Find French Classics, Champagne, and Martini Service at Old Town Alexandria’s New Brasserie

Josephine is the latest addition to Neighborhood Restaurant Group.

Josephine from Neighborhood Restaurant Group takes over Columbia Firehouse in Old Town Alexandria. Photograph by Rey Lopez.

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Josephine. 109 Saint Asaph St., Alexandria.

The DC-area has seen a wave of French restaurants lately. The latest, Josephine, is a classic brasserie in Old Town Alexandria from Neighborhood Restaurant Group, and the place prides itself on its time-intensive techniques.

“Our kettle, where we do a veal stock, is literally going 24 hours a day, seven days a week. And that’s a three day process,” says chef Matt Cockrell, whose resume of French restaurants includes La Chaumiere, Le Diplomate, Mintwood Place, and most recently, Georgetown’s Brasserie Liberté  (where he was executive chef). “We get about 60 gallons of veal stock, we’re going to reduce that down to five gallons before we even start making sauce and things like that. A lot of this is just flavors built on time.”

That veal stock is an essential base for dishes like pan-seared sweetbreads, steak au poivre, and beef bourguignon. Meanwhile, pâté de campagne is its own four-day labor of love. The recipe was passed down to Cockrell from his mentor, La Chaumiere’s Patrick Orange, who got it from his mentor in France. “Literally, this recipe has been untouched for over 100 years. Only difference is I’ve adjusted the seasoning for more modern palates,” Cockrell says.

Duck confit, steak frites, and beef bourguignon are among the classics on Josephine’s menu. Photograph by Rey Lopez.

The rest of the menu includes plenty of raw bar items, with plateaus available in two sizes ($95 and $195), plus bistro favorites, including onion soup, trout amandine, and a 24-hour-cured duck confit with spinach-nettle spaetzle. Also of note is anything with potatoes. Cockrell’s favorite vegetable takes the form of hand-cut frites, creamy pommes purée, and crispy layered pommes pavé.  “Some of these sort of higher priced vegetables are the John Lennons of the group, but potatoes are sort of like the Ringo. Ringo deserves all the respect as well.”

The food is complemented by more than 350 French wines, including at least 30 wines by the glass with a focus on grower Champagnes. Cocktails include aperitifs, riffs on classic, and opulent options like a $25 ramos gin fizz and $19 custom martini service (a version with caviar-infused Grey Goose is $35). Local, French, and Belgian beers and ciders are also available.

Look for off-menu specials at Josephine’s third-floor hideaway lounge and Champagne bar. Photograph by Rey Lopez.

Josephine takes over Columbia Firehouse, another Neighborhood Restaurant Group spot that closed during the pandemic and never reopened. The interior has four distinct spaces: a wood-paneled bar, an atrium with 30-foot arched ceilings and stained glass, a more formal upstairs dining room, and a third-floor hideaway lounge and Champagne bar where Cockrell envisions some fun off-menu specials. The restaurant will open for brunch in July, then lunch, and maybe even breakfast. “If the demand is there, I envision this being an all-day bistro,” Cockrell says.

Jessica Sidman
Food Editor

Jessica Sidman covers the people and trends behind D.C.’s food and drink scene. Before joining Washingtonian in July 2016, she was Food Editor and Young & Hungry columnist at Washington City Paper. She is a Colorado native and University of Pennsylvania grad.