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Best French Restaurants in DC?

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meg50309 Feb 12, 2011 03:39 PM

I'm hoping to send a gift certificate to a couple getting married. Trying to find a great French restaurant in DC for them - looking to spend $100-$150, and am hoping that will pay for at least the majority of a great meal. Recommendations for wonderful French food, nice atmosphere? Thanks!

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  1. hill food RE: meg50309 Feb 12, 2011 07:48 PM

    that's a kettle o' worms

    that price range, du Coin, Central (bit American), LePic, Brasserie Francaise, Chaumiere, Montmartre, Petit Plats, Pied du Cochon. DC can thank Jackie O for the number and popularity of French places and the concentration around NW and G'Town.

    what neighborhood do they frequent/live in?

    -----
    Montmartre
    327 7th St SE, Washington, DC 20003

    18 Replies
    1. re: hill food
      n
      nytdct RE: hill food Feb 13, 2011 01:13 PM

      Hasn't Au Pied du Cochon closed?

      Second Bistro Bis (good food, though not a cozy atmosphere if that is what you are looking for)

      What about Jacque's Brasseri @ L'Auberge Chez Francoise http://www.laubergechezfrancois.com/p...
      Haven't been there - anyone with input?

      Would be helpful to know what is geographically convenient for the giftees

      -----
      Bistro Bis
      15 E Street, NW, Washington, DC 20001

      1. re: nytdct
        alkapal RE: nytdct Feb 13, 2011 02:43 PM

        goodness alive, i thought i was in a time warp when au pied du cochon was mentioned!

        ~~~~~~~~
        come to think of it, the whole jackie o thing seems a tad outdated, no? we used to have lots of french places that are now long gone. i had a boss that adored la colline.

        ~~~~~~
        i'm still looking for a place to do the equivalent of le gaulois' blanquette de veau or its quenelles de brochet au sauce americaine <how they listed it on the menu, btw> http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/5932... . ;-(.

        1. re: alkapal
          n
          nytdct RE: alkapal Feb 13, 2011 02:52 PM

          Next it will be Maison Blanc, Rive Gauche and Le Lion D'Or

          1. re: nytdct
            alkapal RE: nytdct Feb 13, 2011 02:57 PM

            LOL!!!

            hold on a second, let me go get my shoulder pads.....
            http://www.thegreat80s.com/images/80s...

            1. re: nytdct
              f
              flavrmeistr RE: nytdct Feb 13, 2011 03:56 PM

              ...and Jean Pierre and L'Auberge Chez Francoise. Oh wait...L'Auberge is still around.

              1. re: flavrmeistr
                crackers RE: flavrmeistr Feb 14, 2011 06:21 PM

                Based on a recent celebration dinner at L'Auberge, I'd put it in the "relic" category. And NOT in a good way. French/Alsatian cuisine has come a long way in the last several decades, but L'Auberge's menu is too encrusted in stale, soggy pate choux to recommend it to any but the bluest of blue haired blue bloods.

                1. re: crackers
                  hill food RE: crackers Feb 14, 2011 09:32 PM

                  yikes!

                  actually I might like that, would remind me of a dinner in Paris with an ancient person who insisted on wearing her sunglasses throughout the meal (10 PM) and ordering copious amounts of wine. food was fine, but it was very 1962, just 30+years late.

                  1. re: crackers
                    l
                    lawhound RE: crackers Feb 18, 2011 09:41 AM

                    Gosh, we had a very different reaction to a recent celebratory dinner at L'Auberge. The classics, like choucroute, were first rate, as is the service and the wine list. It's no-one's idea of a cutting edge restaurant, but really that is the point.

                    1. re: lawhound
                      Bob W RE: lawhound Feb 21, 2011 11:23 AM

                      +1

                      I like cutting-edge food as much as the next guy, but our occasional meals at L'Auberge are always very good.

                2. re: nytdct
                  p
                  Pappy RE: nytdct Feb 14, 2011 05:56 AM

                  Wow! Those are great old names! Lion d'or was my absolute favorite. They held on for a while. I also remember Tiberio's on K St. They called themselves italian, but they used cream in every dish.

                  1. re: nytdct
                    Jay F RE: nytdct Feb 14, 2011 06:30 AM

                    Which was the one that's now a McDonald's near the White House?

                    1. re: Jay F
                      n
                      nytdct RE: Jay F Feb 15, 2011 06:25 PM

                      Maison Blanc

                  2. re: alkapal
                    p
                    pineapple sage RE: alkapal Feb 15, 2011 06:11 PM

                    Don't forget Dominique's.

                    1. re: pineapple sage
                      n
                      nytdct RE: pineapple sage Feb 15, 2011 07:07 PM

                      and San Souci (Georgetown)

                      http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/...

                      1. re: pineapple sage
                        DanielK RE: pineapple sage Feb 15, 2011 08:48 PM

                        Didn't Dominique's close like 15 years ago?

                        1. re: DanielK
                          Jay F RE: DanielK Feb 15, 2011 09:00 PM

                          Yes. This has turned into a little subthread of deceased French restaurants in DC.

                    2. re: nytdct
                      hill food RE: nytdct Feb 13, 2011 06:48 PM

                      aww, I knew one of those was gone. but Pig Foot? eh I was always a Cap Hill person.

                    3. re: hill food
                      monkeyrotica RE: hill food Feb 14, 2011 04:37 AM

                      I'd add Bistro Cacao to that list. The upstairs semi-enclosed booths are cozy and romantic, the cooking authentic, and the price more than reasonable. The only downside would be the disappointing, gouge-ey wine list. But they have some nice apertifs.

                      -----
                      Bistro Cacao
                      320 Massachusetts Avenue, NE, Washington, DC 20002

                    4. s
                      Steve RE: meg50309 Feb 13, 2011 02:52 AM

                      Peruse the prices at Michel Richard Central at the link below. I would say $150 covers everything for two people with 3 courses and a glass of wine.... this is overkill as the food is very rich.

                      http://www.centralmichelrichard.com

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: Steve
                        d
                        dinersaurus RE: Steve Feb 14, 2011 11:51 AM

                        Central is Richard's homage to American food - at least it's American food with French technique. It's a great place, but I wouldn't call it French.

                        1. re: dinersaurus
                          s
                          Steve RE: dinersaurus Feb 14, 2011 04:25 PM

                          I know what you mean.... up to a point. But this is a first -time poster giving a gift certificate, not a wizened Chowhound.

                          Still, half the menu is typical melting pot Parisian bistro.

                        2. re: Steve
                          e
                          Elyssa RE: Steve Feb 16, 2011 05:40 AM

                          I love Central....it's one of my favorite restaurants in DC. But as already mentioned, I don't think it's really a french restaurant. The cooking is in the french style (and there are certainly french dishes on the menu) but the menu is meant to be a modern American bistro. Rasika is also in the French style but clearly an Indian restaurant.

                          -----
                          Rasika Restaurant
                          633 D Street, NW, Washington, DC 20004

                        3. k
                          kungpho RE: meg50309 Feb 13, 2011 08:57 AM

                          Marcel's is hard to beat as well - all good suggestions by others.

                          4 Replies
                          1. re: kungpho
                            DanielK RE: kungpho Feb 13, 2011 08:59 AM

                            Yes, but even $150 is going to leave a good amount of money left if you go all out at Marcel's.

                            But I agree it's far better than any of the previously named places.

                            1. re: DanielK
                              hill food RE: DanielK Feb 13, 2011 10:12 AM

                              until the happy couple hits the wine list that is...

                              1. re: hill food
                                DanielK RE: hill food Feb 13, 2011 11:20 AM

                                No, I meant that $150 won't even cover two dinners. Sorry I wasn't clear.

                                At Marcel's, the fare for 3/4/5/7 courses is 65/80/95/130pp.

                                I suppose you could go for only 3 or 4 courses, but IMO, 5 or 7 is the way to go.

                                1. re: DanielK
                                  m
                                  marcj RE: DanielK Feb 13, 2011 12:08 PM

                                  Yeah, I agree--Marcel's is probably the best, but $150 leaves you a long way from enjoying a Marcel's dinner to the fullest. On the other hand, Bistro Bis isn't quite at the same level, but it's very good, and $150 could cover almost all of a dinner w/wine there.

                                  -----
                                  Bistro Bis
                                  15 E Street, NW, Washington, DC 20001

                          2. alkapal RE: meg50309 Feb 13, 2011 02:45 PM

                            i overheard someone talking about "bastille" in alexandria the other day. 3 courses for $60. how is that place?

                            we are still smarting from the loss of the (real) le gaulois.

                            18 Replies
                            1. re: alkapal
                              d
                              dinersaurus RE: alkapal Feb 14, 2011 11:50 AM

                              I love Bastille, but I'm not sure if it's what you're looking for or not. It has a great neighborhood feel to it and is a more casual than something like Marcels. They should be able to eat well for $150 there. It's not flashy, but it's solid French cooking.

                              1. re: alkapal
                                l
                                lawhound RE: alkapal Feb 18, 2011 09:43 AM

                                What happened to Le Gaullois?

                                1. re: lawhound
                                  monkeyrotica RE: lawhound Feb 18, 2011 10:30 AM

                                  Closed since 2009.

                                  1. re: monkeyrotica
                                    alkapal RE: monkeyrotica Feb 18, 2011 10:35 AM

                                    and even that was not the real "gaulois," which was the one "lost" when the french couple retired back to france, and sold it to some bogus (IMO) persons to "carry on."

                                    1. re: alkapal
                                      i
                                      Indy 67 RE: alkapal Feb 18, 2011 12:56 PM

                                      Wasn't the original Le Gaulois on Wisconsin Avenue just north of Georgetown? I think the waiters used to wear roller skates in the original.

                                      Their quenelles were the stuff of dreams!

                                      1. re: Indy 67
                                        s
                                        Steve RE: Indy 67 Feb 18, 2011 01:19 PM

                                        The original was in Foggy Bottom, not Georgetown. No roller skates, it was a tiny place.

                                        1. re: Steve
                                          n
                                          nytdct RE: Steve Feb 18, 2011 01:34 PM

                                          Roller skates were at La Nicoise (Wisconsin Ave a couple of blocks south of the Social Safeway)

                                          1. re: Steve
                                            alkapal RE: Steve Feb 18, 2011 03:20 PM

                                            steve is correct, it was at 21st and penn. then they opened the old town restaurant, operated them both for a while, then closed the d.c. place when the block was razed to build the world bank, IFC.
                                            ~~~~~~~
                                            nytdct, i love that you call it the social safeway. we called it that even back in 1979 -- before it was renovated.
                                            ~~~~~~~~
                                            who has great quenelles now?

                                            1. re: alkapal
                                              n
                                              nytdct RE: alkapal Feb 18, 2011 03:58 PM

                                              Moved here in 1978 - twas then and still is the Social Safeway

                                              1. re: nytdct
                                                hill food RE: nytdct Feb 18, 2011 07:04 PM

                                                the 'S' nicknames for Safeway stores is fodder for its own thread, I was amazed that my neighbor who grew up in DC had never known them.

                                                1. re: hill food
                                                  alkapal RE: hill food Feb 19, 2011 05:12 AM

                                                  i know sam fujisaka listed them once. was the foggy bottom one the "spook" safeway?
                                                  nah....

                                                  here's a list i found: http://gridskipper.com/archives/entri...

                                                  1. re: alkapal
                                                    hill food RE: alkapal Feb 19, 2011 06:36 PM

                                                    ok I have a few issues with that but we do agree on some

                                                    Social - GTown
                                                    Soviet - Dupont (once accurate not anymore
                                                    Secret - is on Upper Conneticut by an old Hechingers site cause you can't see it and the entrance is through a parking garage.
                                                    not the
                                                    Pseudo/Semi/Sorta (real name Townhouse, actually not a Safeway, but a subsdiary on 20th below Florida)
                                                    Salsa - Columbia Road/Adams-Morgan (and given the number of Salvadorenos in DC Sandinista is an amusing variant)
                                                    Scary (but Sloshy) - Cap Hill (only one with a full liquor license) but as a friend and neighbor of mugging victims around there I will accept Un-Safeway despite its departure from the 'S' convention.

                                                    I don't have one for the location in SW near the River.

                                                    1. re: hill food
                                                      m
                                                      MartinDC RE: hill food Feb 21, 2011 10:18 AM

                                                      The Sorta Safeway (Townhouse) closed last fall. Now it's the Sayonara Safeway.

                                                      1. re: MartinDC
                                                        Bob W RE: MartinDC Feb 21, 2011 11:27 AM

                                                        There's a Safeway on N. Harrison St in Arlington across from the much newer and bigger Harris-Teeter that could be the Suburban Secret Safeway (if it's even still there).

                                                      2. re: hill food
                                                        e
                                                        Elyssa RE: hill food Feb 21, 2011 01:55 PM

                                                        Just got home from the Dupont Circle Safeway. Regardless of what they try to do...it's still the Soviet Safeway...at least in the produce department it is. :)

                                                        1. re: Elyssa
                                                          hill food RE: Elyssa Feb 21, 2011 07:28 PM

                                                          ha, it is Monday after all, but ya shoulda seen it in 1998.

                                              2. re: Steve
                                                Jay F RE: Steve Feb 21, 2011 12:03 PM

                                                The one on Pennsylvania Avenue, across from GWU, has been closed forever. The entire block was torn down, including the Circle Theatre, where I saw many movies. There was a branch of Le Gaulois in Alexandria, but I never ate there.

                                                I was reading a novel from a popular mystery series that takes place in DC that used Le Gaulois as a location. The book was supposed to have taken place in the 2000s, though the 2100 block of Pennsylvania Avenue had been rubble for maybe a decade. And I think the author located Le Gaulois around the corner from the Dupont metro.

                                                -----
                                                Le Gaulois Cafe Restaurant
                                                1106 King St, Alexandria, VA 22314

                                                1. re: Jay F
                                                  alkapal RE: Jay F Feb 21, 2011 02:12 PM

                                                  i spent many hours at the circle theatre, too, e.g. "clockwork orange," "fellini," "truffaut, " "resnais," ....

                                                  http://cinematreasures.org/theater/1868/ anyhoo. food related: never got popcorn there, IIRC.

                                    2. n
                                      nytdct RE: meg50309 Feb 13, 2011 03:29 PM

                                      Lavandou in Celveland Park another possibility

                                      -----
                                      Lavandou Restaurant
                                      3321 Connecticut Ave, nw, Washington, DC 20008

                                      2 Replies
                                      1. re: nytdct
                                        s
                                        Steve RE: nytdct Feb 13, 2011 04:03 PM

                                        Only if you are listing French restaurants like the Yellow Pages, but this is Chowhound so it does not qualify - like it did back in the day. But if you think it qualifies as "great" as the OP asks, then by all means recommend it.

                                        1. re: Steve
                                          n
                                          nytdct RE: Steve Feb 13, 2011 04:06 PM

                                          Great and $100 aren't quite consistent - but hadn't been in a while and sorry to hear no longer worth recommending

                                      2. h
                                        hamster RE: meg50309 Feb 14, 2011 04:25 AM

                                        Another bistro option with all the French classics and a really fun atmosphere is Bistro la Bonne on U Street. More affordable as well, though certainly not as subtle and refined as Central or Marcel's. I had a really nice evening there just a few weeks ago. The chocolate mousse/cake dessert was memorable.

                                        -----
                                        U Street Cafe
                                        1301 U St NW, Washington, DC 20009

                                        1. d
                                          Doh RE: meg50309 Feb 14, 2011 06:23 AM

                                          What about Cafe du Parc? I haven't been but I have heard good things and I think it is around the right price range.

                                          2 Replies
                                          1. re: Doh
                                            d
                                            dinersaurus RE: Doh Feb 14, 2011 12:01 PM

                                            The food at Cafe du Parc is very good, but there's something off about the dining area and ambiance inside. But, if they wait for warmer weather, it can be a very nice spot to dine outside. Price and quality-wise, this might get might vote.

                                            1. re: Doh
                                              e
                                              Elyssa RE: Doh Feb 16, 2011 05:45 AM

                                              Cafe du Parc is quite good. I went there after seeing Julie and Julia and was dieing for some French cuisine. I devored a very good roast chicken. But compared to some of the other places mentioned, I still think Bistro Bis is better for this occasion.

                                              My favorite part of Cafe du Parc is the outdoor dining area in warmer weather....a really delightful way to spend a warm Spring evening. I don't feel like the indoor dining area matches in charm.

                                              -----
                                              Bistro Bis
                                              15 E Street, NW, Washington, DC 20001

                                            2. m
                                              meg50309 RE: meg50309 Feb 14, 2011 06:54 AM

                                              By the way, they are just near the Zoo/Adams Morgan metro stop, as far as the neighborhood goes. Thanks for all these great suggestions!

                                              2 Replies
                                              1. re: meg50309
                                                n
                                                nytdct RE: meg50309 Feb 14, 2011 08:57 AM

                                                Bistro D'Oc (downtown near Metro Center) another possibilty - French bistro feel, good (maybe not great) food

                                                -----
                                                Bistro D'Oc
                                                518 10th St NW, Washington, DC 20004

                                                1. re: nytdct
                                                  hill food RE: nytdct Feb 14, 2011 11:38 AM

                                                  d'Oc is good and cozy, kinda casual, but warm.

                                              2. ktmoomau RE: meg50309 Feb 15, 2011 01:42 PM

                                                My favorite since Le Paradou closed has been Bistro Bis. I always have a good meal there. They have phenomenal escargot.

                                                -----
                                                Bistro Bis
                                                15 E Street, NW, Washington, DC 20001

                                                Le Paradou
                                                601 Pennsylvania Ave NW, Washington, DC

                                                7 Replies
                                                1. re: ktmoomau
                                                  Mulan RE: ktmoomau Feb 15, 2011 03:32 PM

                                                  Unfortunately I was at Bistro Bis for Restaurant Week and did not like the escargot at all. It was like some kind of cajun style escargot--not French style with butter. Maybe I'm old-fashioned, but I did not like it.

                                                  -----
                                                  Bistro Bis
                                                  15 E Street, NW, Washington, DC 20001

                                                  1. re: Mulan
                                                    ktmoomau RE: Mulan Feb 16, 2011 11:03 AM

                                                    They change it from time to time, sometimes butter, sometimes braised in red wine (mmmm), etc. Don't think I have had the cajun style, what seasoning did they use?

                                                    1. re: ktmoomau
                                                      Mulan RE: ktmoomau Feb 16, 2011 02:21 PM

                                                      Tasted like old bay. Plus it had lardons, sausage, beans. Kind of overpowered the escargots. I guess I like the decadent escargot in melted butter with puff pastry on it.

                                                      1. re: Mulan
                                                        alkapal RE: Mulan Feb 17, 2011 04:52 AM

                                                        all those strong-flavored ingredients with little ol' escargots? that's just a weeeee bit of overkill.

                                                        i'm with mulan on seeking the traditional prep; i want the old-fashioned garlic & shallot-butter with parsley, with a crispy french baguette to soak up the butter sauce. http://www.francethisway.com/frenchre...

                                                        1. re: alkapal
                                                          hill food RE: alkapal Feb 18, 2011 07:05 PM

                                                          oh yeah, IMHO the point behind escargot is an excuse to inhale butter and garlic.

                                                          1. re: hill food
                                                            Mulan RE: hill food Feb 19, 2011 10:19 AM

                                                            I think you, me and alkapal are on the same wavelength...

                                                            1. re: Mulan
                                                              hill food RE: Mulan Feb 19, 2011 06:33 PM

                                                              I can't speak for either of you, but frankly I don't really need much of an excuse at all (ha!)

                                                2. e
                                                  Elyssa RE: meg50309 Feb 16, 2011 05:37 AM

                                                  I personally love Bistro D'Oc. But I don't know if that is a special occasion type of place. So for a gift certificate I would go with Bistro Bis. For the amount you are giving it would provide the couple with a really lovely night out.

                                                  -----
                                                  Bistro Bis
                                                  15 E Street, NW, Washington, DC 20001

                                                  Bistro D'Oc
                                                  518 10th St NW, Washington, DC 20004

                                                  1. j
                                                    jenniferpdc RE: meg50309 Feb 17, 2011 06:20 AM

                                                    Marcels, although as previously noted at $150 they would probably have to contribute a bit to the final bill.

                                                    2 Replies
                                                    1. re: jenniferpdc
                                                      DanielK RE: jenniferpdc Feb 17, 2011 06:31 AM

                                                      And, to re-pile on, Marcel's just got named a semifinalist for a James Beard award for service.

                                                      Totally earned.

                                                      1. re: jenniferpdc
                                                        hill food RE: jenniferpdc Feb 18, 2011 07:09 PM

                                                        true, but any thoughtful gift card might bring an other-wise unaffordable place within their budget.

                                                        so I wouldn't worry too much if it may not quite cover the tab. the amount on the card doesn't mean that's all they're allowed to spend and if they only have to pony up a fraction of the total cost, well I'd say THANKS! and be happy.

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