Meet Stephen Starr of Le Diplomate, Coming to Logan Circle, and Learn the Secret to their Amazing Bread

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Stephen Starr

A few weeks ago I noted the progress at Le Diplomate coming to the former laundry at the corner of 14th and Q St, NW in Logan Circle. At that time they were hoping for a mid-March opening but after having a peek a couple days ago, I’d say an April opening is probably more likely. Of course, after hearing about the plans – the earlier they open the better! In addition to getting a look at the progress the space:

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I was also lucky enough to have a chat with owner Stephen Starr (pictured above.) But first a peek at the terrace on Q street:

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While I’m loving the copper on the outside – you can tell that the inside is gonna be amazing as well:

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Ok back to Mr. Starr. He was kind enough to share a few details about his plans for Le Diplomate. While Le Diplomate is inspired by Parc in Philadelphia, Starr tells me that Le Diplomate will have a far more intimate feel. He hopes for the restaurant to be a true neighborhood go to spot. Since Le Diplomate will serve breakfast, lunch and dinner – he imagines neighbors could stop by 3-4 times a week.

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From the files of “I did not know that” before becoming a restauranteur, Mr. Starr was a concert promoter and would regularly come to the DC area. As far back as 1995 he knew he wanted to open a spot in DC but things just “kept growing in Philly”. A few years ago he was intensively looking for space in DC but was mostly steered towards modern glass office buildings which wasn’t his style. Fortunately, on one of those trips he happened to drive by the vacant laundry at 14th and Q Streets and thought it would make for the perfect location for a restaurant. At that time the space was unavailable so a DC project was delayed until a couple years later when he got the call that the space was now free. And so here we are surrounded by construction with the restaurant really starting to come together.

Continues after the jump.

While the space will be more intimate than Parc, the menu (though still in development) will be “more adventurous”. I was told we can look forward to the “best seafood plateau in the city.” The seafood plateau will consist of crabs, oysters, clams, lobster, and lots more from all over the world. And the extensive raw bar will also allow these items to be ordered individually. According to their website:

“The extensive menu features a variety of classic dishes including Onion Soup Gratinee, Steak Frites, and Poulet Roti as well as contemporary bistro fare, with dishes such as Shaved Veal Tongue with Mache and Bavette de Boeuf à l’Echalote.”

The menu is likely to be completed in the next week or so at which point I’ll post for us to see. Now on to the bread.

Le Diplomate will feature an on site bakery. And after having tasted the bread at Parc I was eager to know if they planned to replicate the incredible baguettes. And thankfully they will. Starr says they have a secret weapon that makes this possible. Like the equivalent of a Sushi master – Starr has a “dough master from France.” He regularly monitors all the bread recipes and tweaks them when needed, usually every few months. And there you have the secret to Starr’s amazing bread – the dough master.

Oh yeah, if he finds the right space and Le Diplomate is a success get ready for Starr to open a second restaurant in DC. Based on what I’ve seen and heard, I’d say that is a very safe bet.

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Rendering via Le Diplomate

41 Comment

  • This is going to be the best new restaurant of 2013! For those that haven’t been to a Stephen Starr restaurant, he is the reason why the Philly restaurant scene is still far superior to DC’s. I hope this is just the beginning of his expansion into the DC marker.

    • Indeed. One of the benefits Starr has provided to Philly’s fantastic food scene — which I miss terribly — is serving as a “chef incubator.” Many who have come up in the industry in a Starr restaurant have then gone on to open their own fantastic restaurants. This can only be a win-win for DC.

  • We live about 30 feet from this place, and after years of staring at the defunct dry cleaners with out-of-control weeds along the sidewalk, we’re pumped for this place to finally open. Starr has a great reputation in Philly and, to a lesser extent, New York, and the food should be wonderful.

    But here’s my bigger gripe (or rant in PoPspeak): the name. Le Diplomate? Just terrible. It’s hard to think of a more trite attempt to combine French cuisine with Washington “culture.” We’ll have to come up with some kind of alternative. Maybe just “The Diplomat.” Or “The Dip.” Or what was on the original building permits: “Parc Deux.”

  • looks hot!

  • I had no idea that nasty old laundromat had a beautiful stone façade underneath. Wowzers!

  • And for our readers who are not so fortunate as to be fluent in French, the name translates to “The Diplomat” in English. Expect this to be the new hot spot for hot young French diplomats. Double yum!

  • will you be able to walk in and buy bread without sitting down? That would be the ULTIMATE. I ride by bike down Q all the time and would certainly stop in on a whim and grab me somes.

  • Loves this! My family is from Philly and we regularly celebrate birthdays and anniversaries at Parc in Philly (was there for my b-day a couple weeks ago). Yum. I hope they have a salade lyonnaise. Cannot wait to chill on the outward facing cafe tables and relax :-D

  • The stone was an add on it was not existing. It looks amazing as you walk past. So excited about this place as we love his places in PA. I agree on the name… sound stupid but it will not stop us from going to “the Diplomat”. Guess we need to Anglicize everything ahahha

    • The stone facade is original to the building.

      • It is original, although there might be a few changes. But yes, original. YOu can even verify that just by looking at the process of demo/construction.

  • Looks beautiful! I can’t wait for it to open!

  • i like the name!

  • I’ll support it! But only half-heartedly if the bread is anything like Taylor’s “Philly style” bread…bleech. Dry and rock hard, not crusty and aromatic.

  • Nice scoop, PoP!

    This place is huuuuuuuuuuuuuge and a really nice renovation. I’m really interested to check it out, once the hype dies down a bit.

  • What is the over/under on dogs being allowed on the patio? This will be dangerous for me if I can walk my dog down and sit and have a crepe and café au lait in the sun all summer long!! Can’t wait!

    • I know they allow dogs at their outdoor tables facing the park in Philly because we took full advantage last summer- I am hopeful!

  • The place looks great. Great photos Dan!! Hopefully this will become what Le Pigalle could not … I know it got a bad rap, but I loved that place for all 6 months it was there. Damn you Peppers Curse!

  • Live a block away–looking forward to becoming one of those neighbors that stops by 3-4 times a week!

  • I am so excited for this place to open up! I am still hoping for a late March opening so that I can celebrate my birthday dinner here. It’s steps away from home, and I would absolutely buy my bread here if they offer it to go!

  • I don’t understand how that place is going to turn a profit. The amount of time and effort its taken to renovate that building, got to assume there is a ton of money tied up into it. Plus, all the apparent work it took to decontaminate it after its laundry days. Seems restaurants struggle as it is, even when they reuse prior, already developed, restaurant space.

  • I am ready and waiting….. Mmm Mmm bread!

  • this looks fantastic…can’t wait for that sidewalk seating! people watching all afternoon…

  • The interior architecture is fabulous. I never would have guessed.

  • Hey pop, was wondering if they’re opening a stand-alone bakery or just that they’ll bake for the resto only?

  • What is a “seafood plateau”?

  • When will you be opening? We live very close and will be in the States for the next 3 months.

  • I actually liked the old, abandoned building there. We need a moratorium on exciting new restaurants that sell booze.

  • What I like most about restaurants in Philadelphia is that they fit outdoor seating just about where ever they can. Sidewalks aren’t wide in Philly, yet any restaurant worth it’s salt has a least a *couple* of tables outside. And Because Philadelphia has such narrow, charming, tree-lined streets, it’s really a pleasure to sit and eat and be both part of the scene of the city, while maintaing some distance.

    That said, I like that the bottom rendering shows tables that are oriented to face the sidewalk, the streetlife. Sure the view at 14th and Q can’t compare to the view of Rittenhouse Square at Locust and 18th, buy 14th is a happening street and the people watching would be nice.

    Not to mention, as a fella who grew up in the Delaware Valley (Philadelphia area) I’m always pleased when something from our part of the country spreads and is embraced (Rita’s, Wawa). Now we have something upscale and delicious coming to the nation’s capital. I’m stoked!

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