Cracker-thin Alsation tartes are a draw at Jacques’ Brasserie. Photograph by Scott Suchman
Tucked on the edge of a meadow in back of L’Auberge Chez François, Jacques’ Brasserie feels like a hideaway in the woods.
This small restaurant-within-a-restaurant is more relaxed than L’Auberge, the Great Falls special-occasion eatery, and has its own entrance via a charming patio with potted boxwood and gaily painted red tables.
Unlike the main dining room—where jackets for men and reservations are requested and a leisurely prix fixe meal runs around $75 a person—the brasserie has an à la carte menu, and entrées top out at $26.
Jacques Haeringer has been running the show at L’Auberge since the death last summer of his father, François, who opened the eatery in DC in 1954. The younger Haeringer came up with the idea of debuting an everyday brasserie after touring the wine bars of Alsace—his father’s homeland—with his own children.
Right now, the place seems more restaurant than wine bar, but you can drop in for a beer—we like the Leffe Blonde—or glass of Riesling and a bowl of onion soup rich with beef broth. Though the menu is shorter than the one at L’Auberge, much has been borrowed.
Free-range chicken in Riesling with spaetzle—sometimes offered as a Sunday special on the more formal menu—is just the sort of grand-mère cooking you crave at a brasserie.
Other homespun pleasures include garlicky, herb-flecked mussels with frites, smoky calf’s liver with bacon and caramelized onions, and tartes flambées—Alsatian-style pizzas with cracker-like crusts, a layer of the house cottage cheese, and a choice of toppings. Bacon is what you’d find in the old country, but wild mushroom works well, too.
The brasserie’s take on choucroute doesn’t disappoint. This signature L’Auberge plate has the same sublime mound of wine-laden sauerkraut, sausages, and ham. No foie gras and duck confit, but with all the porky bits you’ll hardly miss them. A lighter seafood version with fresh rockfish and smoked salmon and trout is also wonderful.
Sweets are identical to the lineup in L’Auberge, from airy soufflés to a lush sour-cream-laden cheesecake.
All of which make Jacques’ a go-to address, even when it’s just a casual kind of night.
This article appears in the December 2011 issue of The Washingtonian.