Insatiable

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Le Diplomate, the charming Parisian bistro near Logan Circle, is beloved for its irresistible breads.

The other day around lunchtime, my husband Peter and I found ourselves near Logan Circle. We decided to revisit a favorite: Le Diplomate, 1601 14th St. NW. As we settled into our comfy table, I sipped a pleasant Malbec and eyed the breadbasket. I normally eschew restaurant bread, preferring to save space for the meal’s main event. But I cannot resist Le Diplomate’s baskets, where I might find a multi-grain boule, raisin, or sourdough bun. No, the irresistible bread is not baked in-house. Instead, it comes from Bread Alley, a 100-square-foot bakery in the Union Market area. You’ll find the miniscule bakery snuggled in an alley between Morse and Fourth Streets NE.

In spite of our early indulgence, we did save room for our midday repast. Peter’s Salade Niçoise, the traditional mélange of tuna (which tasted like top quality canned), haricots verts, red bliss little potatoes, black olives, hard boiled eggs and very good anchovies. Worth the $28 price tag. But my huge baguette Provençale was a better deal: For just $14, I chowed down on a crusty baguette stacked with French salami, cheese, olives, cukes and lots of salad greens, all drizzled with Dijon mustard dressing.

At Union Market, Bidwell’s star attraction is the beautifully arranged pair of lobster tacos, escorted by avocado-tomato salsa.

Among other (mainly traditional menu) options are French onion soup, warm shrimp salad, escargot, burgers, and heartier dishes, including beef bourguignon, trout amandine and moules frites. The wine list goes on and on, mostly French selections with a few other countries thrown in. I settled for a pleasant Malbec (they were out of my preferred Côtes du Rhône).

Le Diplomate is open daily. For hours and more information, visit www.lediplomatedc.com.

Bidwell Expansion

We’ve also returned to Union Market’s Bidwell Restaurant, 1309 Fifth St. NE. Seated outdoors on an unseasonably warm fall afternoon, we explored Chef John Mooney’s eclectic, Southern-accented menu. Listed among “Sharing Bites,” the star attraction was the lobster tacos. The pair of artistically arranged cylinders enveloped the silken crustacean meat, melted pepper jack cheese and spinach, escorted by avocado-tomato slaw. The divine morsel was crowned with a thatch of jicama slaw. Less interesting, but tasty, was the trio of deviled eggs, enhanced with tangy buttermilk dressing.

Among salads, the Cobb was replete with greens, ripe avocado, hardboiled egg slices and chewy bacon bits. The dish could have used more bleu cheese, while losing the incongruous butternut squash cubes.

Entrees einclude grilled king salmon, fried chicken, New York strip steak, short ribs and pasta. Heading the pizza lineup is an intriguing “Clam Jam,” topped with the mollusks, kale, Benton’s bacon, bechamel sauce and mozzarella. We’ll try that next time. Lunch for two with my glass of Sauvignon Blanc came to about $60. Service was satisfactory.

Another Gallic favorite is the traditional salade Niçoise, a montage of tuna, olives, potatoes, green beans and hardboiled egg slices.

Yaocho

And, Chef Mooney and his wife/biz partner Rosie have unveiled a spinoff downtown called Yaocho.  Showcasing Polynesian flavors, the zesty spinoff is located at The Square, 1850 K St. NW. Inspired by their stint in Hawaii, the couple designed the eclectic menu themselves.

Naturally we checked it out. That day’s special was a grilled fish sando, made with sustainable Hawaiian yellowtail, snuggled inside a house-baked taro root bun. The moist, flavorful fish was slathered with togarashi mayo and escorted by Asian-style slaw. Tagged at $14, the hefty sandwich was a bargain.

Besides sustainable seafood, Yaocho specializes in Asian-accented fried chicken. The crispy birds are sold whole, by the piece (light or dark meat), or nestled in sandwiches. A veggie favorite is the BBQ jackfruit with grilled pineapple and Fresno chili on that purplish taro root bun.

Formerly a mundane food court, The Square has morphed into a sparkling, multi-ethnic culinary destination. Among The Square’s other eateries: Casa Teresa, an upscale Catalonian restaurant; Cashion’s Rendezvous (raw bar and other seafood), Shaw’s Taqueria Xochi and Jose Andres’ group offering authentic Central Mexican cooking. A stylish bar dominates the center court. The Square is open daily. For hours and a complete restaurant list, visit www.dcthesquare.com.

For hours and more information on Bidwell, visit www.bidwelldc.com.

Meanwhile….

Coming soon to Shaw: The Urban Grape, 1301 Ninth St. NW. You’ll find it diagonally across from All-Purpose pizzeria. But don’t rush over right away: the classy wine shop is not due to arrive until sometime this winter. Owned by husband-and-wife duo T.J. and Hadley Douglas, the Washington store will be Urban Grape’s first offshoot outside of Boston. Besides offering top-notch wine, sake, beer and spirits, the Shaw location will also function as Urban Grape’s nationwide distribution center. If all goes well, the goal is to rank among the largest Black owned businesses in the United States. Watch for updates. For more information, visit www.theurbangrape.shop.

Union Market’s Bidwell restaurant has spawned a spinoff –Yaocho—downtown at The Square.

Sporting Life

And, just in time for NFL football coverage, Sports & Social has arrived at 1314 U St. NW.  But don’t expect the usual pub grub. While cheering their favorite teams on a 25-foot LED media wall, patrons may nibble on spicy tuna bites, Nashville hot chicken sandwiches, truffle mushroom flatbread and beef barbacoa tacos. All this while sipping cinnamon-smoked Old Fashioneds, District Manhattans, and other potent potables. For hours and more information, visit www.sportsandsocial.com.

Sports & Social’s U Street digs formerly housed The Smith, the American brasserie that folded in 2021 after a three-year-run. 

Formerly a mundane food court, The Square is now a gleaming, multi-ethnic restaurant complex.

Hop to it (later)!

And coming to Penn Quarter: a spinoff of the Dead Rabbit, an Irish pub located in New York’s Financial District. When we lunched there several years ago, we learned that its macabre moniker refers to a 19th century gang of Irish immigrants who allegedly draped themselves with rabbit pelts. Back then, the neighborhood was a notorious slum, depicted in the 2002 flick, “Gangs of New York.”

Popular with Wall Street, Dead Rabbit was named World’s Best Bar by Drinks International magazine. Again, no rush. Our local Dead Rabbit pub is not slated to arrive until sometime next year. Moreover, the site is yet to be determined. For updates, visit www.thedeadrabbit.com