Eating Around Town – Le Grenier


This edition of Eating Around Town was written by Abbey Becker. Abbey previously wrote about Table.

I like McDonald’s French fries–they’re thin, crispy, salty, and cheap. But when I dine at a restaurant that serves French food, I do not expect to be served fries that could have been brought over from the nearest golden arches.

Unfortunately, this meant Le Grenier (502 H Street NE) and I were not going to be on good terms.

But let’s talk about the good parts. I got there earlier than my 7:00 dinner reservation on a Tuesday night, so I took a seat at the bar to wait for my friend. Happy hour runs from 5 to 7 every weekday at the bar, and you can get half off wines and cheeses. The bartender was incredibly friendly and helpful; I told him I didn’t know much about white wine, but that I was interested in something that wasn’t sweet. He had me try a Chardonnay, which I didn’t like, then gave me a sample of another that I liked better. When I had questions about some of the cheeses, he knew what each tasted like, how each was made, and which would go best with the glass of wine I chose. Possibly the best part was that the three cheeses (served with sliced green apples, a sliced strawberry, some nuts, and a lightly dressed mixed green salad) and my glass of wine cost $10.

Two women next to me ordered the three-cheese and three-meat plate, and when it arrived with pate as one of the meat selections, one of the diners wrinkled her nose and said she really didn’t like pate. The bartender offered to swap it out for something she’d like better, like prosciutto. That’s service!


When it came time for dinner, however, the speed and attitude of the service completely changed. The guy delivering the bread (which tasted like spongy supermarket French bread, but at least it was hot) would come by with a basket and tongs and add a slice to each bread plate when we each finished one, but didn’t make eye contact or acknowledge our existence at all. Our main server couldn’t recommend a galette, seemed generally nervous, and mumbled a lot.

In terms of food, my friend ended up with the galette with mushrooms, leeks, and lardons, essentially a crepe with lots of filling. No major complaints about this dish, except that the crepe itself was a bit dense. I ordered the bavette à l’échalote, a hangar steak with fries. I asked for it medium rare, and it was served more medium-well. The steak seemed like it had been sautéed ahead of time, then reheated in a pan that wasn’t hot enough–the outside of it was kind of soggy and limp. And then it was doused with brothy caramelized onions, which tasted vinegary, mostly. If I wanted something that only tasted like caramelized onions, I would have ordered the French onion soup. The McDonald’s-style fries were served on the side.

Yes, the décor was well thought out, but it was completely overshadowed by the rest of the mediocre experience. If the food doesn’t deliver, I’m not coming back. If you want to talk about an amazing and delicious French meal, then let’s go to Le Diplomate.

20 Comment

  • Yep, my experience as well. Food was bad all around.

  • Excusez-moi but fries from McDo are what fries in France are like–thin, salty, crispy. Too many so-called French restaurants serve fat, unpeeled, limp fries. Please check facts before doing harm (in your opening paragraph) to what sounds like a good restaurant.

    • I’m more concerned with the review of the steak.

    • I was going to say the same thing about the fries… that sounds exactly like the type of fries I’ve had in France.

    • I should clarify to say that they seemed like they were previously frozen. If I’m eating at a restaurant, I’m looking to have something that I couldn’t easily buy from the store’s freezer section and put in the oven. Also, they tasted more like fry oil than potato.

    • I agree. Most steak frites involve fries that are similar to McDonalds in shape and consistency. Including most French restaurants in DC that I’ve been to.

      Also, if you like McDonalds fries, then what is the problem?

  • While it’s disappointing to hear your experience was negative, let me counter it by saying ours at Le Grenier was absolutely terrific, and we enjoyed the meal we had immensely. Yes, Le Diplomate is better, but considering it’s a higher price tier, it should be. And unlike LD, you don’t need a reservation a week out at Le Grenier.

    And yes, M Anderson is correct–McDo fries are very similar to true French bistro fries, which is probably why France is one of McDo’s top global markets.

  • I’ve only had good meals at Le Grenier. As others have said, the fries that put you on “bad terms” with the French restaurant are exactly like they are served… in France. The food may not be on par with Le Diplomate but that intro hamstrings the credibility of your entire review.

  • Oh my god, the bread guy didn’t look you in the eyes while he continually refilled your bread?? I shall never dine here!

    Also, just so you know, a galette is made with buckwheat flour whereas a crepe is made with wheat.

    • +1

      Galettes are supposed to be denser than crepes. Don’t criticize a French restaurant for serving French food. You sound ignorant.

  • That’s exactly what frites are supposed to look like. Or at least that’s what they looked like when served in France or Belgium.

  • Didn’t think that much of the bar either. Went there for a weekend brunch and the bar didn’t have tomato juice so no bloody marys. There is a store a block away, but no one volunteered to go out for juice, so we left.

  • It’s not the best restaurant in town, but I am a fan. The brunch deal especially is a good one. 18.95 for an appetizer or desert, plus an entree and a (quite large!) champagne or mimosa.

  • ^Agree with Brian, I’ve gone to Grenier multiple times for dates and with friends visiting and had pleasant experiences. I agree that the service is ok rather than great, but the food has been delicious. The cheese plate sampler you mentioned (which I will definitely be getting at the discounted HH rate now that I know about that) is fantastic – and the waiters have recommended cheeses for me each time. The French Onion soup is equally amazing. I’ve had the steak with frites and enjoyed it – good but not stellar. I’d recommend the fish dishes.

    It’s certainly no Le Diplomat, but it’s in a lower price range/tier. And the ambiance is different at Grenier, darker, quiter, and more intimate than Diplomat’s bright and loud hustle and buslte.

  • I happen to LOVE Le Grenier, and think whoever wrote this review has a serious stick up their behind. I’ve only had great experiences with service every time I’ve gone. You can have a filling meal for under $15 or you can spend more on the higher priced items. Their crepes are amazing and changed each season with seasonal produce (the crepe with camembert and butternut squash and the gallette with goat cheese & ragu are great). I’d also like to defend the “spongy supermarket French bread” which is freaking delicious and as someone who has had actual French baguettes in France and unfortunately crappy stale U.S. grocery store baguettes this person has no clue what they are talking about.

    Oh and yeah you should have gotten the french onion soup here – it is one of the best I’ve ever had in the States.

  • if you think Le Diplomate is exceptional French, you need to go to France. If you can’t get there, go to Bistro D’Oc downtown… Also, the bread guy isn’t supposed to make nice… if you know anything about silver service, it should be so seamless you don’t even realize the bread guy is there… the bread should just appear on your plate…. old school, you and the server work together WITHOUT SPEAKING to get the job done.

    and McDonalds fries are the BOMB.

    • jim_ed

      Love Bistro D’Oc. Steak Frites in the summer, and Cassoulet in the winter, plus their fois gras pate…. best kept secret in the city.

  • Oh, Abbey… next you’ll tell me that Tru Orleans is a true New Orleans experience… Quelle horreur

  • I decided to see how the restaurant was tonight, and I will agree, I was disappointed.

    1. The bread is indeed what Americans think French bread is like but is fact far too doughy.

    2. The platings were inconvenient. My poulet basquaise came in too small of a dish; whereas, my partner’s marmite was nearly empty, and for his dish, they failed to supply a spoon, a plate for the shells, or a snail fork.

    3. The marmite was skimpy and had too little seafood.

    4. The service seemed overwhelmed by the number of customers and had to keep turning away walk-ins. That being said, the service also would ignore people at the door for several minutes while they tried to attend to all their other duties.

    5. Generally, we have no problems with French restaurants accommodating gluten issues, but Le Grenier had way too many items where they couldn’t do anything with the sauces, which makes me wonder how much of the food was near completely prepared in advance.

    Overall, the food tasted good (although the potatoes in my dish were a bit too salty), but the service was overtaxed.

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