Chances are if you’ve been in Washington long, you’ve brunched at Café Bonaparte in Georgetown. Nestled on Wisconsin just a hop, skip, and, a jump from the shopping, darling French café is notorious for its long lines and delicious crepes. Its sister restaurant, Napoleon, was larger, more gilded and glamorous—a testament to its namesake.
The restaurants are owned by Omar Popal, a charming, sophisticated, and well-known local businessman. When Popal opened his third French restaurant and café, Malmaison, he cemented his Francophilia in everyone’s mind.
Popal’s well-dressed family are often spotted drinking espressos and reading the paper on any given morning in his restaurants. Once, at Malmaison, I instantly identified his father—a dapper older gentleman, dressed in Lacoste polos, linen pants, and Italian leather shoes. He was the spitting image of Omar—only older.
The whole thing is very European—these darling French cafes. Only, the Popals aren’t European, or French— the family actually hails from Afghanistan.
In a bold and spectacular move, Popal totally renovated Napoleon and converted to Lapis, an homage to his Afghan heritage. Gone are Napoleon’s gilded walls, filigree accents, and red-leather stools, they’re replaced by white walls, unassuming wooden seating, pictures of the Popal family on the walls, and Afghan rugs on the floor.
Honestly, I prefer the new space—it’s beautiful, serene, and authentic. With white walls and high ceilings, the space lets in a lot of light. I was absolutely enamored.
With the makeover, Popal maintained two brunch essentials: a large, beautiful patio shaded by large umbrellas, and a bottomless option.
In addition to Afghan fare, Lapis also offers a solid assortment of European and American brunch favorites, like chocolate croissants and hamburgers. There’s also a great cocktail menu: mimosas, Bloody Marys, Bloody Marias, an afghan 75—with cognac, cardamom, syrup, and champagne. Bottomless cocktails are available for $22, with a time limit of two hours. We began with coffees—a latte for her and a regular coffee for me. Brittney Ann went for her usual, a Diet Coke, whereas I went for my usual, bubbly. Lapis has a delightful cocktail menu, and I chose the Marco Polo, a Bloody Orange Bellini. Had I not been going to SolidCore afterward, I would have had two.
We began with French fries and beet salad—the second time this duo has begun a brunch in that fashion. Brittney Ann is gluten-free, so I make not-so-difficult compromises like ordering French fries rather than the bread basket at brunch.
These French fries were hearty and unique—more like fried potato sticks—and served with a mayonnaise dipping sauce. It was actually a Harissa mayonnaise, which made it that much better. I ate far too many.
The beet salad was fresh, light and unique. The plate featured a triad of sliced Granny Smith apples, topped with sliced red beets, and a really creamy, flavorful goat cheese. In the center of the plate lay a bed of arugula, topped with a light dressing.
The family favorite, the Karayee, caught my eye—a skillet filled with eggs, sautéd tomatoes, onions, and potatoes that you can order with or without meatballs. We went with the meatballs, and did not regret it. The ooey gooey, eggy deliciousness was packed with flavor—onion, tomato, ground beef. It was incredibly satisfying. It was definitely my favorite dish—and I’m told it’s a family favorite, too.
Brittney Ann was utterly thrilled to find a gluten-free waffle on the menu. I decided to join her in carbo-loading, opting for the almond strawberry French toast, which also sounded too good to pass by. The waffle, which didn’t taste gluten-free at all, was served with fresh fruit and fresh Maple syrup, and was perfect in it’s waffle-ness.
My French toast was unique—thin, moist, and eggy on the inside—coated with vanilla and almonds on the outside and topped with macerated strawberries. It was warm, satisfying, and just the right amount of sweet. It was a really delightful brunch treat.
All in all, we prefer Lapis to Napoleon, as the bright, beautiful space would be perfect for spending a leisurely afternoon—and we love the idea of an Afghan restaurant in a sea of French, tapas, and “new American small plates” spots in Washington.
The Bitches say: A. An Afghan restaurant adds a much-welcome diversity into the DC dining scene. The space is stunning, the service spectacular, and there are plenty of regular brunch options for the less adventurous. We’ll be back!
1847 Columbia Road N.W.
Lapis serves brunch Saturdays and Sundays.