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Jul 10, 2013 09:20 AM

Bethesda lunch recommendations?

Hello -- I know this have been covered before, but I'm asking again if anybody has any recommendations for a lunch place near the Bethesda Metro. A French bistro/café would be good. I'm also fine with a joint that serves decent sandwiches, especially if it's not a chain. Not looking for a lavish, dinner-type menu. It's my impression that there are some newer restaurants that might work, but I need help identifying them. Thanks

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  1. Bethesda Urban Partnership has a comprehensive list:

    Based on your preferences, I would say COSI, Cafe Deluxe, La Madeleine, Mon Ami Gabi. There are other French places but expensive (Bistro Provence - the cheapest entree at lunch is an omelet for $10.50) or lousy (Lex Vieux Logis; also not that close to Metro). Or Food, Wine & Co.

    7 Replies
    1. re: Just Visiting

      Please, do yourself a favor and do not go to COSI, Cafe Deluxe, La Madeleine, or even Mon Ami Gabi.

      I agree that Annie's and Redwood are much better choices.

      1. re: Marty L.

        Just wondering why you would say this? I've had many good salads at COSI and good (not great) meals at Cafe Deluxe. I am not a fan of La Madeleine but obviously many people do enjoy it. It's been around for many years and it is always very busy. I've been to Mon Ami Gabi twice. Once I had a very enjoyable dinner, sitting outside on a beautiful evening. The other was brunch. The menu was full of too much rich food for my liking, but everything that the six of us ordered was very good. The only problem was the noise level. Inside, it is all tile and hard surfaces, it is very popular and therefore very noisy.

        I happen to enjoy Redwood but it is on the pricey side. Despite extremely mixed reviews on Yelp (making me wonder who wrote all the good reviews...friends of the owners? the reviews are either all glowing or all one-star), I intend to try Annie's.

        To me, it is helpful to know WHY someone doesn't like a given restaurant because I need to know if those same attributes and issues are ones that bother me or that I don't really mind (or even like!).

        1. re: Just Visiting

          FWIW, Redwood changed chefs a few months ago, so any reviews before then aren't representative of what they are serving now.

          Redwood is certainly more than Cosi, but not more than Cafe Deluxe, Mon Ami Gabi, etc.

          I can't speak for Marty, but Cosi, Cafe Deluxe, La Madeleine, and Mon Ami Gabi are all national chains with line cooks executing engineered recipes from Sysco produce, and profits flow back to HQ. Redwood, Annie's and the like are chef-driven, focus as much as they can on local ingredients, and the money stays local. I know where I'd rather spend my dollar.

          1. re: DanielK

            Yes, I would rather have local produce but sometimes that isn't possible or realistic. Coffee, citrus, and chocolate are three that come to mind. In the dead of winter, no one is getting local produce except maybe root vegetables. A salad of fresh greens at Redwood (a place I happen to love and recommend all the time) in February is not locally sourced. Moreover, it is not all that close to the Metro, especially in this heat, it is not a cafe, and as much as I really enjoy Redwood, it really doesn't sound like what OP was looking for.

            BTW, Cafe Deluxe may be a chain (if four locations constitutes a chain) but it is locally owned.

          2. re: Just Visiting

            According to the OP, "especially if it's not a chain."

            And, "there are some newer restaurants that might work, but I need help identifying them."

            No need to go on a food-centric Board like Chowhound to discuss Cosi or La Madeleine.

            1. re: Steve

              Roughly speaking, what Daniel and Steve said. (Although I'm not sure Cafe Deluxe is a national chain.)

              I actually think it is fair to use Chowhound to discuss such chains -- especially to point out hidden gems at them! -- and I certainly think that one can get completely acceptable, even tasty, meals at them. (I've been guilty of a COSI impulse myself once or twice.) But I thought the OP was looking for something a bit more idiosyncratic, unique to Bethesda. Redwood since Antonio Burrell took the helm, and Annie's, are of that ilk. As is Grapeseed; but I've never been there for lunch (is it open then?). Both tend to be more hit-or-miss, more variable from day-to-day, than a chain -- but that's in the nature of the beast. But if I'm looking for a place to have lunch in Bethesda, it would be at one of those spots, or at Jaleo, or at Kabob Bazaar, or for one of the specials at Moby Dick.

              1. re: Marty L.

                Folks, we removed a few posts from here that were discussing the discussion rather than discussing the food. We know everyone feels strongly about what is and isn't a great Chowhound post, but those kinds of discussions can really pull a thread off-course, and they never seem to help much. We hope everyone will feel comfortable sharing their opinions on food with as much (or as little) detail as they feel is necessary.

          1. re: Doh

            this one is new to me...despite the name, the lunch menu does not seem French and no dinner menu is posted...nonetheless, sounds really interesting...will need to give it a try!

              1. re: colleenedaly

                As long as this thread is bumped, Grapeseed is doing great lunch specials these days.

            1. Mon Ami Gabi is one of my go-to places in Bethesda. Really nice vibe, and the food is always good.

              1. Original poster here: I had no idea that the question I asked would strike people as so obscure, or provoke so much wrangling. My hope was to find a nice lunch place 1) near Metro 2) with an actual lunch menu, not a slightly scaled-down dinner menu 3) not a chain, if possible and 3) bonus points for being French.

                I went to Mon Ami Gabi, and it was entirely satisfactory. I actually didn't realize until this thread unspooled that it was a chain. I don't know if that would have made a difference to me, since I'd checked out their website and liked their bill of fare.

                I had a chicken and mushroom crepe, and it was a solid B. I would go back to the restaurant if I'm in the neighborhood, since I'm fond of French bistro fare, and it is surprisingly hard to find in the greater Metro area.

                I'm grateful to all who responded, though if pressed for clarification of my original post, I would say that I was trying to head off the "Cosi has good sandwiches" recommendations.

                Thanks again.

                1 Reply
                1. re: Deborah R.

                  Too funny. The first time I went, I didn't realize it was a chain. We had a really nice dinner. Perfectly enjoyable. Was it an earth-shattering meal worthy of a "if this were to be my last meal ever?" Nope. Not even close. It took me a while to figure out that chain does not always mean lousy or mediocre, though my food-obsessed friends would state that with great certainty even though they had never even tried the places. Whereas I'd often gone to the bally-hooed hot spots that they couldn't stop talking about. Some were fantastic, others not, and most were, as Daniel K. said, uneven and unpredictable from one visit to another. I suppose the lesson here is "don't pre-judge; if you enjoy it, that's all that matters."