100 Best Restaurants 2008: L’Auberge Chez Francois

No. 60: L'Auberge Chez Francois

Cuisine: Old-guard French by way of Alsace, where François Haeringer—who established his first Washington restaurant 50-plus years ago—was born. His son, Jacques, is now chef de cuisine, but the elder Haeringer still rules. Entrée prices may seem hefty, but they include a starter, house salad, and dessert of your choice along with several little extras.

Mood: Nestled amid woodlands and meadows, the inn—with dark-wood beams, fresh flower arrangements, and lovely landscaping—looks like a hostelry in the Alsatian countryside. Service is Old World formal, with waiters in red vests and “hosts” in dark suits floating around to make sure all is well.

Best for: Special occasions and romantic dinners.

Best dishes: Petite seafood choucroute with beurre blanc; housemade pâtés and rillettes that taste of France; tender veal cheeks with sherry and wild mushrooms; the signature choucroute, rich with sausages, goose confit, foie gras, and more; plum tart à la mode.

Insider tips: Ask for a table by one of the fireplaces or in the Garden Room for a late Sunday-afternoon lunch (or early dinner) and watch the light fade behind a stand of pines. In summer, the patio is probably the area’s most charming al-fresco dining spot, and it’s first come, first served, so you don’t have to activate the redial button for a reservation—the restaurant takes reservations up to four weeks in advance. There’s a charming children’s menu, including a miniature pâté plate and pasta with veal in cream sauce.

Service: ••••

Ann Limpert
Executive Food Editor/Critic

Ann Limpert joined Washingtonian in late 2003. She was previously an editorial assistant at Entertainment Weekly and a cook in New York restaurant kitchens, and she is a graduate of the Institute of Culinary Education. She lives in Petworth.