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Posted at 7:59 PM ET, 11/17/2008

Au Revoir, Les Halles

By Julia Beizer

After a 15-year run, the Washington branch of Brasserie Les Halles is calling it quits. Tonight's dinner service is the restaurant's final one.

Brasserie Les Halles bids Washington adieu. (Lois Raimondo/The Washington Post)

"It's joyous and sad," said Philippe Lajaunie, owner of Les Halles, a restaurant group that's perhaps best known for the exploits of its chef-at-large, Anthony Bourdain. "Joyous because we had a great time [at this location]. Sad because you always want to do more."

Lajaunie's tale is familiar to restaurant watchers in the area. The restaurant couldn't come to terms with the building's management company over a new lease. "I had a very old lease that was negotiated way before Penn Quarter was where it was now," said Lajaunie. He says that he would have had to double prices to afford the new lease, so he decided to close up shop.

The restaurant was plagued by service complaints in recent years, but remained a favorite of the nearby working crowd for lunch -- particularly on the restaurant's patio on Pennsylvania Avenue. The patio was what initially attracted Lajaunie to the location in the first place. "It reminded me of the grand cafes in Paris along the the Champs-Élysées," he said.

What do you think? Are you sad to see Les Halles go -- or ready for a new restaurant? Let us know what you think in the comments below.

-- Julia

By Julia Beizer  | November 17, 2008; 7:59 PM ET
Categories:  Restaurants  
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Posted by: Mustachio | November 17, 2008 8:52 PM | Report abuse

So here we are again: lost, and without a decent place downtown for steak tartare and a cheap bottle of vino on a weeknight.

Posted by: dcflack | November 17, 2008 8:56 PM | Report abuse

I am very confused. I just called the Les Halles DC and the person who answered had no idea the restaurant was closing and also said they were making plans for inauguration events and that they were still having the Beaujoulais Nouveau party this coming Thursday.

Posted by: maryr1 | November 17, 2008 9:11 PM | Report abuse

I will always remember the France vs. Italy soccer championship final that I watched there a couple of years ago. I secretly rooted for Italy, while 99 per cent of the people there... well... Les Halles being a French restaurant, and all... I am not buying the part that they're shutting down because they didn't want to raise prices. How altruistic of them... If they so wanted to stay in business, I am sure they could have found a different location... Something else is cooking there :)

Posted by: GrrBehr | November 17, 2008 9:48 PM | Report abuse

I have always enjoyed Les Halles for a nice summer evening dining with friends on Washington's grand boulevard. Reasonably priced, great location, very chic. Never had a problem with service -- it was always efficient.

Au revoir, Les Halles.

Posted by: rpike | November 17, 2008 9:58 PM | Report abuse

Originally I loved the place, but the last time I was there for dinner the service was so horrible I wouldn't consider going there again. In fact, the service was so bad I can't even recall what the food was like that time.

Posted by: helat | November 17, 2008 10:16 PM | Report abuse

So is the restaurant closed or will it close in the future? (e.g. at end of lease?) Please clarify for us. Thanks.

Posted by: DCDeb1 | November 18, 2008 12:14 AM | Report abuse

The first time I went to Les Halles was memorable. Delicious food and decent service. Every time after that, sadly, was subpar. I'm sad to say that the last time I went was the worst. Not only was the service negligent but the food was anything but good. It was time that they pulled the plug.

Posted by: jedemoxie | November 18, 2008 12:15 AM | Report abuse

A number of us bade farewell at dinner to Les Halles and to Philippe; needless to say we were all terribly sad to hear the news that Les Halles was closing.

What a wonderful spot to see the world pass by. Philippe's comparison to the Champs Elysee in Paris was perfect: Les Halles was just what the planners envisioned when drawing up The Plan for The Avenue in the early 1970's.

Someone suggested that if Philippe wanted to stay in DC, he could find another place and move - they did not believe higher rents could force a restaurant to close. Les Halles is not the first to close at the end of a lease term; this happened to Red Sage not long ago.

Moving requires finding new space at affordable rents. And, unless it was previously a restaurant (as the current Les Halles space was), it requires a hefty investment in build out costs. So many of us in Penn Quarter would be delighted if Les Halles found an affordable spot nearby. Anyone have any locations to suggest to Philippe?

Posted by: PennQuarter | November 18, 2008 3:53 AM | Report abuse

DCDeb1, Les Halles is officially closed. It closed last night (Nov. 17) after dinner service. I'm not sure what happened to maryr1. When I spoke to Philippe last night at around 7:30 p.m., he had just told the staff. Could be that not everyone was in the loop yet. The Beaujolais party -- originally scheduled for Wednesday -- has been canceled.

Posted by: Julia Beizer | November 18, 2008 9:07 AM | Report abuse

A great location, wonderful food with unfortunate service. I would have gladly paid more for a meal if the service was better, but at the same time I hate to see this location lose an institution. Its a shame the landlords could not see a way to work with the restaurant, and I wonder what will take its place.

Posted by: Sixy20 | November 18, 2008 9:37 AM | Report abuse

Posting this here because I'm not sure if my "Help" submission went through on this site. I got an email from at 10 am with the subject: Introducing The Going Out Guide: Win an iPod Touch. There was no content beyond the salutation, and also no content on the page it linked to. Please resend!

Posted by: AmaliaAusten | November 18, 2008 10:58 AM | Report abuse

That is so disappointing to here. Les Halles was a great place to grab a good meal at a good price. The service wasn't as bad as some folks have said on previous posts. I wonder if Les Halles couldn't find some good options up in the booming NoVa region.

Posted by: ChiliHead | November 18, 2008 11:49 AM | Report abuse

Good, maybe tourists will start going to locally owned restaurants instead of Les Halles because of the (dubious) Bourdain connection.

Posted by: reiflame1 | November 18, 2008 1:30 PM | Report abuse

Devastated, if it really is true. My eldest daughter at college just sent me this link. It was our family's favorite restaurant for any occasions - big or small and always on Christmas Eve. Will never forget one memorable Christmas Eve stepping out of the restaurant to snow and the gorgeous view up Pennsylvania Avenue to the Capitol.

The youngest of my 3 daughters graduates next summer and graduation day at Constitution Hall was always followed by a celebratory dinner at Les Halles.

It was never stuffy. The atmosphere always buzzed and they made the best steak frites and moules frites anywhere. There isn't another place like it and we are devastated. I hope it's not true.

Posted by: cherylcoogan | November 18, 2008 7:58 PM | Report abuse

BizOpp, that's what I say. Apparently I am a closet restuaranteur (and maybe I can't spell, and actually I am not jillunit, but haigek, the really loving husband).

Posted by: jillunit | November 18, 2008 10:58 PM | Report abuse

You know what Le Halles really neeed was outdoor seating a la Paris: facing out to the street. But of course that wouldn't work with no-one else doing the same. Sigh. (--haigek, not jillunit)

Posted by: jillunit | November 18, 2008 11:00 PM | Report abuse

Uh? Pardon? I JUST MADE RESERVATIONS TWO WEEKS AGO FOR NEXT WEDNESDAY, NOV 26TH! Are you telling me they are closed but still making reservations?

What on kind of business is this?

Posted by: wakeup31 | November 18, 2008 11:09 PM | Report abuse

Well two weeks ago they probably still had hope of reaching a deal with the landlords. So they didn't know they were closing yet when taking your reservation.

Use some common sense.

Posted by: kallieh | November 19, 2008 11:26 AM | Report abuse

Who cares? Seriously, there are better steaks to be had for the price without the horrible service and general bad attitude of the place. I went there twice a couple of years ago and have never been back due to bad service and so-so food.

Posted by: Wiggs1 | November 19, 2008 11:33 AM | Report abuse

Uh? Pardon? I JUST MADE RESERVATIONS TWO WEEKS AGO FOR NEXT WEDNESDAY, NOV 26TH! Are you telling me they are closed but still making reservations?

What on kind of business is this?
You should boycott. That'll show 'em.


Posted by: hubcap | November 19, 2008 12:28 PM | Report abuse

I am very said to see Les Halles go. In the warm weather, it was the best sidewalk cafe in town, and it had a European feel to it, as does the inside. I don't know anyplace else that does the mussells Billi Bis (cream, saffron, vermouth sauce), which is delectable. And it's a good value, and the location is the best. There are now other bistros to patronize, but I'll be sorry to miss it!

Posted by: c-clef | November 19, 2008 12:47 PM | Report abuse

This is so sad. Les Halles was always a fall-back place for my friends and I. It was consistent, reasonably priced, and not overwrowded. I sang the praises of their hot chocolate and was so looking forward to it this winter.

Posted by: NYDCchick | November 19, 2008 4:58 PM | Report abuse

My daughter just emailed these comments from college after I told her Les Halles had closed, "I am almost crying. That place was so magical and twinkly. Such a classic. What are we going to do?"

Nothing else locally reminds us of Paris as much as les Halles did. The food, it's lovely location but lack of pretension. And as for the service ... we recently booked a table at 7pm and didn't leave until 11 - we burned their candle right down. Although the restaurant was busy it wasn't full, so we weren't hogging one of their tables, and there was only jolly sparring with the terrific waiters who seemed to enjoy us as much as we enjoyed the evening and the restaurant.

Posted by: cherylcoogan | November 19, 2008 5:24 PM | Report abuse

I loved their food! It was always nice to have a cold 1664, just like in France. The service SUCKED! The Cotes d'agneau grillees were awesome. If Gordon Ramsay did one of his makeover shows on this place, he would have kept the menu and sent the wait staff packing! I had an out of town visitor that we took there who kept talking about how rude our waiter was, even by French standards.

Posted by: Childeric | November 19, 2008 8:50 PM | Report abuse

I have not visited this place in some time due to the extremely poor service. Twice I went on a weekend at an odd time. I was seated promptly but no waiter ever came. I finally got tired of waiting and left - I'm not sure they even noticed.

I was a 60-something woman by myself - I don't know if they just assumed I would be a lousy tipper. I'm not.

I liked their avacado and shrimp salad.

Posted by: swissmiss150 | November 20, 2008 10:53 AM | Report abuse

So sorry to hear that the restaurant is closing. I loved the place. It's too bad that owners can't negotiate reasonable rents to keep great places like this restaurant operating. I guess they would rather write off their losses.

Posted by: bucrat | November 20, 2008 12:52 PM | Report abuse

That sucks! Great little spot especially in the colder weather. What a loss for DC. Au revoir!

Posted by: MrH9131 | November 20, 2008 5:05 PM | Report abuse

It is truly sad to see them close.

Posted by: mrshep | November 23, 2008 5:49 PM | Report abuse

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