To say dining at L’Auberge Chez Francois is a unique experience is an extreme understatement. Tucked away in the suburbs of Great Falls, Virginia lies this hidden gem that focuses on classic dishes from French provincial and Alsatian styles. Kacy and I stopped in for a lunch with my parents during our most recent visit back in November.
L’Auberge Chez Francois originally opened in the heart of Washington DC in 1954, before making the move into Virginia in 1976. Although the move seemed risky to many, the owner and head chef, François Haeringer, had long dreamed of opening an “auberge” styled restaurant – a family inn prevalent in his native Alsatian countryside. Great Falls turned out to be a perfect spot for this, even being an hour outside of DC. Much of the style, menu, and service have not changed since the restaurant opened, and that’s a big part of what makes this place so special.
The sprawling restaurant has a rustic vibe as soon as you pull into the gravel parking lot. It has the feel of an old countryside cottage. The inside was decorated for Christmas during our visit adding to the cozy feel, almost like entering someone’s home.
We went during the day to take advantage of their prix-fixe lunch menu, which includes an appetizer, salad, main course, and dessert for $44. This also includes a glass of wine or a beer – who said the French couldn’t be generous?
We decided to start with some L’Apéritif du Patrons (house aperitifs) that consisted of Crémant d’Alsace, Framboise, Chambord, and a raspberry. They were delightful and set up our palettes for a hearty meal.
Before the meal we also received some complimentary bread for the table. This was no ordinary bread course though. This was fresh house-baked bread, served with a side of butter and a small pot of house-made cottage cheese. I’m not normally a fan of cottage cheese, but this was incredibly creamy and delicious.
For appetizers, Kacy and my mom had the chive crêpe stuffed with a duxelle of wild mushrooms, tomato concassé and madeira sauce. The crepe was light and fluffy and perfectly French.
My dad ordered the trio of Norwegian salmon: house-cured and smoked, a a rillette with capers, and a salmon caviar. This dish really showcased the salmon nicely and was extremely fresh tasting. I found the rillette and caviar on toast points to be a real highlight of the meal.
For myself, I couldn’t resist the “House Delicacy” of braised wagyu beef cheeks and wild mushrooms in a sherry wine sauce. The dish was served in a tiny dutch oven, almost like a stew. The beef cheeks themselves were just about as tender as any piece of meat I have ever had, it basically melted in the mouth. So far, L’Auberge was killing it.
For the main course we went all in on the beef: my mom ordered the veal scaloppini with Virginia ham and spaetzles in a madeira sauce while my dad had the medallion of beef tenderloin in a Béarnaise sauce. Everything was super tender and immaculately prepared.
Kacy decided on beef bourguignon and I went for the sirloin steak in a bordelaise sauce with some pommes frites. The sauces were rich and flavorful and left us all stuffed.
But before this amazing meal was complete, we had one more mountain to climb – the desserts. We decided to get four different options for the table so we could taste them all. Starting at the top and working clockwise in the photo below we opted for the hazelnut soufflé, bread pudding with house-made Tahitian vanilla sauce, a traditional Alsatian plum tart with house-made cinnamon ice cream and the dark Valrhona chocolate tart.
I enjoyed all of the desserts but was honestly too deep a food coma to fully appreciate them. I do remember the plum tart and soufflé being stand outs for the table though.
Beyond the decor and the food, the service all throughout the meal was impeccable. The staff was quick and friendly while never being pushy or hovering. It really took the entire experience to a new level – just another example of why this is a one-of-a-kind place.
L’Auberge is great for a date or special occasion meal. But with the affordable prix fix option makes it attainable for every day. The dress code is a little on the snazzier side, but not heavily enforced. There’s also a more casual brasserie downstairs, known for having a great brunch. We hope to be back on future trips to visit family in Virginia!