January, 2005: L’Auberge Chez Francois

If time marches on, you cannot tell it from this restaurant.

If time marches on, you cannot tell it from this restaurant. The Haeringer family, led by patriarch François, is celebrating 50 years in the restaurant business. The family started in 1954 with a modest establishment in downtown DC that was the meeting place for serious diners, then moved in 1975 to this inn in Great Falls. The decor has the charm of Alsace, the home area of François. The relaxed atmosphere masks the impressive efficiency and competence of the restaurant. Four dining rooms, each with its own attentive host, surround the large foyer. Reservations are needed; the restaurant accepts them exactly four weeks in advance.

If the entrée seems expensive, note that the price also includes an appetizer, salad, and dessert. The menu is long on hearty dishes, so winter is a good time to visit. Organ meats and game are prepared very well. Antelope, deer, pheasant, quail, and rabbit are among the game choices; organ meats include tongue, kidneys, brains, and sweetbreads. There is much more. An onion tart, a soufflé of salmon, rainbow trout with almonds, salmon or red snapper en croute, and a rack of lamb are excellent alternatives. Many regard the choucroute garni, consisting of smoked pork, pheasant, sausages, duck, and foie gras on a bed of sauerkraut, the star of the menu.

For dessert try the hot soufflé or the Alsatian plum tart. Consider ordering a fruity Riesling or spicy Gewürztraminer as diners do in Alsace, where red wines do not approach the whites in quality.

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