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Posted at 3:07 PM ET, 07/10/2007

Bastille Day Blowouts

By Fritz Hahn

Washington becomes a hotbed of French culture every July as restaurants, bars and cultural groups throw parties to celebrate Bastille Day, which marks the symbolic beginning of the French Revolution. This year, the 14th falls on a Saturday, which is good news for some of us -- no red wine hangovers on a workday -- but also means some traditional destinations, like Les Halles, are switching their events to more convenient days and times.

We've got a long list of ideas for dining and dancing after the jump. You should also note that reservations are necessary for some of the more popular events, including the raucous party at Bistrot du Coin (dinner reservations are the only way to guarantee admission) and the Alliance Francaise's annual gathering.

Pour Manger (Eating)

Out in Middleburg, the French Hound opens up its garden backyard for cocktails -- including a special on kirs -- and games. The restaurant will host petanque, which the French claim as their version of bocce, and crepe tosses with prizes. The Hound will also serve Frenchie specials at lunch and dinner, including escargot, onion soup and profiteroles.

Authentic Cafe Normandie gets into the spirit with lunch and dinner specials, including steak frites, frog legs, roasted chicken with frites and trout almondine. For dessert, a vibrant homemade strawberry cake should give all the more reason to celebrate the French.

Bethesda's Mon Ami Gabi gets into the spirit by augmenting its bistro fare with tempting specials of steak tartare, bouillabaisse, oysters and strawberry sorbet. The decor will also go all-out in tribute with plenty of French pride.

The Willard Hotel's ultra-French Café du Parc offers specials for those who want to dine in or take things outside. At the cafe, celebrations last through lunch and dinner with a prix fixe three-course menu for $49. The meal includes the house pate en croute, a sauteed turbot and cherry clafouti with verbena ice cream. Wine pairings are available for the clever price of $17.89.
If you're looking to escape to the outdoors for a celebration, the restaurant will also offer take-home picnic baskets with baguettes, salad, pate, charcuteries, a terrine of beef and pastries for $59.

Food Matters welcomes Francophiles with a day-long menu paying homage to French cuisine. With French music and decorations transporting you, fill up on orders of croque monsieur sandwiches, pates, French cheese, mussels, coq au vin, French onion soup, fruit tarts and more French wine and cocktails than you can shake a beret at. That night, the restaurant hosts a special dinner featuring wines from the Burgundy region of France. For $125, the six-course dinner of escargots, scallops, pate, squab, beef and cheese will all be paired with Burgundy wines.

With a name like Bastille, expectations are high for the Old Town restaurant's eponymous celebration. The restaurant plans a prix fixe three-course menu from noon to 10 p.m. for $32. Appetizer choices include calamari and shrimp beignets, duck charcuterie and gazpacho. For the main course, mussels with frites, scallops, paella and lamb chops are among the choices. Each entree is available a la carte for $18. Sweets include a chocolate pot de creme with raspberries, thyme shortcake with strawberries and a warm peach tatin. Cheese-lovers can order a cheese sampler platter in addition for $9.

Pour Boire et Danser (Drinking and Dancing)

Friday

Alliance Francaise
A cultural institute sponsored by the French government, the Alliance's traditional Bastille Day party is one of the more expensive in town -- $39, or $32 for members -- but that ticket includes food, champagne and music. The evening starts with traditional French pop songs by the excellent Simone Marchand, but the main attraction is the Groanbox Boys, a pair of American musicians who currently call London home. Their depression-era music mixes Southern blues, dirgy folk and hot jazz with zydeco touches and plenty of moaning and puffing from Michael Ward-Bergeman's "hyper-accordion." Of course, besides the music, there's a selection of crepes, cheese and pate, washed down with wine and champagne. That's really all it takes to attract the crowd of ex-pats, francophones and francophiles, which includes many students from the Alliance's language classes, to the converted Kalorama rowhouse. As usual, no tickets will be sold at the door, and you have to make reservations by the close of business on Wednesday, July 11. Call 202-234-7911 or visit www.francedc.org for tickets.

Les Halles
For 33 years, Les Halles has hosted the city's most unique Bastille Day event: the Bastille Day Waiter and Waitress Race, which sees professional waitstaff race along Pennsylvania Avenue NW while carrying trays of glasses and drinks and trying not to spill a drop. (Participants used to speed-walk down toward the Capitol, but now run a shorter course that stays within a few blocks of the restaurant.) The pros race at 2, but customers can try their hand at 1. All that's required is a $10 donation to the charity Best Buddies. Great views can be had from the restaurant's terraced patio, and servers keep sandwiches and glasses of champagne coming to the crowds on the sidewalk. Later in the evening, a DJ spins French music until close.

Saturday

Bistrot du Coin
Always the biggest and busiest Bastille Day party in Washington, the Bistrot's annual celebration includes women dancing on the bar, lots of red wine, loud music and bottles of champagne. Beginning around 11 p.m., the Dupont restaurant begins clearing tables to create a huge dance floor, the lights dim and DJ Saint James starts spinning French pop, Eurodisco and salsa music. The restaurant never fails to hit capacity early, and if you don't have a dinner reservation (7 or 9:30), expect to find a line wrapped around the block and a "one in, one out" policy that means you could be waiting for quite a while. (The line generally eases around 11, but that's not guaranteed.) Have a few glasses of wine or Belgian beer and you'll be dancing along with everyone else.

L'Enfant
Adams Morgan's upstart French bar and sidewalk cafe held its inaugural "French Maid Relay" last year, which puts a naughty twist on Les Halles' traditional Waiters' Race. The costume-required event returns Saturday night -- it's open to both genders, and starts at 8 -- but it's only part of the day-long Bastille Day celebration. Brunch starts at 10 a.m., and evening attractions include a DJ spinning French music (everything from Serge Gainsbourg to current hits); specials on wine, champagne and beer; free cake; and visits from Marie Antoinette and King Louis XVI. This year, the owners are adding a satellite bar on the patio to cut down on lines and wait times, which we've seen inspire revolutionary grumbling in the past. There's a $5 cover after 5 p.m.

Tabaq
DJ Herve spins at a number of internationally-flavored parties in Washington, including the Alliance Francaise's Soiree Nuit Blanche events. For Bastille Day, he and two other DJs are taking over the glass-covered rooftop at Tabaq and spinning "what's hot from Paris to the Riviera," which should mean lots of electronic music and European pop. Expect a lively and well-dressed crowd -- no athletic wear permitted -- to dance and pose until last call, regardless of weather. Cover is $15, but RSVPs are required for entry, so shoot full name(s) to info@planetchicdc.com in advance.

Velvet Lounge
Local bands Ra-Ra Rasputin and the Ex-Husbands have more in common with Belle and Sebastian than Etienne Daho and both bands sing all their songs in English, but they're still throwing a Bastille Day party at the Velvet Lounge. Ra-Ra Rasputin guitarist Patrick Kigongo -- the band's resident Francophone -- promises he'll be spinning nothing but French music before the bands go on: "everything from Serge Gainsbourg to [hip-hop group] NTM to the new Justice album." There's an $8 cover, and doors open at 9.

-- Erin and Fritz

By Fritz Hahn  | July 10, 2007; 3:07 PM ET
Categories:  Bars and Clubs, Restaurants  
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Comments

Even the french lingerie store downtown (11th and E Street nw) is having a Bastille day celebration with 10% off the entire store. You need to wear either Blue, White or Red to get the 10% OFF! FUN! More info at www.shopcdf.com

Posted by: Anonymous | July 13, 2007 2:43 PM | Report abuse

Make sure that when you visit France, to go to Starbucks, Euro-Disney, etc. Don't make any effort to learn any other language too, because English is the only language there is and everyone should speak it. Don't make any effort to really try anything from another culture, speak another language or open your minds. It's also great for foreign affairs. If you can keep your minds closed.. Who knows? Maybe we can make another Iraq war, again based on our knowledge and experience of other cultures, like Sunnis, Shiites, militias, and factions. More success! Everybody thinks just like we do and if not, should submit to our ways. America the Great.

Posted by: Ro-Bair | July 14, 2007 8:02 AM | Report abuse

Make sure that when you visit France, to go to Starbucks, Euro-Disney, etc. Don't make any effort to learn any other language too, because English is the only language there is and everyone should speak it. Don't make any effort to really try anything from another culture, speak another language or open your minds. It's also great for foreign affairs. If you can keep your minds closed.. Who knows? Maybe we can make another Iraq war, again based on our knowledge and experience of other cultures, like Sunnis, Shiites, militias, and factions. More success! Everybody thinks just like we do and if not, should submit to our ways. America the Great.

Posted by: Ro-Bair | July 14, 2007 8:02 AM | Report abuse

Oh, I forgot. Watch TV. Pay attention to sports, not current events. And don't read books or newspapers. Concentrate on American Idol. Then make an informed vote. Like you did in 2004.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 14, 2007 8:05 AM | Report abuse

HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA

Posted by: Ro-Bair | July 14, 2007 8:06 AM | Report abuse

HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA

Posted by: Ro-Bair | July 14, 2007 8:06 AM | Report abuse

What better way to commemorate Bastille Day than to hate on America the Beautiful?

Hop yourself across the pond if you're so miserable here, and spare the rest of us your unwanted commentary.

Posted by: Pelican | July 14, 2007 12:18 PM | Report abuse

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