I am fortunate to say I have been to Paris twice. I fell in love instantly. Paris and I have a deep connection. The sounds, the smells, the people, the food, the wine. I could go on. And although Audrey Hepburn did NOT say the line famously attributed to her, “Paris is always a good idea,” I think she would agree. And so do I.
Café Bonaparte is a small place on Wisconsin Avenue in Georgetown. It sits up and away from the crowds of M Street, and if you’re not careful, you will walk right by. It’s tiny! They only have 10 tables or so, and a few seats along the bar. In nice weather, they will set up two or three tables outside along Wisconsin. I have been visiting this café since I moved to D.C. nearly 10 years ago – long before my first visit to Paris. It was what I always imagined Parisian cafés to be – cozy, quaint, intimate, romantic. And now that I have been to Paris, I can say this bistro is exactly that.
When I first started frequenting Café Bonaparte, it was for one reason: mussels. They used to have a great mussel selection with a variety of sauces to choose from. Sadly, the mussels are now just your typical moules variety with white wine. Not that those are bad, but they are your run of the mill mussels you can find anywhere. I prefer a variety of sauces (they used to have a marinara that was to die for!), but sticking with white wine and herbs is very French, so I get it. I also would come for crêpes. Café Bonaparte has a variety of crêpes, both savory and sweet, and they are delicious. I think most people think of crêpes as a dessert course, but in France, they eat them with a variety of savory ingredients as well. I actually prefer the savory variety. They expanded their menu to include more typical French café fare: roast chicken, duck confit, fish of the day, etc.
We started with a cheese plate. I love their cheese selection here. The two goat cheeses they use are excellent and the bleu cheese is one of my favorites – not too pungent. I also love the fresh honeycomb and the use of apples. Apples go so well with cheese, though you hardly see them on cheese plates at all. More apples, please!
We moved on to escargot. Josh prefers having them in the shell but I am happy to not have to do the work. Besides, everyone knows the garlic, butter, herb crack sauce is the real winner of escargot. I often tell people it would be almost impossible to put something in that sauce and have it taste badly. Plus, since Josh can’t eat bread, more for me to mop up the sauce with!
We ordered crêpes for our main courses. The crêpe scene in France is more gluten-friendly than you would think. Traditionally, savory crêpes are made with buckwheat flour which is completely gluten-free. The sweet/dessert-like version are commonly made with wheat flour. Café Bonaparte makes gluten-free crêpes and I personally think they’re better than their regular version!
Crêpes come in an order of two with a small salad. I think Josh was worried this wouldn’t be enough food originally but, these babies are stuffed! I ordered the Mirabeau crêpes which are stuffed with shrimp, cilantro, onion and ricotta cheese, and topped with a saffron cream sauce. Josh had the Santorini crêpes which are stuffed with scallions, feta, ricotta, parmesan and spinach. They have a variety of vegetarian and meat versions.
Looking around the restaurant, crêpes are definitely the star of the show. What makes this place stand out above all other French places in the city is its crêpe menu and the ambience. There are few places in D.C. that have the ambience of a Parisian café. And the crêpes, well those I haven’t found anywhere.