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Bistrot du Coin, Owner Michel Verdon's Giant French Bistro in North Dupont


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[posted on eGullet 2003-2004]

Bistrot du Coin is what it is, and it isn't for everyone.

If you're looking for a quiet place to sit down and get fawned over, then stay away.

If you're looking for a convivial atmosphere where you can sit around and laugh and drink with your friends without feeling hurried or rushed, then go and enjoy yourselves.

And as I said in response - it's easier to drink and laugh with friends when someone will bring you the drink in the first place. laugh.gif

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So is it suitable for HH for the likes of the membership of this estimable board?

Or must it be only a late night destination for those committed to wretched excess?

It's suitable for all kinds of drinking - if you can find room to stand at the bar or to seat your bottom down. This is of course easier late at night. Seriously, the place gets busy after 9-5-ers get off.

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[posted on eGullet 2003-2004]

Ringgg! Ringgg!

"Hello?"

"Rocks, what's up?"

"Nothing, what's going on?"

"We're meeting at Bistrot du Coin tonight."

"What time?"

"We'll be rolling in around 1."

"I'll be in bed by 11."

"Pussy!"

"I can't do it, dude."

"Pussy!"

"I've got to get up in the morning."

"Pussy!"

"All right, I'll stop by for thirty minutes."

"See you there."

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[posted on eGullet 2003-2004]

Bistrot du Coin is what it is, and it isn't for everyone.

If you're looking for a quiet place to sit down and get fawned over, then stay away.

If you're looking for a convivial atmosphere where you can sit around and laugh and drink with your friends without feeling hurried or rushed, then go and enjoy yourselves.

The food is inconsistent: sometimes it's quite good (Argentine ribeye, moules sauce Poulette), often it's pretty bad, and it's almost always heavy and unhealthy.

The first time I went was a couple of years ago: there was no special treatment, no "friends with restaurant VIPs," no nothing. I went to the bar and had a couple glasses of wine and a snack, and eventually began chatting with the person next to me. Ten minutes or so into the conversation, it dawned on me that he was the owner: it was Michel Verdon. He was completely cordial and utterly without pretense (as anyone who has seen him on his microphone at 2 AM will attest to), and he even comped me my second glass of wine, simply because he was being hospitable.

I've been back many times since, both with and without people in the industry. Yes, there is lavish attention bestowed upon the late-night restaurant crowd, but this is their playground, they're regulars, and they come in here and spend real money and leave good tips - why shouldn't they be treated well? I'm sorry, but not all diners are equal in all restaurants. As an anonymous diner, I've been for lunch and dinner numerous times, and have received service ranging from annoyingly indifferent (in which case I simply pipe up and ask for my order - please refer to the possible etymology of the word "bistro"), to friendly and cordial, but never hostile or insulting.

Bistrot du Coin, for me, is a late-night watering hole. There is nothing wrong with this, and Washington DC is a better place for it existing despite it not being all things to all people.

Cheers,

Rocks.

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So is it suitable for HH for the likes of the membership of this estimable board?

Or must it be only a late night destination for those committed to wretched excess?

Sure, I'd like to see Bistrot du Coin put into the after-work happy hour rotation. Seemed like a cool enough enough place the one time I was there.

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A young woman asked me "Where is the vegetarian restaurant around here?" ...

I couldn't think of anything right off ... Teaism? ... "No,no ... it's on Connecticut Ave."

Showed me the address ... I'm not good at such things.

She wandered off, looking for someone more knowledgeable.

Two minutes later I thought "isn't that where Food for Thought used to be?"

"Isn't that where Bistrot du Coin is now?" ... if I had thought of it, I could have

told her "the menu has changed a little ...". I hope she had a good time.

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A young woman asked me "Where is the vegetarian restaurant around here?" ...

I couldn't think of anything right off ... Teaism? ... "No,no ... it's on Connecticut Ave."

Showed me the address ... I'm not good at such things.

She wandered off, looking for someone more knowledgeable.

Two minutes later I thought "isn't that where Food for Thought  used to be?"

"Isn't that where Bistrot du Coin is now?" ... if I had thought of it, I could have

told her "the menu has changed a little ...".  I hope she had a good time.

Food for Thought was there in the Bistrot du Coin spot. Now it's in the Black Cat.

Edited by cjsadler
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What the does this mean?

<<The new owners won't say what their plan is for Pepper's, but there are already white table clothes on the tables in the 100-seat restaurant -- and a little bit of French attitude.

"It's better for us to speak to the neighborhood first," says Barigault. "I'm doing this to get a French touch on 17th Street. But I don't want to rush things." >>

Its a bad 'attitude' to speak with the neighbors before announcing to the public? Can anyone explain the need for French bashing from this so-called journalist?

Edited by DCMark
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I was in there Sunday post-farmers' market and had a great time. Our bartender, Ted, was awesome (as were his drinks and quickness with the drafts). The fries with hollandaise were superlative, as always. I really believe they're the best fries in DC. I had the mussels to eat. They give you a ton, even for just a half order. My companion had the salmon open-faced sandwich which was really tasty, if a little rich. All around it was a great way to spend a beautiful afternoon.

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This place REALLY feels like Paris. I do NOT mean this as a political comment but the slow service, the cramped tables, the deafening surrounding noise-it really does feel like Paris. While there are times when I might complain there are other times-most, in fact-that I really enjoy this just as I accept the imperfections and flaws of Paris and, after lifting another glass, say what the Hell! Two or three glasses later I love the noise and indifference and begin to fit right in....

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I was in there Sunday post-farmers' market and had a great time.  Our bartender, Ted, was awesome (as were his drinks and quickness with the drafts).  The fries with hollandaise were superlative, as always.  I really believe they're the best fries in DC.  I had the mussels to eat.  They give you a ton, even for just a half order.  My companion had the salmon open-faced sandwich which was really tasty, if a little rich.  All around it was a great way to spend a beautiful afternoon.

That's my absolute favorite time to go to BdC. Sure, night has it's own special character(s!) but also many more of the headaches that you don't normally find during the day on Sunday. The Mrs. and I have spent many Sunday hours watching the clock tick by, the wine bottles empty, and the mound of mussel shells grow.

I just wish they didn't open at 1130. I like to be at the Dupont market when it opens, otherwise my chocolate milk will be sold out! And I hate having to find something to do for 2 hours before BdC opens.

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This place REALLY feels like Paris. 

Is the service really that awful in Paris? There was a rather extensive discussion of this subject on one of the other boards, and the general concensus was that the service at Bistrot du Coin is just plain bad, owing nothing to the French. If anything, the wretched service at this place only serves to reinforce the negative stereotypes that have been unfairly laid upon the French.

Edited by Roger Troutman
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Is the service really that awful in Paris? There was a rather extensive discussion of this subject on one of the other boards, and the general concensus was that the service at Bistrot du Coin is just plain bad, owing nothing to the French. If anything, the wretched service at this place only serves to reinforce the negative stereotypes that have been unfairly laid upon the French.

I must be really special for some unknown reason as I have never had truly awful service at BdC. Yes it has been curt and a little slow on occasion, but certainly not awful.

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Ialways had at least passable meals and service there. Perhaps a bit of expectation management helped. BdC is a "what you see is what you get" kind of place. Bistro food, check. Noisy and lively, check. Little ass-kissing, check.

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I must be really special for some unknown reason as I have never had truly awful service at BdC.  Yes it has been curt and a little slow on occasion, but certainly not awful.

Same here. I'm always looking around, trying to see someone being treated terribly, but alas, everyone usually seems to be enjoying themselves. I don't doubt that others have had bad experiences, but I have yet to see it. "Curt and a little slow" is about the extent of my complaints, and even then, I'd rather have a curt, all-business server than a chatty, TGIFriday's type.

I wonder if a lot of people misinterpret curtness as a personal affront?

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Ialways had at least passable meals and service there.  Perhaps a bit of expectation management helped. BdC is a "what you see is what you get" kind of place. Bistro food, check. Noisy and lively, check. Little ass-kissing, check.

ok. I am not the richest of chicks. When I go out to eat I expect at the very least a wait staff that wants to take my order and allow me to spend my hard earned cash. When Roger Troutman and I went to have lunch at the Bistro last weekend, we watched every waiter in the joint walk past our table and never stop to take an order. Now, I have been to this place about 5 times in the past couple of years and I have never been disappointed with the food. But the service has always been shitty. I am not asking for "ass kissing", as is referenced in the above post, but I am asking for service.

I will never ever go back to this place after last weekend.

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Some things in life you appreciate just because they are there. You give your picky eyes a break. You turn off the fastidious part of your brain. You send your sarcasm on vacation. You simply revel in the comfort of their presence.

Over the last two weeks, I have parked my bottom on a BdC barstool at least five times. And sipping my bubbles and tucking into my onglet - so reliable, so chewy, so everything I expect it to be - there is no place I would rather be, no place I feel more comfortable.

Yeah, the food is sometimes pedestrian, yeah, the servers give you shit. It's smoky. It's noisy. But you know what? Something about the mix of all of the above and a chance to be yourself draws me in over and over again. I am grateful such a place exists within an easy stumble from soon-to-be-not-my-house.

Edited by Nadya
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On the Bistro du Coin front, I am firmly in the camp that appreciates a rocking bar scene and happily overlooks a gruff or, ah, indisposed waiter...

However, one thing I couldn't overlook was the coq au vin I was served there last week. It was inedible. The sauce was decent -- unsophisticated, a little too sweet, but fine. The chicken, and I'm not sure how they did it, was comically dry. I would have sent it back, but by the time our waiter reappeared, most of our party had finished eating...

Still, I'll go back. I'll just stick with the mussels.

Alex

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Well, what I can say, it's BdC again because it's Thursday and one's imagination runs dry. I should also note that it's the second time this week.

Good charcuterie plate with adorable wee gherkins. Wonderful moules provencale, plump and flavorful, swimming in steamy fragrant broth so good for sopping up with your baguette. Passable beef bourgignone - one half of this dish in my kitty bag should only be better today after it spent a night in my car seat.

Desserts at BdC have always been marginal, so go with iced wine and load up! Same calories, same sugar content, but so much more fun when the cumulative effect kicks in. Plus, the buzz lasts so much longer than the aftertaste from your tarte pomme normandie. Wheee!

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Had a very nice meal at BdC last night. Wanted to point out that one CAN ask for better wine glasses than the standard ones. Had a bottle of 2002 Domaine Tunnel Cornas. At $48 a good deal (retail=$35). I think this wine has closed up a bit as it was not nearly as good as one I had six months ago. The fact that the wine was served WARM did not help (hello ice bucket), which makes me wonder where its stored there.

The ribeye steak was wonderful.

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Ate here last night and it was slammed! The new menu items looked enticing, but I went with the hangar steak and fries. I know there are arguments over who has the best fries in the city, but I just love the fries at BDC.

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The new menu at BdC kicks arse. I can see how the chef is trying to work within the confines of what existed, but cunningly introduces a bit more refinement and substance. Last week my arse was to be found perched on a BdC chair not one, not two, but four times. The last time I had veal cheeks that could have been easily served at Corduroy or any of the finer dining establishments around here. Luscious, silky and decadently gelatious, I loved the mushroom-specked saucing so much I even ate some of the mashed potatoes on top of which it was resting - despite the everlasting repulsion toward mashed spuds. Four times in one week, four times the word "arse was used in this snippet.

Oh, it is actually three. Never mind. Veal cheeks are found at the opposite end from arse. Now it is four.

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i'm not sure where to post this, but i'll try here. i'm wondering if anyone out there knows how chaotic it gets at BdC for the Beaujolais Nouveau Party this Wednesday night. or is there someplace better to go for this event? thanks.

Well, after the fact...it was CRAZY. if you werent on the list, basically, you didnt get it. But as for other parties like it, there are none other in town. I mean, come on, the mayor showed up.

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How is BdC for little kids? We need a lunch spot for Saturday before a trip to the Phillips Collection.

If you want special reatment for "the little darlings," :) you are doomed to disappointment. Legend -- and I believe the Washington Post -- have it that the owner one night told a woman to get her crying baby the hell out of the place before he threw them both out.

On the other hand, if you just want a place where you get the same oft-indifferent service as anyone else, you are in luck. BdC seems to follow what I have found to be the French habit of thinking that kids are actually a normal part of life, posessing essentially the same right as anyone else to eat frites at the bistro. Matter of fact, I recently had Sunday brunch with an 8-month-old there. Unfortunately, the kid slept through most of it, so it wasn't really a true test of the restaurant's tolerance.

Saturday brunch is relatively calm, but with enough energy and noise to cover mid-level fussiness. I'd bring 'em. Hell, if they can handle an art gallery....

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King Wabeck looking very handsome, contemplative, almost Shakespearean in his composure, as his eyes follow you around the room from his gigantic countenance. But after re-focusing one's eyes, it actually appears that he is simply gazing lustily across the street toward The Royal Palace and the princesses there ensconsed. Royalty indeed.

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I'm done hatin' on BdC. Our service last night was lovely, onglet with frites competently executed, and the venison pate special worth ordering again. And I just can't hate a place that makes a decent bearnaise.

(the Shrine to Wabeck is gone, so we were unable to make the proper oblations)

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If you want special reatment for "the little darlings," :P you are doomed to disappointment. Legend -- and I believe the Washington Post -- have it that the owner one night told a woman to get her crying baby the hell out of the place before he threw them both out.
How things change. Apparently the best way to get great service these days is to bring a very enthusiastic four-year-old for some steak frites. The floor manager today, whose name escapes me, could not have been sweeter to Ian. She led him off to the menu cupboard and gave him a huge set of crayons & markers, plus a few old menus to draw on. Between that, and the foosball upstairs, he has declared BdC new favorite restaurant. They really went out of their way to be nice to him. Kudos.
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I went to Bistrot du Coin last night for the first time since its recent menu change. I went with the pan-seared salmon, leeks, and polenta in a champagne sauce. I found the sauce a bit bland, but the salmon was nicely seared and I loved the leeks and polenta. It was certainly the lightest meal I ever had at BdC (for the saucephobic, it was mostly on the plate), and a nice change of pace. More importantly, I love the atmosphere there. I know a lot of people complain about the service, the noise, the crowds, but I've always had decent to good service, and I like a noisy boisterous place from time to time (and last night was Sunday, so it wasn't packed). I went once last July with my brother and his girlfriend visiting from Columbus, not realizing that France had beaten Brazil in a World Cup match that day. Half the people there were wearing team jerseys, and at one point some strobe lights above the bar went on and everyone sang La Marseillaise, then some soccer songs. (Do they do the strobe lights and/or Marseillaise regularly?) A rowdy group of French fans had put a sign on the quietly gruff but good-natured waitress that read "Gerard Depardieu 1, Girl From Ipanema 0." It was an unexpectedly, ridiculously fun night. Oh yeah, and my steak was good too.

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Visited the bar last week for a great bottle of inexpensive French wine and some rabbit stew (meaty and rich and enough for two)-a must when my wife visits DC. Service at the bar was great, although it seemed the crowd at the bar was smaller (no smoking?, really miss the smoking). Esp. satisfying in light of the DREADFUL meal we had at a new French eatery in Adams Morgan.

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The rabbit stew is also my favorite, yet when I was there a few weeks ago, it seems that the recipe had changed. There was an abundance of mustard added to the dish that wasn't there in previous incarnations (I've had this dish a dozen times, maybe more.). It's also my wife's favorite dish, which she had as well, and she also noticed the change. I suppose it would have been fine if it wasn't such a strong mustard, but it really overpowered the entire dish, making a delightfully creamy stew into a mustardy mess. I couldn't have been more disappointed. I'm hoping it was just an off night or mistake, and not the results of a change in recipe.

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I can certainly see how mustard in rabbit stew may not be the best thing, but if you have an opportunity (depending on what you order of course), you should ask for mustard. Their mustard is wonderfully creamy and tangy, perfect for my frites (and yes, I always order the mayonnaise for my frites as well). I find I'm having less and less use for ketchup.

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After sitting through a gut-wrenching, tear-jerking film about Irish freedom fighters, I needed to be somewhere lively! Fortunately, the 45 minute wait last night quickly shortened to less than 15. I started with the salade verte - I love me some butter/Bibb lettuce and a nice mustardy vinaigrette. We shared an order of caillette de la Drome Maison, a country style pate studded with flecks of spinach, chard, and herbs - simple but good. Followed by two big ol' pots of moules - one a la Mariniéres, the other, in what turned out to be the preferred preparation, provençales a la facon Hiba. (how could you not enjoy something that comes from the section of the menu titled "Moules FESTIVAL"!?) Mussels weren't quite as plump as our last visit, but still very good. The thyme in the provencale preparation lent the zing that was lacking in the other preparation. And those 'frites' - mmm! All this enjoyed under the benevolent (and blue eye-shadowed :blink: ) gaze of John Wabeck (and the image of feline food fairy Ben Casey watching from beside us).

I love this place - it's a lot of fun, the service (always friendly in my experience) may be slow or sporadic, but that's just fine with me. When I go to BDC, I just want to hang out, drink some wine, and watch the people and activity without feeling rushed. I think they do a great job and succeed at being exactly what they intend to be - a neighborhood place with (usually) good food. It may not be for everyone (or every mood), but it works for me.

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