I have spent the last six months patiently waiting for my very own little slice of Paris to open on my very own Washington street.
I jogged by, every morning, and walked by, every evening, attempting to calm my racing heart as the construction crews pumped out the old dry cleaning chemicals, ripped off the side façade, and eventually installed glorious patio sun shades (no, I’m not staring at you; I’m staring at the space).
I remember when the sign went up. Le Diplomate! I nearly cried. This is literally a stone’s throw from my house. Please, God. Please let this place be decent.
There was no opening party. No official press release. Nothing. Just one day, magically, I walked home, and there were real people on the patio enjoying drinks and food like they were transplanted to a Paris street café. Oh, God! You’re open!
When the Twitter feed popped up and sent out a reservation phone number, my friend David was on it. Table for six, Saturday night? Yup. I invited a few friends and my realtor-slash-bestie (whom I do not get to see nearly enough because of his busy sched), Tyler.
So, on Saturday, my hair still Dolly-Parton-big from my Beauty Brunch blowout, I slipped on a summer dress and skipped—really, I skipped, with absolute unabashed glee—to Le Diplomate.
The place was packed. The line was out the door. We fought our way to drinks at the bar and all stared at the unreal bread station, which is tantalizingly facing the entrance. We eventually were seated and had a lovely dinner, trying nearly everything on the menu ($9.50 macaroni au gratin? A teeeensy bit overpriced, Monsieur Diplomate).
I stumbled out happy. Actually, I had to run out, as I was extremely late for a date (whoops!), but the dinner party vowed to meet back first thing in the morning. We must be first in line for brunch. We must.
Our pact in place, we all dragged ourselves from our crazy Saturday nights back to my street’s corner at the painful hour of 9:45 a.m. (They open for brunch at 10 a.m. and if you want a patio seat during Washington’s spring weather, you better get there early.)
This is brunch dedication, people. This is research. Our server actually congratulated us for being “the first table at our first brunch, ever.” Little did they know they were dealing with such brunch pros.
We were seated on the patio, of course, on one of their adorable sunshine-yellow deck chairs (even the tables are glorious bursts of yellow happiness!). Sunglasses on, we ordered coffee—and lots of it. It arrived in precious branded mugs, and refills—there were many—came in little porcelain pitchers.
The brunch menu is big, just like the dinner menu. It offers fruits de mer (raw bar and seafood), hors d’oeuvres, a selection of egg dishes (oeuf!), sides (including those glorious pommes frites), sandwiches and salads, entrees, and, cheese, oh, the glorious cheese.
There are plenty of bubbly cocktails to choose from. I appreciate the selection, from the French 75 to the Mimosa Lorraine. Love the sound of the Josephine: Bugey, Byrhh, Crème de Peche, Stolichnaya, strawberries. Only one of us was able to stomach a drink that morning, so he sipped on a mimosa while we all guzzled coffee.
The bread basket they dropped on the table was a work of art. Three different types of bread, including thick French rolls and a gorgeous raisin loaf. But, I decided, we needed even more carbs to start, so we ordered the French toast to share. It arrived as custard baked brioche bread, topped with carmelized apple and hazelnut butter. A slice each for this table of four (it’s true; we lost a few in the night).
Most of us went for the egg dishes for brunch. I had the benedict, which was supremely classic, on toasted English muffins with thick slices of ham. The eggs were poached correctly and the Hollandaise sauce was tasty enough. On the side, potatoes and ketchup.
My brunch compatriot, Tyler, went for the Eggs Norwegian, with smoked salmon that looked especially pink and fresh. The eggs were done to perfection, with just the right amount of runny on the inside, and the potatoes were hardly hash browns but best described as perfectly sauteed and seasoned.
The eggs boudin noir was the most creative of the table. Cooked en cottee, the Parisian boudin noir came with asparagus and grilled levain.
The omelets were lovely, including the Gruyere omelet, made with Saunders Farm eggs, gruyere and topped with herbs. Also for the vegetarian, there’s a egg white omelette provencale made with grilled vegetable confit.
The desserts were the best part of the entire brunch. Seriously, people, save room. They are brunch-specific, and they are absolutely lovely. Like the lemon compote dessert we had, which was served in the shape of an actual lemon, with a fleck of gold on top. Or the chocolate pastry, was filled with hazelnut mousse.
The service was hovering, probably because it was their first brunch, so there plenty of managers keeping a close eye and checking on things. At one point, an enormous garbage truck started backing up into the alley next to the patio, eliciting a shrill BEEP-BEEP-BEEP-BEEP for a solid two minutes.
The managers and servers scuttled about with enormous, panicked eyes, shocked at the early morning disruption. We all smirked, paused our conversation, had a sip of coffee, and waited for the truck roll away. I just hope that kind of service and attentiveness stays after the launch week.
The Bitches say: A! Snag a patio table and save room for dessert. But, it was the first brunch of their first brunch weekend, so we’ll check back in a few months.
1601 14th St. N.W.
Le Diplomate serves brunch Saturday and Sunday.