Even Without the World Cup, the Party Goes On
French expats and Francophiles mourning Les Bleus' penalty-kick loss in the World Cup final will have a reason to cheer by the end of the week: Bastille Day, France's independence day, invariably brings parties that go on well into the night with dancing and flowing wine.
If you're hoping to go to any of these events, get on the phone now to make reservations. At Bistrot du Coin's raucous annual affair, those who aren't dining that evening or arrived by, say, 9 p.m. have to wait outside and are admitted on a "one in, one out" basis. (If you eat earlier in the evening, you can often manage to hang out at the bar until tables are moved and the party starts.) The Alliance Francaise's party is often more sedate, but no tickets are sold at the door, so you have until Wednesday to reserve a spot.
Strangely, the Alliance Francaise doesn't usually celebrate French events on the proper day. The French cultural organization traditionally celebrates the uncorking of Beaujolais Nouveau wine the weekend after the official release date (the third Thursday in November) and often holds its Bastille Day party a few days before or after July 14. This year, the independence day event is on July 15, and features traditional French songs by Simone Marchand and Mediterranean tunes from Kamel and HacÃ¨ne. Crepes, rillettes, French cheese and champagne will be served, and are included in the ticket price. ($39, $33 for members or $30 for students enrolled in the Alliance's classes.) Here's the catch: No tickets will be available at the door, and no reservations will be accepted after July 13. Call 202-234-7911 or visit www.francedc.org for tickets.
Bistrot du Coin
The liveliest Bastille Day party in town is invariably at Bistrot du Coin. Every year, the place is slammed with crowds drinking wine and Belgian beers, grooving to DJ St. James' pumping French dance and Eurodisco music, singing French soccer songs and shouting to friends over the tremendous din. Women always wind up dancing on the bar before the night is over. There's no cover, and lines begin to form early and can stretch down the block by midnight as the restaurant hits capacity and adopts a "one in, one out policy." If you don't want to be stuck outside, the easiest way to guarantee admission is to book a table for dinner. There are seatings at 7 and 9:30, and while the latter fills weeks in advance, standby seats may be possible. Dinner service should finish after 11, and tables are cleared to create a dance floor. Lights dim and the party begins.
The owners of Dupont's new La Pigalle learned their trade at Bistrot du Coin -- David Barigault was the executive chef and George Gozem served as general manager -- so it's easy to understand why their first Bastille Day party is taking its cues from their former employer's. Costumed characters will be wandering around (look out for Marie Antoinette) and a special menu is in place. Once dinner service is completed -- probably around 11 -- there will be dancing and entertainment. There's no cover, and reservations are available.
Most of the focus at Les Halles on July 14 is on the annual Bastille Day Waiter and Waitress Race, which, beginning at 2 p.m. sees professional waitstaff race around a closed section of Pennsylvania Avenue NW while carrying trays of champagne and trying not to spill a drop. (Customers can try their hand at 1 p.m. for a $10 suggested donation to the charity Best Buddies.) There's always a festive attitude on the terrace, and the party will continue inside with a DJ, who will begin spinning French music around 6 p.m. The atmosphere gets younger and livelier as the evening goes on.
Adams Morgan's Parisian-style sidewalk cafe has been trying to compete with the big boys for a few years, and it's finally come up with a scheme of its own: the "L'Enfant French Maid Relay," which involves teams risquely dressed as French maids racing to fill cups of water. (We'll probably have to see this one to believe it.) I stopped by L'Enfant's party last year and enjoyed what I found: DJs spinning classic French '60s pop and more current European music, seats on the patio, satellite bars to make it easier to get a glass of Kronenburg -- the Alsatian beer is $5 all night -- and a limited menu of sandwiches and appetizers. Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI will be in the house, of course, and guests can pose for a photo next to the bar's homemade guillotine. (No, it's not functional.) Doors open at 5 and the maids start racing at 8.
DJs Herve (Washington, D.C.) and Romain (Cannes, France) team up with the Alliance Francaise and Meetup for a Bastille Day party on the rooftop of Tabaq, a U Street bistro with an above-average view of downtown Washington. Expect a heavy dose of French and European pop and electronic dance music, and there's a retractable cover in case weather is bad. Admission is $10 when you RSVP; send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org for an Evite link and more details. If you don't join the guest list, you may not be able to get in.
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