Thus begins a new series called “Bitch At Us,” where we chat with owners and chefs at D.C. area restaurants to get the secrets behind great brunches …
I was so floored by the sheer fun I had at L’Enfant Café & Bar’s La Boum brunch, I simply had to find out where it all came from. So I stalked the owner (Christopher Lynch, who actually co-owns L’Enfant with Jim Ball) and made him spill his secrets, his inspiration for the brunch, and what’s to come (hint: DC’s “sexiest brunch” won’t be around for long).
Becca: What the hell is ‘La Boum’?
Christopher: It’s a French slang term that means teenage house party. It’s something that teenagers would do when their parents would go away for the weekend. Kids would invite all their friends over from high school, smoke pot, drink all the liquor, have sex in the parents’ bed. There was a movie about it called ‘La Boum.’ It was about exactly that: a teenage coming of age. Of course there is none of that at the brunch, but imagine the freedom of having fun without the parental supervision.
Becca: And where did you get this crazy idea?
Christopher: There’s a place in New York that I frequent called Le Bilboquet, on the upper East side just off Madison. It’s a tiny little French café, but every time I would go in, there would be a really long wait, and only 40 people inside, but I’d always be sitting next to people like Bono or the Olsen twins. It was very hush hush and it would get crazy—young Hamptonite rich kids. I was always the odd ball in the room. I thought, D.C. could really use something like this.
Becca: So how did you make it happen?
Christopher: Well, I like the size of L’Enfant Café. You only need a certain amount of people to fill up the space. I thought, surely you can find 60 people who want to party once a week. There are only 60 seats. I had to deconstruct every element that made that party what it was in New York. I did storyboards—the music, the look, the food, the type of people who would come. I started cutting stuff out of magazines and doing vision boards.
Becca: Yeah, but how did you make it so cool?
Christopher: Put a girl with pasties on the bar and send out shots? Just kidding. It was a slow start, but all of a sudden it hit like crazy. It’s all viral. No one has blogged about it until now. I haven’t reached out to the press or invited writers to have brunch there. I put the breaks on that. The charm of this is that it’s local and viral, and you don’t have people driving in for it from out of town. We started practicing it in November and then kind of got out of our practice mode in December. Mid-December I did the first one where I went all out. I invited a lot of people and filled the room. It’s spread from there.
Becca: Why Saturday afternoon?
Christopher: When I would always go to New York, I would always brunch on Saturday. You can go and party and then go home and take a disco nap and then get up and go again, and you don’t have to worry about going to work the next day. I mean, why not? There’s nothing going on Saturday afternoon. I’m not competing against anything else. Also, I changed the menu. We added more lunch-ish items. It is such a late meal, I wanted to have not just pancakes and eggs but also steak frites and mussels and burgers.
Becca: Yeah, I don’t remember the food. But I do remember the music, the dancing, the burlesque.
Christopher: I’ve changed performers several times. I’ve tried not to make it just burlesque, but it seems to weigh that way. The performance has to come in, do its thing, and move out of the way. It’s just a nice little extra. The DJ is a pretty essential element. You have to have a good-looking DJ who is playing some familiar music so people can have fun. Also, with drawing the blinds. I wanted to make it intimate and change it from the regular atmosphere that you have there. So, let’s close the blinds and darken it up. It wasn’t to make it nighttime, but to sex it up, change the look of the room.
Becca: How much did we drink?
Christopher: We went through six cases on Saturday. And not everyone was drinking champagne. A lot of people drink bloody marys. We tend to get a lot of birthdays, that’s what organically happens. We’re the Chuck E Cheese of birthday parties.
Becca: So how hot is this brunch?
Christopher: I am booked five weeks in advance. We keep a wait list. You always get people who don’t show up, but I try to curtail that by reconfirming. What some people don’t know is that we have an open-door policy at 4 p.m. So if you’re in the neighborhood, you can come in and dance.
Becca: Please tell me this will be in D.C. forever.
Christopher: I anticipate shutting this down mid-spring. I wouldn’t say early spring because as the daylight changes, the room changes. I get afternoon sundown. I think it affects the ambiance a little bit. It’s going to change the mood. Also, when the patio actually opens for the season, I don’t know yet what I’m going to do with that. Should it be available to La Boumers? Or for regular customers who want late afternoon snacks? So, I’m going to shut it down in the spring and open it back up in November. Refresh it. We are also testing a new concept, D.C.’s only original midnight brunch house party. Our first La Boum Boum Roum is Saturday, April 9, and promises to have “all of the fun and none of the sun” of the regular La Boum. Eventually, this could be the summer version of the now classic formula.