Imagine yourself sitting inside a warm garden room. It’s past 8pm. The lights are dimmed and there is the pleasant sound of dinner conversation gliding off the walls. You can look up and see the city lights through the slanted glass, along with a few hanging plants and glowing lanterns.
You reach into a basket on your table and take out a warm piece of bread with dried cranberries and walnuts–it smells like the interior of a quaint, French bakery–and you spread creamy butter into its surface. The waiter, dressed in a crisp white shirt and black tie places a steaming plate in front of you– Steak Au Poivre. True to its name, it’s crusted in black pepper and half glazed in a cognac broth, a perfectly shaped dollop of creamed, garlic spinach spaced an inch away.
How did Le Diplomate turn into one of DC’s most beloved restaurants? It all started when restaurant owner Stephen Starr saw an old laundromat on the corner of 14th and Q and thought, with the ample sidewalk and the bustling location, it was a great place to pay homage to the French bistros in Saint-Germain. In 2013, Starr’s dream became a reality.
Le Diplomate is open for brunch and mid-day meals on weekends, and from Tuesday to Sunday, it’s open late into the night–offering a true European dining experience. They serve everything from feathery breakfast pastries to beef bourguignon in red wine sauce and French Onion Soup Gratinee during the day, to frog legs, Grilled Loup de Mer, and Milk-Chocolate Pots de Crème late into the night.
The restaurant is even known for having a seasonal ice cream cart outside the restaurants during the hot, DC months with gourmet ice cream and sorbet. Celebrities, politicians, and locals alike are known to frequent the bistro, whether it’s a lazy Sunday afternoon or a dim-lit, starry Friday night. Either way, no matter who you are or what the reason, it is safe to say that from the time you arrive until the moments you clutch to your chest after you leave, it feels like you have been transported to la façon française.