Before the Dabney ever came to be, chef Jeremiah Langhorne had toyed with opening a French restaurant. “I’m a huge Francophile,” he says. “I go [to France] as often as I can, and I’ve just been obsessed with French cuisine and culture for a long time.” In fact, much of the historical regional cooking that inspired the Dabney’s much-lauded mid-Atlantic menu has roots in France.
Now, Langhorne and partner Alex Zink are going for it. They’re set to open an all-day, French-inspired restaurant called Petite Cerise—meaning “little cherry”—this fall in Shaw.
The restaurant won’t be your typical bistro with onion soup and escargots (not to say the classics won’t ever make appearances). Rather, Langhorne describes the place as “more similar to a French restaurant you’d find in France than the ones you’d find in America.” It will focus on fresh-from-the-market cooking with simple plates “really, really well-executed.”
The day will start with a sit-down breakfast—think a “perfect” omelet with wild foraged chanterelles, handmade sausages, preserves and marmalades, and pastries baked on site. “If we can make the best croissant in town, that would be amazing,” Langhorne says.
Leisurely lunches may bring roast chicken over salad, bouillabaisse with local seafood, handmade charcuterie, shellfish towers, or a ham and cheese sandwich on a “perfectly made baguette.” The dinner menu will explore lesser-seen regional specialties you’d more likely find in country restaurants rather than the “grand dishes” that dominate menus pretty much everywhere. The local sourcing that’s come to define the Dabney will be augmented at Petite Cerise with plenty of imported goodies like French cheeses and butter. The wine list will go completely French, while cocktails with focus on hyper-seasonal ingredients shared with the kitchen.
The window-lined corner restaurant, at 7th and L streets NW, will have a “brighter and fresher” modern look with two floors of dining and a bar. There won’t be a wood-fired hearth—the cornerstone of Langhorne’s cooking at the Dabney. Rather, the open kitchen will showcase a “beautiful French cooking suite.”
While Petite Cerise may be more casual than the Dabney, the owners are bucking the fast-casual trend that’s dominated the pandemic. After all, the place has been in the works long before anyone had ever heard of Covid-19. It was initially slated to open last fall.
“We don’t want to shift into ‘hey, we’re also going to be a sandwich shop or we’re also going to do pizza,'” says Langhorne, who recently stopped takeout at the Dabney to focus on in-person dining. “We really love what we do and we have a lot of pride in it. We just really want to double down and make a go at it the way that we really want to do it.”
Petite Cerise. 1027 7th St., NW.