Foodie Newz

Le Jardin Beer Garden Opens At Gustave Boulangerie on Mt. Vernon Ave. in Alexandria

Francophiles rejoice! Un coin de France is in Del Ray!

Lhadi hands a customer a box of caneles (Photo: Liz Bastos)

ALEXANDRIA, VA-Owned by the husband and wife team Karim Mashmour and Ibtissam Lhadi, Gustave Le Jardin at 2213 Mt. Vernon Ave. serves craveable croissants, quiche, croque madames, and Illy coffee. And now, beer and wine too, in the adjoining Le Jardin beer garden that has a bocce court, picnic tables, a sandbox for kids, and a dog park.

This cappuccino is a whole vibe. (Photo: Liz Bastos)

Gustave Le Jardin had its Del Ray Business Association ribbon-cutting celebration on March 9, a day when the lyric to the Cole Porter song “I Love Paris” “in the spring time when it drizzles,” was apropos. It poured.

Yet it was a bon jour. Mayor Justin Wilson sampled pastries, Vice Mayor Amy Jackson braved the rain in a bright pink jacket. Councilwoman Alyia Gaskins greeted friends. A la mode was Councilman’s Kirk McPike’s chapeau. Gayle Rueter, long-time board member of the Del Ray Business Association said, “We’re thrilled about this place opening up! The rain is like good luck on a wedding day.”

Mayor Justin Wilson samples the menu. (Photo: Liz Bastos)

At the center of it all was Gustave’s glass dome pastry case filled with the beautiful and famous carbs of France.

Stealing the scene was the couple’s eight-month-old son, Aiden.

Mashmour, Lhadi, and Aiden (Photo: Liz Bastos)

The inspiration for Gustave was Mashmour’s childhood in Belfort, a small city in northeastern France on the German border, known for its boulangeries, beer gardens, and quality of life.

Les baguettes s’il vous plait (Photo: Liz Bastos)

Mashmour remembers that “by six or seven years old,” kids were sent to the local boulangerie to get their family’s pain quotidien. He recalled that on the way home, “I would tear off le quignon [the heel of the baguette] and eat it, even though it made my dad mad.” At the end of this recollection, he made the chef’s kiss gesture. Worth it. The bread was “fragrant, and still warm from the oven.”

From the humble quignon, a career was born. After years as a French bread-master, in 2017, Mashmour came to D.C. to oversee the opening of the famed Boulangerie Christophe. He later became general manager of Tatte at Capitol Crossing.

Of the couple’s first business venture, Mashmour said, “We chose Del Ray because it’s a family neighborhood and we wanted Gustave to be a family gathering place with a distinctly French way of being.”

People look inside from Mt. Vernon Ave. (Photo: Liz Bastos)

They’ve done it.

Barista Joselyn Rosier sporting the marinière (Photo: Liz Bastos)

Open the door. Immédiatement, it’s the continent. French pop and Edith Piaf play. The barista sings out, “Bonjour!” The staff are in the navy stripe top, la marinière, embroidered with a red heart. “Customers love these shirts so much,” Lhadi said. “I’ve been asked to start selling them!”

Does little Aiden have his own marinière? “Of course!” Lhadi said.

French teacher Elodie Guillon will be hosting French conversation groups here monthly, starting March 23. When asked, “Why Gustave?” she responded definitively, “Because it’s French. And the owners are lovely.”

Vive la companie! The ribbon-cutting ceremony. (Photo: Liz Bastos)

It’s true.

The bibbon-cutting from a closer angle featuring members of City Council. (Photo: Liz Bastos)

Whether making cortados or behind the bar at Le Jardin raconteur-ing about which French beer will go well with lazily playing bocce, Mashmour radiates bonhomie, fraternité. “Mes amours!” he says joyfully. “How are you?”

Lhadi charms just as much as her husband. “I’m a family person,” she said. “I want Gustave to be where everyone feels welcomed.” She was thrilled then, that even in the recent rain, kids continued to play in Le Jardin’s sandbox. “They just enjoy life!” she said. Is this a (French) lesson for us all?

The entrance to the beer garden (Photo: Liz Bastos)

Lhadi, originally from Morocco, is in the process of planning Le Jardin’s summer menu of French-Mediterranean specialties. “The merguez sausage sandwich equals the South of France,” she said.

“And la tarte tropézienne,” Mashmour added. It’s a brioche filled with creme diplomat. Who could resist that? It was a favorite of Brigitte Bardot, the OG French girl herself.

Zebra prediction: This summer, because of Gustave and Le Jardin, Mt. Vernon and Del Ray Ave. will become one of the best intersections in the city to flâneur, to boulevardier, to participate in the French art that is the enjoyment of life.

A Zebra favorite, because it’s striped. (Photo: Liz Bastos)

[SEE ALSO: Alexandria Clerk of Court Opening Second Office in West End]

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