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Fearless Critic restaurant review
Upmarket restaurant

Mon–Fri 7:30am–10:30am
Mon–Fri noon–2:00pm
Mon–Fri 6:00pm–10:00pm
Sat–Sun 7:00am–11:00am
Sat–Sun noon–2:30pm
Sat–Sun 6:00pm–10:30pm

Features Date-friendly, good wines, outdoor dining, Wi-Fi
Bar Beer, wine, liquor
Credit cards Visa, MC, AmEx
Reservations Accepted


1401 Pennsylvania Ave. NW
Washington, DC
(202) 942-7000
Café du Parc
Expertly prepared classic French dishes in an enchanting setting

If you stroll for long enough along Pennsylvania Avenue, you will eventually find yourself at the imposing Willard InterContinental Hotel overlooking Pershing Park. And at the foot of this imposing hotel you’ll see the über-French Café du Parc, where you’ll long to enjoy a meal at the alfresco tables shaded by bright blue umbrellas. But you might resist sitting at one of these tempting tables for fear that the food will be mediocre and overpriced and the service worse still. But resist your prejudicial intuitions and give it a shot. Go ahead; take a seat and order. You will be more than just pleasantly surprised.

As clichéd as it sounds, this bistro feels like Paris. The kitchen even turns out dainty pastries in between meals. The French waitstaff can be a bit pedantic but also helpful and knowledgeable. Small, round tables fill the patio.

Perhaps in part due to the influence of an Alsatian chef that was brought in to reinvent the Willard’s whole culinary concept, this food is authentically French, too. Bright greens in the “salade du parc” are topped with bacon, comté cheese, buttery croutons, and a delicate poached egg. This larger, more modern version of frisée et lardons is a satisfying lunch meal that works beautifully as a dinner appetizer. A heaping bowl of succulent steamed mussels lounging in a shallot, parsley, garlic, white wine bath come with a basket of frites that beg to be dipped in this glorious pool.

But perhaps the best dish we had here (and one of the best dishes in DC, period) is the 24-hour sous-vide pork, which has a decadent layer of fat and an audibly crisp salt-crusted exterior. Sitting in a shallow pool of thyme and garlic jus, it is a gorgeous specimen, the ideal combination of meltingly tender meat and salty crackly skin. This is black-tie comfort food, served with your choice of impeccable side dish (potato purée, noodles in butter, green lentils, or cauliflower gratin). For dessert, we encourage you to indulge in the oversized French macaroon, which is filled with whipped cream and berries and served with a rich berry sorbet—a phenomenal, über-French end to an über-French meal.

When it comes to wine, take advantage of the knowledgeable sommelier, who focuses on lesser-known boutique wineries of France. Preconceived notions be damned.

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