Sometimes you need a little help from your friends. In this case, that help came from another DC couple who shared their favorite Capitol Hill restaurant, Montmartre, with us during a wonderful brunch amid the hustle and bustle of Eastern Market. But in addition to opening our eyes to this quaint, yet exceedingly popular French bistro, they've also been generous enough to share their insights on this meal, and many others they’ve had, through a guest post. Enjoy!
- B and J
Based upon three dinners and two brunches, Montmartre is our favorite restaurant in DC. The restaurant has great food and a comfortable atmosphere.
Montmartre does not accept reservations for brunch, so we thought ahead and arrived around 11:15 am. We declined an indoor table in favor of a spot on the outdoor patio. We only waited 5 minutes for our spot under an umbrella, but by the end of our meal, people were being told that the wait was 45 minutes.
The service at Montmartre is sloooooooowwww, but the speed of service seems to be intentional (French-style) rather than unintentional (lazy-style). If you expect fast service, you will be disappointed. We expect (and have received) slow service, but this makes the meal a leisurely affair. I took my parents to Montmartre for dinner and even my father, who is impatient and critical of servers, relaxed and enjoyed himself after a forewarning. Embrace it.
Who wouldn’t want to sit outside on a beautiful (and mild) July morning? Snagging one of these tables makes you the object of envy. For meals on colder days, the dining room has an intimate feel; it is small but feels much larger thanks to the floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the patio and the street. However, the wood walls can make the dining room a bit loud.
We started with the pate plum, which is a block of pate with a plum center and a sprinkling of sea salt. Delicious.
I love mussels, and I especially love catching the aroma when the top is lifted off a bowl of mussels. We ordered the marinieres preparation with white wine and parsley. Montmartre no longer serves our favorite preparation, pastis, which included lots of garlic and fennel (apparently pastis is a French anise-flavored liqueur). On our last visit, we were told by our server that we could order pastis even if it wasn’t on the menu. We attempted to do so on this visit, but our server stopped us dead in our tracks. When your server says it will be the “end of the world” if we ordered pastis, you know she’s serious (apparently there had been a restaurant meeting where the servers were told that pastis could no longer be served). Very strange. Anyway, the mussels marinieres were very good and had a pleasant broth for dipping bread.
I had the spinach, tomato, and cheese omelet served with a green salad. Nothing fancy, but well done.
My better half had the Eggs Benedict with pancetta and wilted greens. The eggs were cooked perfectly and the pancetta created a very pretty presentation.
Overall, we always recommend Montmartre (try the hangar steak or the rabbit for dinner). Yes, the service will be slow, but the food is always great. Dining is supposed to be relaxing, right?
Second Thoughts from B and J
When you have great company, great weather, and great food, who cares if the service is a bit... well... French? We're very grateful to our friends for introducing us to Montmartre. B had the waffle with berries and whipped cream, which was a mountain of goodness that looked like something out of a Dr. Seuss story. While this dish is probably more at home on a dessert menu, there were no complaints.
I had the panini which was a great way to soak up the remnants of a Saturday night of excessive celebration.
I think I understand why people get so up in arms about Montmartre's service. The restaurant is located, after all, in the shadow of the Capitol. The Hill is known for its frenetic pace and "me me me" atmosphere. I like Montmartre because it extends its French middle finger to all of those too stuffy types and causes everyone to just relax a little bit.