The delights run from morning to night at The Wharf’s new Bistro du Jour, a relaxed sophisticated French outpost that slides into a prime waterfront area.
With the permission of gay-owned KNEAD Hospitality + Design, this new restaurant boasts a menu born from a bistro on the Seine and serves coffee in the morning to Champagne in the evening. Its culinary oeuvre throughout the day begins with coffee (from La Colombe) and omelettes and ends with things like a towering and meaty cheeseburger L’Americain.
Bistro du Jour takes over the sweet spot left by Dolcezza and is a sister to Mi Vida and The Grill, the KNEAD group’s two other locations on the waterfront in the southwest. The group also runs several other formal and large restaurants they have populated throughout the city.
Why bring French to the dock?
“We’ve been here for almost four years and we knew what the area was missing and acted on it,” says one of the co-owners, Jason Berry. “We wanted something where people could come in at any time of the day and find anything they wanted, from coffee and pastries to sitting full at night.”
The bistro opens at 7:30 and serves local La Colombe coffee, plus flaky, buttery cakes from KNEAD’s partner Mah-Ze-Dahr Bakery. Breakfast service starts at 8.00 with brioched donuts, quiches, a “massive” Belgian waffle and French toast topped with a blueberry compote and sweetened whipped cream.
Executive Chef Treveen Dove – transferred after three years at another KNEAD venue, Succotash Prime) – oversees the offerings, a tour of the “biggest hits” from a typical Parisian bistro.
“Oeufs Sur Le Plat is to die for, with the fried sandwich topped with an egg with the sun side up, sautéed mushrooms and a Mornay sauce … It’s so rich and delicious.”
At 11am, the Bistro switches to other traditional French dishes, such as French onion soup, tuna Niçoise salad, steak fries, mussels in white wine and garlic butter and a croque madame sandwich dripping with gruyere and creamy Bechamel. A unique offering is whipped brown butter with radishes and crostinier. There are also gougeres, hot cheese puffs shot through with gruyere.
Come at 16.00 fills the dinner menu even more with extra dinner items confit de canard (duck legs with green lentils and red wine shallots); and a robust, earthy coq au vin (braised chicken with bacon, mushrooms and mashed potatoes); and a lamb shepherd pie with mashed potatoes that would be at home on a French alpine farm.
Due to limited space, the Bistro lacks a seating bar. Still, beverage director Darlin Kulla, who has been part of the KNEAD family for more than four years, has put together a focused menu of six craft cocktails. You will find not only a French 75 (gin, lemon verbena, lemon, bubbles), but also a Manhattan and a “Champs Elysees” with cognac, chartreuse, lemon and bitter.
The bar itself has only one brand of each spirit: one gin, rum and vodka. “If you want vodka, you get Gray Goose,” Reg remarks with a smile.
Considering the cuisine, there is a substantial French wine list that tops 60 bottles and leans heavily on Champagne and sparkling wine. There are also almost 20 red, white, roses and champagne options on glass and carafe. The bar rounds out its stock with French aperitifs and bottled beer.
It is noteworthy that the majority of the restaurant’s seating is located on the outside of the building, in a newly built year-round terrace enclosure with almost 70 seats. The owners designed the space to maximize the waterfront view, capacity and flexibility. On warmer days, the Potomac breeze is welcome to flutter around coffee extinguishers; in the colder months, the windows roll down to a completely enclosed and conditioned room. The terrace banquets arrived directly from France, and flashing excited lights sway from the ceiling.
The interior is made in Mediterranean green, pink and creams. Large windows welcome in daylight, but allow for a dim, mood-lit atmosphere in the evening. Traditional bistro chairs in bent wood are scattered throughout the room, and antique-style tin tiles reflect a classic Parisian flair. Up by the bar, the glassware display was created by a single panel of antique brass. At the back, a counter during the day offers coffee, cakes and drinks.
As the owners of Bistro du Jour are both gay men, they note that “Our restaurants are meant to be welcoming to all guests with all backgrounds, beliefs and demographics. We cater to everyone, which is the only way to lead a hospitality organization . “
“When you’re part of a minority group in society,” they say, “the only way to run your restaurants is as inclusive, welcoming, and hospitable managers.”
Though smaller than their other ventures, a French bistro right on the bustling, pedestrian-heavy Wharf was “the perfect fit,” they say.