President Hollande’s State Visit: A Dining Guide

Where to feast like a visiting dignitary—besides 1600 Pennsylvania.

French visitors could get a taste of home with Mintwood Place’s escargot hushpuppies. Photograph by Erik Uecke.

French President François Hollande’s state visit this week brings a large convoy of diplomats to the nation’s capital. Besides political agendas—and plenty of personal drama—where to eat might be on our French visitors’ minds during the trip.

Tuesday marks the first state dinner of President Obama’s second term, and promises to be an extravagant black-tie affair. A light lunch is in order for those on the guest list alongside big-time fundraisers and A-list celebrities, including Bradley Cooper. The Hollywood star favors Georgetown’s swanky Cafe Milano—as do many other power diners in Washington—and you’ll do well with a glass of wine and Kobe-beef carpaccio. (Those hoping for a more budget-friendly Cooper sighting should try another one of his chosen haunts, the Tombs.) Another option: Skip lunch and splurge on breakfast dishes such as the lump-crab omelet or huevos rancheros at Seasons. The sceney spot for early risers played host to presidential pals Beyoncé and Jay-Z while they were in town, so you can get a taste of the (non) intrigue around rumors of a Beyoncé-Barack affair sparked by the French press.

For those not headed to an evening at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, plenty of restaurants nearby offer a taste of presidential dining. Consider booking at table at the Obama-approved BLT Steak, Blue Duck Tavern, the Source, or Oyamel, which the First Couple just visited on Saturday.

French visitors looking for a taste of home—and a less expensive meal—could try creative riffs on their country’s dishes; Michel Richard’s lobster burger at Central or Mintwood Place’s escargot hushpuppies are unusual Francophile finds. Or you could follow the lead of French Embassy insiders, who are rumored to favor Bloomingdale’s Red Hen. Even smaller, chef-driven restaurants are all the rage in Paris, and also en mode in DC. Some of the toughest tables in town—and deservedly so—can be found in eateries such as Rose’s Luxury on Capitol Hill and Little Serow just off Dupont Circle, which serves up fiery northern Thai cuisine.

In the past President Obama has been known to strengthen ties with foreign dignitaries with everyman fare; what world crisis couldn’t be solved over sandwiches from Ray’s Hell-Burger? The landmark burger joint closed, but a diplomatic outing could be made to Ray’s to the Third for one of the signature patties or, even better, a decadent cheesesteak.

Food Editor

Anna Spiegel covers the dining and drinking scene in her native DC. Prior to joining Washingtonian in 2010, she attended the French Culinary Institute and Columbia University’s MFA program in New York, and held various cooking and writing positions in NYC and in St. John, US Virgin Islands.