An Approachable, Affordable French Bistro Finally Arrives in Georgetown

La Bonne Vache will open next week in the historic former Booeymonger space.

Salade Lyonnaise and gruyere gougeres are among the bistro classics at La Bonne Vache in Georgetown. Photograph by Kimberly Kong.

La Bonne Vache, 3265 Prospect St., NW.

Here is a—likely incomplete—list of the trendy-yet-classic French bistros that have opened in and around DC so far in the roaring 2020s: Lutèce, Bistro du Jour, La Bise, L’Avant Garde, Josephine, Petite Cerise, Cafe Colline, and as of today, Pastis. That’s on top of old standbys like Le Diplomate, La Chaumiere, and Chez Billy Sud. On Wednesday, we’ll get yet another: La Bonne Vache, located in the former Booeymonger space in Georgetown. 

The restaurant is the creation of two couples: Rob and Rachel Aikens and Claire and Ari Wilder, all restaurant industry veterans. The cozy corner spot is aiming for approachability, focusing on burgers and sandwiches (nearly all of which are between $12 and $16) to honor the memory of the 50 year-old deli that preceded it in the space. 

“We wanted to make it as affordable as Booeymonger was to a lot of people,” co-owner Claire Wilder says. “That’s the audience we want to market to while making it our own higher-end, high-quality bistro.”

Chef Rob Aikens, who worked for Starr Restaurants for years, has created four “steak haché” burgers, made with a custom blend of Pat LaFrieda hanger steak, brisket, short rib, and chuck, and topped with microcosmic versions of classic French bistro dishes. The “steak au poivre” is slathered with peppercorn-cognac aioli and topped with mushrooms and fourme d’ambert blue cheese. The “boeuf bourguignonne” gets red wine-braised short rib and smoked bacon. 

Lighter sandwiches include ham-and-comté or grilled chicken paillard on baguettes from Pluma by Bluebird Bakery. La Bonne Vache’s chef de cuisine, Scheyla Acosta, connected with Pluma’s Camila Arango and Tom Wellings while working beside them at the very short-lived Cashion’s Rendezvous in The Square downtown. 

Expect plenty of classic French salads and modest starters. Oeuf mimosa ($6) is a cross between oeuf mayonnaise and deviled eggs. Gougeres ($11), the gruyere-rich cheese puffs, can be gilded with paprika cream cheese.

La Bonne Vache transforms the former Booeymonger space into a French bistro. Photograph by Kimberly Kong.

Rachel Aikens, who handled La Bonne Vache’s design, preserved some of Booeymonger’s decades-old quirks, like the unusual ceiling-mounted radiators and warped pressed-tin ceiling. She added dark wood paneling, framed paintings, green floor tiles, and marble-topped bistro tables. 

Booeymonger has been closed since last April, and the team behind La Bonne Vache has been promising to open for nearly as long. The Wilders, who will operate the business, have stakes in multiple restaurants (Chaplin’s, Zeppelin, Kappo), and had their sights set on the deli’s space by the time it shuttered. Booeymonger co-owner Leslie Samuel is still La Bonne Vache’s landlord.

The bistro team originally set their sights on Bastille Day in July for a grand opening, but got into hot water with a neighbor when they began converting the space’s obsolete side door into a takeout window without the necessary permit. Wilder says the idea was originally to create an easy way for stroller-pushing Georgetown parents to pick up to-go fare. In August, the Department of Buildings  issued a stop work order, and the restaurant’s progress ground to a temporary halt. Although the takeout window isn’t happening, the space is finally up and running. But there’s one more hitch: it’ll operate without a liquor license— for now. Until February, you’ll have to manage with Ari and Claire Wilder’s nonalcoholic creations like the ruby red Le Spritz—made with Stappi bitter aperitif—and the “Sans Armes” French 75, with alcohol-free French sparkling wine. 

Ike Allen
Assistant Editor