ALEXANDRIA, VA – With Spring’s arrival, it’s delightful to walk around Old Town and see so many restaurants offering outdoor seating. I know many agree, this has been something good that’s come out of the hard times we all endured last year. It’s fun to find so many people out and about again and enjoying their meals al fresco.
Yesterday afternoon I ate lunch at Old Town’s oldest French restaurant, Le Refuge, 127 North Washington Street. This popular, local French bistro has been an Old Town fixture for over 38 years, and it is still in the same family.
A few tables are set up on the sidewalk outside the door, so you can dine with friends and “people watch,” pretending you’ve been transferred to the streets of Europe. A handwritten chalkboard on the exterior of the restaurant displays the day’s specials.
Upon entering this cozy dining room I was politely greeted and made to feel right at home. The white tablecloths and settings may look fancy, but there is nothing stuffy about this environment. I was treated very warmly and instantly put at ease.
This quaint establishment’s walls are artfully covered with French posters, art, beautiful plates and wine bottles. Hanging from the gorgeous tray ceiling are bundles of dried flowers and braids of garlic.
There were so many intriguing dishes I wanted to try, that I was having a bit of a time narrowing my selection. I decided to make my efforts a bit easier by choosing from the daily specials. I took my waiter’s advice and placed an order for the warm mushroom caps stuffed with crabmeat with a mustard cream sauce. Amazing! So happy I took his recommendation. And then for my entrée, I chose the sautéed Shrimp Provencal over rice. Served with a cabbage slaw, carrot puree and zucchini. This dish not only looked appealing but tasted equally incredible.
My companion shared the mushrooms and ordered tenderloin steak tips medium rare in a silky and “very buttery” béarnaise sauce, and liked it so much she took a second order home along with their signature escargot.
If you are looking for an enchanting ambience and a real French bistro meal, you can explore the menu and find classics like escargot, beef wellington, veal normandy, frog legs (when available), and bouillabaisse among others, including calf liver with onions. Make your reservations by calling Le Refuge at 703-548-4661.
Le Refuge is located at 127 North Washington Street, and is open Monday through Saturday. Lunch is served 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and dinner is 5:30 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. They are closed Sundays. Casual attire is welcome and street parking is available.