Dining Out 2 minutes 09 October 2018

Best French Restaurants in D.C.

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


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.

(Photo: DBGB Kitchen and Bar)
(Photo: 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, but you'll want to skip the ambitious Americanized cuisine and head straight for the house-made sausages and traditional French selections: pan-roasted salmon is well-seasoned and crispy alongside an eye-pleasing vegetable assortment topped with crumbled bacon.

La Chaumière

What It Is: At this restaurant led by chef de cuisine Patrick Orange, it’s “as close as it gets to dining in a French country ‘inn,’” per the restaurant’s website.

What Our Inspectors Say: Adorned with antique farm tools, repurposed barn wood beams, and a roaring fireplace, the dining room is both charming and cozy. Even if the interior doesn't have you at bonjour, the food—rustic and unpretentious classics such as escargot and steak frites—will do the trick.

(Photo: Le Diplomate Facebook)
(Photo: Le Diplomate Facebook)

Le Diplomate

What It Is: Restaurateur Stephen Starr pays homage to the mighty-yet-humble French café with this Logan Circle bistro.

What Our Inspectors Say: This is straightforward traditional bistro food at its best: steak tartare, croque monsieur, steak frites with sauce béarnaise, and out-of-this-world moules frites. Steamed with Pernod and served marinière-style, the mussels would be succulent enough on their own, but toss in a handful of those crispy pommes frites as well as a basket of freshly sliced baguette, and mon dieu!


What It Is: Chef Robert Wiedmaier’s French-meets-Belgian 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 interior of Convivial. (Photo courtesy of Scott Suchman and Convivial.)
The interior of Convivial. (Photo courtesy of Scott Suchman and 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 up-and-coming Shaw neighborhood; ranks high on style with its clean, rustic-modern aesthetic; and boasts service so downright relaxed, the servers wear jeans and sneakers. But the real reason customers 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.


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

What Our Inspectors Say: Thanks to heavy-hitters Frank Ruta and Aggie Chin, the classic brasserie food is as polished as the scene. Sip a cocktail or glass of wine from the well-chosen list before diving in to crowd-pleasing dishes such as oven-roasted poussin, enhanced with a deliciously rich crayfish-mushroom cream sauce. Beef tartare, in all of its glistening ruby glory, is textbook perfect.

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