we mention the wine? Sadly, some us (myself included) may never get to cross the Atlantic in order to experience the culture for ourselves. But cheer up because Washington, D.C. has a number of restaurants that make you feel like you are in France when dining there.

Take a 20 minute drive to Falls Church's L'Auberge Chez Francois to enjoy classic French fare. Grab a seat on their patio because the garden surroundings are gorgeous. With it's name meaning 'cottage,' you will love La Chaumiere which will transport you to a French country inn.      

Wine is considered a key part of French cuisine and several of these venues have amazing selections like Bistrot Lepic and Wine Bar which offers more than 100 bottles to select to go with your simple yet delicious meal.

If you seek a romantic venue, look no further than Marcel's which offers a three-course pre-theater dining menu before you head to the Kennedy Center for a show.  

Whatever French cuisine you desire – escargot, trout amandine, or calf's liver, the nation's capital has a restaurant to meet your needs so merci beaucoup et bon appetite!

 


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Bistro Cacao
Photo courtesy of Bistro Cacao


Cacao in French translates to cocoa in English and there is plenty of chocolate on the dessert menu to make you happy. Flourless warm chocolate fondant anyone? Before we skip ahead, stop and savor the selections on their lunch, dinner and brunch menus. Offering French indulgence with contemporary flair, you are sure to find a dish that will make you want to come back for another visit. The dress code is casual business attire and reservations are accepted. If you like some of the antiques on display in the restaurant you may be able to buy them. Ask your server!METRO: Union Station

Recommended for French because: Whether it's a romantic dinner or a fun night out, this venue has a fun French dishes to chose from during your visit.

Gina's expert tip: If there is a spot open, grab a seat on their outdoor patio during summer months.

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Ici Urban Bistro


Located inside the luxury Sofitel Hotel, this upscale restaurant promises a contemporary approach to old world French food. Bountiful flavor and exquisite presentation are the core of executive chef Frank Loquet's menu. Breakfast, lunch and dinner options are served along with a dessert menu that's sure to make your personal trainer mad at you. Many will find multiple menu items appealing so try the 30-minute lunch option featuring smaller portions of an appetizer, salad, entrée and dessert. Undecided dinner diners may order the petit bistro for a variety of flavors. Check out Le Bar for chic cocktails and a number of wines to chose from for before or after dinner drinks. METRO: McPherson Square

Recommended for French because: Old world French dishes in a modern luxury setting.

Gina's expert tip: Try the wild strawberry verrine for dessert. You won't be sorry!

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An American bistro with a French accent is how famed chef Michel Richard describes his restaurant and you will understand why once you take a look at the delicious menu. Guests will find a mix of both American favorites like crabcakes, hamburgers and double cut pork chop mixed in with French classics like trout almondine and loup de mer. Named for its chef and central location to The National Mall, Smithsonian museums and more, diners will find a casual yet sophisticated vibe upon entry. Pair your meal with a drink from their bar including wines, champagne, cocktails and beer. METRO: Federal Triangle.

Recommended for French because: It is an American bistro but you can find can't miss French dishes here.

Gina's expert tip: Check out their website to see if they have a special menu available. Over the summer, they featured a tomato tasting menu.

Read more about Central Michel Richard →


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Located about 20 minutes outside of the nation's capital, this restaurant is worth the drive. Opened in 1954, founder Francios Haeringer wanted a family inn with "nice ambiance and good honest food at affordable prices." Originally in D.C., the restaurant moved to Falls Church in 1976. Today, this family owned business continues serving customers classic French fare. Try the six-course prix-fixe menu ranging in price from $75 to $85. They have an impressive wine list and a sommelier can help you pair your meal choice with the perfect drink. If you prefer a specialty cocktail, the restaurant has several to select.

Recommended for French because: The food, atmosphere and service at L'Auberge Chez Francois echo the experience of dining in the French countryside.

Gina's expert tip: Try the Alsatian plum tart with cinnamon ice cream. Yum!

Read more about L'Auberge Chez Francois →




Opened in April 1995, this destination is much beloved and features a simple yet delicious menu served at the restaurant on the bottom floor and a cozy wine bar on the second floor. Serving lunch, brunch and dinner selections, favorites include the escargots au beurre d'ail (snails baked in garlic butter), risotto au zeste de citrons (lemon lime risotto with grilled shrimp) and foie de veau provencale (calf liver). The wine list is truly swoon worthy with more than 100 bottles to chose from to enjoy with friends and family. Wines by the glass are also available. Don't leave without trying dessert because each selection is worth the extra calories! METRO: Foggy Bottom

Recommended for French because: Bistrot Lepic & Wine Bar serves French fare paired with an outstanding selection of wines.

Gina's expert tip: Don't fret about parking. It is free in the evenings.

Read more about Bistrot Lepic →


Marcel's

With soft lighting, elegant white décor, and a maître d to greet you, this French and Belgian cuisine venue is epitome of fine dining. Menu items change daily but the high quality of each meal does not. Chose from four, five, six or seven course meals. For those who love to attend shows at the Kennedy Center, be sure to check out Marcel's three course pre-theater dining menu. Some selections to try include the smoke salmon carpaccio, the roasted Berkshire pork loin or perhaps the melting hot chocolate cake. The price tag even includes an executive car service to take you to and from the venue. METRO: Foggy Bottom

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Named for a district in northern Paris, this charming bistro in the Eastern Market features casual dining in a light, open dining room. The venue offers lunch, dinner and brunch menus. Lunch offerings include a selection of mussels and savory crepe. Try a dish off their sandwiches and quiche section like roasted lamb tartine and quiche Lorraine. For dinner, you may chose to have a plate of three of the day's cheeses or head straight to the main courses including braised rabbit leg, duck leg confit, sautéed calf's liver and roasted lamb rack. METRO: Eastern Market

Recommended for French because: The food and service are excellent at Montemarte, a charming French bistro in the Eastern Market neighborhood.

Gina's expert tip: They are closed on Mondays so plan accordingly.

Read more about Montmartre →


Le Diplomate
Photo courtesy of Le Diplomate


For a taste of France right here in Washington, D.C., head to this bistro which offers an incredible comfort food menu for brunch, apres midi and dinner. Brunch options include breakfast favorites like steak and eggs and spinach omelette and entree choices including lamb sandwich and trout amandine. Dinner offers succulent hors d'oeuvres, tasty entrees and a full wine and dessert menu. Try to grab a seat outside to enjoy conversations with friends and people-watch. You may even see well-known political figures. First Lady Michelle Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of State John Kerry have all been spotted here. METRO: U Street

Recommended for French because: A trip to this eatery will make you feel like you are in Paris. No passport required.

Gina's expert tip: Brunch is only served on the weekend but it is not to be missed!

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Bistro Bis


With a focus on modern interpretations of traditional French bistro fare, this restaurant is where Capitol Hill dines out. Patrons will find a warm yet sophisticated atmosphere upon their arrival including a tiered dining area and a bar ready to make classic French cocktails. Dig into breakfast favorites like the corned beef hash and eggs Florentine or join them for lunch with entrees like the steak frites and salade grecque. Dinner offerings include bouillabaisse, salmon clamart, confit de canard touloussiene and beef bourguignon. The brunch menu is worth getting out of bed for on the weekend with selections like the risotto au pistou, quiche Lorraine and tuna salade nicoise. METRO: Union Station

Recommended for French because: Giving traditional French fare a modern twist makes this restaurant a winner.

Gina's expert tip: After 5:30 p.m., the restaurant will validate your parking for the Colonial parking garage.

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This restaurant's name means 'cottage' and it's perfectly titled because once you step foot inside, it's like you have been transported to a French country inn. Pronounced 'La show me air,' the eatery features a central stone fireplace, wood beams and stucco walls for a more rustic yet romantic look. The list of dinner entrees will make you wish for a bigger stomach. Try Magret de Canard (marinated duck breast), St. Jacques provencale (sea scallops) or Foie de Veau a l'Echalote (sautéed calf's liver). The venue is open for three hours at lunch and five for dinner and closed on Sundays so plan ahead. METRO: Foggy Bottom

Recommended for French because: Offering a French tradition in Georgetown, this restaurant succeeds mightly.

Gina's expert tip: Reservations are recommended for both lunch and dinner.

Read more about La Chaumiére →


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Meet Gina Gallucci White

Gina Gallucci White is an award winning freelance writer with articles appearing in such regional publications as Frederick Magazine, The Daily Record, Montgomery Magazine and The Gazette. She...  More About Gina

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