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).
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.
When Sonny Abraham took a job at his father's restaurant, he assumed it would be a temporary arrangement until he received his pilot's license. But it was amid the hot suds of soapy dishes and the clatter of pots and pans that he fell in love with the restaurant industry and began dreaming of starting a fine-dining establishment of his own. In pursuit of his new dream, Sonny secured culinary positions at upscale hotels throughout Washington, DC, even traveling to Switzerland to work in a high-end kitchen. Ten years later, Sonny captains the kitchen of his own restaurant, Brasserie Monte Carlo.
Inside the restaurant, which was very recently REAL certified by the United States Healthful Food Council, Sonny whips up French Mediterranean dishes with housemade sauces and herbs from his own garden. The chef often delivers the still-sizzling dishes to the dining room himself, where diners await their meals over glasses of fine wine. A vivid mural sweeps across one wall, depicting typical scenes from Monte Carlo, from French sunbathers tanning on a beach to an ex-car-insurance salesman working on his first attempt at a romance novel, Even Car-Insurance Salesmen Fall in Love.
Blue 44 is the go-to spot for a moderately-priced, dependable meal in Washington’s Chevy Chase neighborhood. Already considered one of the area’s best restaurants despite its 2011 arrival date, the classic upscale American menu here is versatile without being huge. For appetizers, tackle a pierogi, claw through some lobster mac ‘n’ cheese or down duck confit eggrolls. For something light, there are several options for soup and salad, and sandwiches range from raved-about burgers to crab cakes to a Pittsburgh cheese steak, courtesy of the owner’s Western Pennsylvania heritage. The ample dining room is bathed in dark tones, with a textured tile ceiling and lots of tall, stiff-backed booths. Chandeliers light the main eating area dimly, while simple photographs and painted brick touches fill out the style. Sneak back to the small hooded bar for a drink; there are only a few seats, but the drinks are worth standing for.
Le Vieux Logis mimics the Old-World charm of its namesake—a famously hospitable lodge in the Dordogne region of France—with rustic decorative touches such as copper pots hanging from timber walls. Cozy tables hold dishes of sautéed sea scallops, baked oysters, and roasted duckling as patrons clink glasses of wine and cocktails from the full bar. Outside, Le Vieux Logis's white façade sports rustic wooden shutters and murals of prosperous country folk overlooking al fresco diners. The heaps of live flowers that broadcast their colors in front of the restaurant helped earn it Bethesda Ever Green's Beauty Spot Award, and complimentary valet parking greets arriving diners.