An Opulent Parisian-Style Dining Room Is Opening Near the White House

French brasserie La Grande Boucherie takes over a long-vacant historic bank building.

La Grande Boucherie takes over the historic Federal-American National Bank Building in downtown DC. Photograph by Rachel Paraoan.

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La Grande Boucherie. 699 14th St., NW. 

For nearly three decades, the gilded lobby of a historic downtown bank near the White House has sat empty. But the soaring, century-old space is getting new life as French brasserie and steakhouse La Grande Boucherie, which opens Thursday, April 18. It’s one of three restaurants—plus a speakeasy-like bar in the bank’s subterranean vault—from New York-based The Group Hospitality that will open in the building this year.

“I find that [DC] is the most elegant city in the United States,” says The Group NYC’s founder and president Emil Stefkov, who’s a partner in a San Francisco-based venture capital fund and an investor in Tesla. But he became particularly determined to open La Grande Boucherie here when he came across the Federal-American National Bank Building at 14th and G streets, Northwest. Built in the 1920s and co-designed by French architect Jules Gabriel Henri de Sibour, the limestone building is a protected historic landmark that was recently restored to its original grandeur by a new owner. Stefkov says La Grande Boucherie—which has locations in New York, Chicago, and soon, Miami— beat out several restaurant groups competing for the building. “I think it’s going to be the most beautiful, most epic La Grande Boucherie,” he says.

The former National Bank Building near the White House is included in the National Register of Historic Places. Photography by Rachel Paraoan.

This is saying something—because Stefkov and his team literally made a documentary called Making of La Grande Boucherie about designing and building their Manhattan restaurant, which features a 150-year-old glass ceiling imported from France. (It made another on-screen appearance in the Sex and the City reboot.) For DC, everything in the restaurant was built to blend in with existing one-of-a-kind design details: a wraparound mezzanine, century-old chandelier, and ornate, gilded ceiling. “It’s a masterpiece. It’s like you’re in Versailles,” Stefkov says of the ceiling.

A fountain dating back to the early 20th century with cast bronze statue greets diners atop a marble staircase at La Grande Boucherie. Photograph by Rachel Paraoan.

Channeling La Belle Époque era, the 14,000-square-foot space is meant to feel like Parisian square, anchored by a fountain dating back to the early 20th century that was acquired from a private collector in the south of France. A cast bronze statue atop the fountain weighs about 400 pounds and stands 15 feet tall. Another centerpiece is the 20-foot pewter bar, which took months to make in France using a special technique involving a 200-year-old mold. “It’s literally made exactly like it was made for the last 200 years,” Stefkov says. “There are only two companies in the world that work with that old method.”

The menu, designed by corporate executive chef Maxime Kien, is full of French brasserie staples: “Our philosophy is that we do the most classical thing—like the escargots or the steak tartare or the croque monsieur—the best way possible,” Stefkov says. “Boucherie” translates to butchery, so the menu also focuses heavily on meat with steaks dry-aged in house. The restaurant is open for dinner only to start, with lunch launching Monday, April 22.

Down the line, Stefkov is interested in introducing more “almost forgotten” regional French dishes. Just as they filmed the construction of the Manhattan restaurant, he’s envisioning a show “going in some villages, finding some old ladies who are doing some dishes that that are almost extinct.”

The mezzanine of La Grande Boucherie features white tablecloths and red carpets. Photography by Rachel Paraoan.

The wine list leans French with an emphasis on grape varietals, like tannat and mondeuse, that might be lesser known but offer great values, Stefkov says. The bar offers absinthe fountains and classic cocktails, and the restaurant is partnering with DC mixologist LP O’Brien, winner of the Netflix bartending competition Drink Masters, to create three more cocktails for the menu.

In the basement, the group is converting the bank’s former vault into an intimate speakeasy-style bar that will open by September. Guests will have to pass by the kitchen, through a massive vault door. “It will be very old world elegance,” Stefkov says.

La Grande Boucherie DC features original details like a century-old chandelier and gilded ceiling. Photography by Rachel Paraoan.

The Group NYC will also bring its Italian trattoria Olio é Piu to the same building at the end of May. The restaurant, with patio seating up to 70, offers a traditional menu of antipasti, salads, handmade pastas, grilled fish, and more. Later this fall, the restaurant group will debut a high-end mostly sushi omakase counter with only 10 to 12 seats, plus a small private tatami room for eight. Stefkov says they’re still searching for a chef, possibly relocating someone from Japan. The restaurant will be named Omakase Room by [the chef’s name].

“We practically build the restaurant around the chef,” Stefkov says. “Now we build the bones. When we find the chef, we’re going to finish the restaurant for whatever he needs.”

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.