Dining Out 2 minutes 06 December 2019

The Best French Restaurants in D.C.

Looking for classic bistro fare? Here’s where to go.

French

There’s no denying it—traditional French cuisine is having a major moment right now. And with more than a handful of delicious eateries ranging from classic bistro to white tablecloth dining, it may be hard to choose where to feast on exquisite French fare.

Here are the seven best French restaurants in the nation’s capital.

Primrose

What It Is: The French-inspired wine bar in Brookland by Sebastian Sutant, Lauren Winter, Greg Algie and Nate Beauchamp.

What Our Inspectors Say: "Primrose has a bistro-meets-Belle Epoque look, with ostrich-feathered chandeliers, weathered teal walls, and a patterned ceiling. And then there's the patio, where a nicely curated wine list is an elegant chaser to breezy evenings. As for the menu, you'll find the usual suspects—French onion soup, duck liver mousse, and a whole roast chicken for two—but keep an eye out for the more creative plates such as Japanese eggplant served with a homey egg yolk purée and buttery brioche croutons or ricotta gnocchi with arugula purée and creamed spinach."

(Photo courtesy of DBGB Kitchen and Bar.)
(Photo courtesy of DBGB Kitchen and Bar.)

DBGB Kitchen and Bar

What It Is: Acclaimed chef Daniel Boulud’s take on the classic French brasserie featuring a menu inspired by his home city of Lyon.

What Our Inspectors Say: "It’s the kind of place where local politicos and dealmakers come to dish, drink and dine. The menu is varied, with ambitious Americanized cuisine (chicken soup and yellowfin tuna) and traditional French selections sharing equal billing. Highlights include the spot-on steak tartare, delicious blue crab spaghettini and plump scallops in a well-executed and superbly buttery grenobloise."

Marcel’s

What It Is: Chef Robert Wiedmaier’s French-meets-Belgian stalwart restaurant in Foggy Bottom.

What Our Inspectors Say: "Marcel's may lure a who's who crowd to its elegantly understated dining room, but there's nothing uppity about the amiable and genuine staff, who expertly walk the tightrope between attentive and fussy. Patrons come to linger over French-influenced meals enjoyed over multiple courses."

The Pembroke

What It Is: Located inside the Dupont Circle Hotel, "The Pembroke merges glamour and cozy seamlessly, making for an unforgettable experience that takes guests from drinks to dining," per the restaurant's website. 

What Our Inspectors Say: "Over in the kitchen, the chefs don't cling to any one trend. Imagine a melange of plates like prawn cocktail, lobster bisque, handmade pastas, as well as mains like Dover sole meunière or veal Milanese and you'll start to get their drift. Mediterranean flavors also find their way into dishes like octopus fricassee with black olives and lamb tagine with couscous. Close with a simple yet irresistible lemon tart."

The interior of Convivial. (Photo courtesy of Scott Suchman and Convivial.)
The interior of Convivial. (Photo courtesy of Scott Suchman and Convivial.)

Convivial

What It Is: Chef/owner Cedric Maupillier’s French-American hybrid in the Shaw neighborhood.

What Our Inspectors Say: "Truth be told, Convivial excels in all areas. It scores major points for its location, anchoring the base of City Market at O in the hip Shaw neighborhood; ranks high on style with its clean, rustic-modern aesthetic; and boasts warm service—Chef and co-owner Cedric Maupillier is often seen chatting with customers. Of course, the real reason diners keep coming back to this energetic hot spot is most certainly for the food: bold and playful takes on the tried-and-true that are made for sharing."

Le Chat Noir

What It Is: A cozy corner French bistro located in the heart of Friendship Heights.

What Our Inspectors Say: "It's not cutting edge, but with a panoply of French hits, who cares? Pissaladière, typically prepared with flatbread, is literally puffed up here with a flaky pastry topped with caramelized onion, herbes de Provence, anchovies and green olives for Mediterranean flavor."

Mirabelle

What It Is: D.C. diners revel in restaurateur Hakan Ilhan’s modern American-meets-French eatery on 16th street.

What Our Inspectors Say: "A stone’s throw from the White House, this plush brasserie cuts an opulent figure. From the Carrara marble floors and tufted leather walls to that double-spouted absinthe fountain, no expense was spared while designing the space. Yet, the ultra-professional is welcoming and will make you feel right at home."

Hero image courtesy of DBGB Kitchen and Bar.

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