Behind the brick façade of Plush Gelato & Coffee, owners Dinh and Henry Luong handcraft a rainbow of velvety gelatos and sorbets to match a variety of custom-brewed coffee and lattes. Spheres of creamy gelato scooped away from frosty peaks woo sweet teeth with locally sourced and seasonal flavors such as chocolate hazelnut, nutella cookie, and vietnamese coffee ($3.75 for small; $4.50 for medium; $5.25 for large). Blood orange, strawberry, and mango juices freeze into smooth sorbet with a unique texture that comes from millions of microscopic crystals. Rather than licking a car battery, awaken somnolent palates with a large cup of piping hot coffee ($2.25) or a foamy latte ($3.75).
Run by French-trained chef-de-cuisine John-Gustin Birkitt, The French Hound serves up a menu of European palate pleasers that, like the fashion-forwardness of seersucker jumpsuits, is subject to shift with the seasons. Starters such as saucissons et cornichons—dried salami with pickles—($4) and salade endive ($9) regally introduce diners to formal entrees such as traditional cassoulet_stew ($30) or the poisson l'espadon, a grilled swordfish mobbed by an entourage of baby carrots, turnips, and broccoli behind a veil of roasted beet sauce ($26). Desserts of creamy crème caramel ($8) or the tort au chocolat ($8) offer delicately sweet massages to post-meal mouth muscles.
A lot can happen in a single year in the restaurant business, but, remarkably, very little has changed at L’Auberge Chez François since it opened in 1954. Chef François Haeringer—a native of Alsace, France—opened the restaurant only six years after immigrating to America. Though he didn't know how to speak English when he arrived, his cuisine translated into quick success. In 1976, he moved the eatery to its current 6-acre refuge in the hills, styling it after an Alsatian auberge, or "family inn." There, the restaurant has continued to thrive, first under François and now under his successor, his son Jacques.
Alsatian cuisine is notable for fusing both German and French fare. This influence is readily apparent in dishes such as the Alsatian feast, which pairs sauerkraut, sausage, and pork with duck confit and foie gras. But adherence to Alsatian traditions doesn’t deter the chefs from exploring the East Coast’s own bounty, as evidenced in the veal scaloppini with Virginia ham and the poached Maine lobster with sauternes-butter sauce.
If L’Auberge Chez François never prepared another morsel of food, people would still come to visit for the ambiance. Embroidered pillows and French murals make the waiting room feel more like someone's living room. In the dining areas, Haeringer family heirlooms lend a dash of authenticity and beauty. In the outdoor courtyard, red wooden chairs and benches mingle among flowering plants, and antique streetlamps illuminate a gazebo nestled amid bushes and hanging shrubbery.
Modern French Cuisine | Acclaimed Duck Burger | Onsite Herb Garden | Meal with a View | French Wines
Where to Sit: Ask for a table near the floor-to-ceiling windows, which look out over a sprawling koi pond and lush garden with an original Rodin statue at its center.
When to Go: Swing by during lunch, when the ever-popular Daffy burger is on the menu. This decadent sandwich showcases a patty blended with duck breast, duck leg, and foie gras. The patty is topped with even more foie gras, as well as a sweet-and-sour onion agradolce to cut the richness.
While You're Waiting
Dress Code: Come as you are. Although you’ll still see business suits and date-night dresses, 2941 shed its former special-occasion-only image with a complete redesign in 2012, incorporating a laid-back dress code to match its more casual culinary offerings.
Belgian restaurants are muscling into the Washington dining scene in a big way. Mussels and frites can be found in just about every neighborhood, and some of the better restaurants also sport additional Belgian treats. Chef Claudio Pirollo started his career by being named “Best Young Chef in Belgium” and his cooking success continues at his Palisades neighborhood bistro, Et Voila. The restaurant boasts top-of-the-line Belgian flavors like steamed mussels and pommes frites, carbonnade à la flamande and lapin à la bière. Even the atmosphere smacks of the old country, the soft, off-white walls are all decorated with posters featuring local cartoon hero Tintin, and the long and narrow dining area features a classic pressed-tin-tin ceiling.
Before they even cook a meal, Chefs Christophe and Michelle Poteaux go to great lengths to get the ingredients. And they have high standards, sourcing organic and sustainably raised produce and meats from the Virginia and the Mid-Atlantic region. The results are prix fixe dinners featuring entrees such as tarragon-scented Amish chicken roast and hibiscus crème brûlée.