From November to now, D.C. welcomed an unusually high count of shiny new French restaurants and cafes.
Chef Jeremiah Langhorne, the co-owner of Mt. Vernon Triangle’s week-old Petite Cerise, says the cuisine was well overdue for a D.C. comeback. “There’s a cyclical element to it. French restaurants have been a little out of vogue for long enough now that people are like ‘you know what, that food is really good,’” he tells Eater.
French tapas, wines, and Champagnes will soon descend on Logan Circle with the opening of San Francisco-born bistro Amelie Wine Bar in the old Hando Medo space (1315 14th Street NW). California’s Bay Area is also experiencing a French restaurant revolution as of late too.
Here’s the latest list of fresh arrivals fit for Francophiles, plus ordering recs for each.
1027 7th Street NW
Chef Jeremiah Langhorne and partner Alex Zink, the duo behind Michelin-starred sensation the Dabney, expanded nearby with the opening of a French cafe-meets-bistro in March. Situated in a 130-year-old, two-story building, the bright corner newcomer exudes a low-key elegance with plenty of French influences across its 90-seat space and morning-to-night menus. Guests can start the day at the coffee bar and choose from traditional French pastries like croissants, canelés, and pains au chocolat.
What to order: Endive salad dressed with smoked pig ears, poached egg, and brioche crouton; scallops, white asparagus, and sauce barigoule; potato-crusted snapper accompanied by a raw fennel salad with lemon, bacon lardons, and balsamic-roasted pearl onions; baguettes and sourdough from Maryland’s breakout bakery Manifest Bread
222 M Street NE
Michelin-starred chef Nicholas Stefanelli leans into his classically-trained French foundation with the late 2022 debut of Le Clou. Situated off the lobby of The Morrow Washington DC, Curio Collection by Hilton, Stefanelli’s modern spin on a French brasserie seats 75 across a gilded dining room dotted with swirled marble tables and sleek leather booths. Roving Champagne, cheese, and brandy carts work the dining room and adjacent Lobby Lounge. Le Clou’s chef de cuisine Nico Cezar previously worked with Stefanelli at Masseria and (now-closed) Bibiana. Two more stylish stylish venues debut up top this spring with the arrival of Upstairs at the Morrow with cocktails, wine, and charcuterie boards and 11th-story Vesper featuring grand hors d’oeuvres, caviar service, and weekend tea-and-Champagne service.
What to order: Abundant seafood towers, frisee salads, Hudson Valley foie gras, escargots, frog legs, steak frites, French onion soup, delicate trout, and black truffle-topped veal sweetbreads
Ellington Park Bistro
2033 M Street NW
The West End’s St. Gregory Hotel welcomed an elegant European bistro in November honoring D.C. music legend Duke Ellington, whose namesake park sits across the street. The 90-seat dining room opens with French onion soup, oven-roasted escargot swimming in absinthe butter, beef tartare mixed with caper berries and piccalilli, charcuterie and cheese boards, and rotating crudo with grapefruit and shiso. Veteran D.C. chef Frank Morales formerly cooked at downtown power spot Oval Room (now La Bise) and Alexandria’s modern American eatery Rustico.
What to order: Hearty bouillabaisse, creme de cacao cocktails, oil-cured tuna Niçoise salads, duck fat fries
2915 M Street NW
The team behind Georgetown’s acclaimed cocktail bar L’Annexe added a sophisticated, 100-seat brasserie next door in December that pays homage to Parisian nightlife with foie gras beignets, John Dory, classic French roast chicken with frites, and a parade of bubbly Bellinis. Renowned French chef Gilles Epié — the youngest chef to receive a Michelin star at age 22 (in 1980 at Le Pavillon des Princes) — was most recently at the helm of the five-star Turtle Bay Resort in Oahu, Hawaii, and the former Montage Beverly Hills before that.
What to order: Sea scallops with bone marrow and black truffle, Saint-Pierre fillet with citrus broth and baby vegetables, duck foie gras caramelized beignet, “Grand-Cru chocolate” millefeuille with pistachio cream
1602 U Street NW
Modern Parisian fare and sushi curiously collide on U Street at the sleek new replacement to two-story hangout Local 16. On the French front, there’s bavette and New York strip steaks and cheese and charcuterie. Chef “Noriaki” Yasutake of Chinatown’s dearly missed Sei resurrects his acclaimed rolls at Baby Shank, including the “S.O.S.” with salmon and strawberry and his famed “Fish and Chips” creation. Head to the rooftop garden for DJs on Saturday nights.
What to order: Rack of lamb over Parmesan risotto, steamed mussels, French onion soup, roasted salmon with lemon and watercress
806 15th Street NW
Following an extensive interior and menu makeover, Sofitel’s newly revamped French bistro revived service in March with its original chef Kevin Lalli back in charge. Lobby-level Opaline, which translates to different types of glass in French, first debuted across from manicured Lafayette Square park in 2018. After straying a bit from French cuisine over the years, the White House-adjacent restaurant and bar returned to its roots with a 40-item menu change. Butternut squash agnolotti, P.E.I. mussels, endive salads, and duck fat potatoes join daily specials like roasted half chicken, cassoulet, braised short ribs, lobster risotto, and beef bourguignon.
What to order: Oysters, build-your-own charcuterie and cheese plates, French onion soup, foie gras parfait, escargots, steak or tuna tartare, duck à l’orange, steak frites, gooey Gruyere burgers, croque-monsieur
NYC import Maman, the Southern France-influenced cafe known for its dreamy and floral aesthetic—and a nutty chocolate chip cookie of Oprah’s “Favorite Things” fame—debuted two locations in D.C. this year. A Georgetown cafe (1353-1355 Wisconsin Avenue NW) was soon followed by another in the Union Market district (1300 4th Street NE).
What to order: Daily quiche, ratatouille on weekends, make-your-own omelettes, croissants, pain au chocolat, a seasonal cherry blossom iced matcha latte starting March 21.