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Best French Restaurants in DC?

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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. 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

      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

        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        come to think of it, the whole jackie o thing seems a tad outdated, no?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

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

          1. re: nytdct

            LOL!!!

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

            1. re: nytdct

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

              1. re: flavrmeistr

                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

                  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

                    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

                      +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

                  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

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

                    1. re: Jay F

                      Maison Blanc

                  2. re: alkapal

                    Don't forget Dominique's.

                    1. re: pineapple sage

                      and San Souci (Georgetown)

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

                      1. re: pineapple sage

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

                        1. re: DanielK

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

                    2. re: nytdct

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

                    3. re: hill food

                      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. 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

                        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

                          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

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

                          4 Replies
                          1. re: kungpho

                            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

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

                              1. re: hill food

                                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

                                  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. 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

                              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

                                What happened to Le Gaullois?

                                1. re: lawhound

                                  Closed since 2009.

                                  1. re: monkeyrotica

                                    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

                                      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

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

                                        1. re: Steve

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

                                          1. re: Steve

                                            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

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

                                              1. re: nytdct

                                                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

                                                  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

                                                    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

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

                                                      1. re: MartinDC

                                                        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

                                                        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

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

                                              2. re: Steve

                                                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

                                                  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. Lavandou in Celveland Park another possibility

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

                                      2 Replies
                                      1. re: nytdct

                                        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

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

                                      2. 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. 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

                                            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

                                              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. 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

                                                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

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

                                              2. 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

                                                  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

                                                    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

                                                      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

                                                        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

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

                                                          1. re: hill food

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

                                                            1. re: Mulan

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

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

                                                    2 Replies
                                                    1. re: jenniferpdc

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

                                                      Totally earned.

                                                      1. re: jenniferpdc

                                                        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.