Le Diplomate: A D.C. Must-Visit + Recipe

Can it be possible that things are sometimes exactly as we imagine and wish them to be? As an idealist I live my life assuming that it is a possible and even probable outcome: that more often than not, life will look as it should. This hope is often disappointed, but in the matter of a French café, idealism paid off.

We metro’d into one of my favorite cities in the world: Washington D.C. I get a D.C. craving the way pregnant women get Chinese food cravings: at random, in the middle of the night, so strong that for a time I can think of little else. Perhaps it is the City itself that gets to me: the complex blend of cultures, wealth, power, history, poverty, fragile lives, vibrant lives, metros and taxis, common people and diplomats. D.C. satisfies all the parts of me I struggle to fit into other places. The thrill of a huge city, important decisions being made on every corner. The lure of history and world wonders. I walk into the Capitol and lore, architecture, style, art, society, and politics collide. One-of-a-kind food can be found on every corner, courtesy of pioneering minds and a hundred ethnicities. There is always something going on. I can walk for free into a museum and see the Hope Diamond, and head a small distance away to a famous portrait gallery. Or I can sit on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and people-watch. D.C. has something for everyone. Each time I go, I come away with a pocketful of random encounters and stories to take with me. I also know that my love of D.C. has stemmed from something quieter; from the fact that I have always entered that city surrounded by uncommonly good friends. And anyplace experienced through the lens of shared friendship takes on its own glow, doesn’t it?

Regardless, I entered D.C. this time with a posse of excellent women. We were missing the grand architect of this surprise-for-Jill jaunt, due to untimely health problems, but we were still seven-strong. After an accidental confusion in the Chinatown metro, we found our destination for a late brunch reservation: Le Diplomate. The name alone excited me because, honestly, it’s French and anything French and food-related wins automatic decency points. We entered, skirted past a knot of trim, laughing waiters, and my happy-bounce started because….oh, because France.

The floor is tiled with tiny ceramics: white, cream, blue, butter-yellow. The ceiling fans are blue – dedicated blue!—as is the main entryway. There is a yellow bicycle on the wall behind the bar, a display of the most delicious breads nearby. Each table wears a paper cloth and no one tells you not to doodle on it. Every detail of the interior from the lighting to the gorgeous ceiling to the antique radiator near the side door soothes the soul. Another soul-soothing note is the fact that the hostesses wear navy sheath dresses with thin red belts and red cardigans (more points) and matchboxes are free. A place that gives out free match-boxes is classy, darlings. Classiness extends to the menu, which is mind-boggling and unpronounceable to those, like me, who can’t speak French. You can order half a chilled lobster, and oysters for heaven’s sake! Not to mention cheeses, pastries, and any wine you could imagine. Various and sundry of our number chose the French toast (macerated strawberries, Chantilly cream, limes!), Quiche Lorraine (the most excellent quiche made with Gruyere and spinach), a hamburger and fries (complete with miniature French and American flags adorning the bun), and a baguette sandwich composed of butter, ham, and comte, served with cochines (tiny, amazing pickles). Someone asked for a bread-basket and it arrived: whole-wheat sourdough, crusty baguette, cranberry-nut bread, and a tiny pot ofwhipped butter. As far as drinks go, one of my friends and I ordered a “Lune Parisienne” each, which sparkling rosemary-limeade I’ve replicated below.

“You were almost in your own little world in there,” my friend Jill said later, laughing.

I was. Completely distracted by the sun shining through the enormous windows and the people eating at the tables nearby; by the efficient waiters signaling each other and the plating of everyone else’s orders passing by; by the outdoor guests and those indoors, by the gentleman with the rose-gold newspaper and the woman with the kind smile; by the chic couples sauntering in and ordering Mimosas, by the bartender shaking someone’s drink and the guest who walked by dressed (accidentally) like the hostesses in a navy sheath and red cardi. Distracted, but also completely happy. There is nothing, absolutely nothing, like moments such as this: surrounded by friends in a bright, warm atmosphere sharing good food and much laughter. Le Dipomate is equal parts elegant and comfortable. We felt we could be ourselves there, dressed as we were in nice jeans and comfortable shoes. But at the same time, Le Diplomate elevates the grace of those who enters its doors. I left feeling more cultured, graceful, and experienced than I’d entered, even if we’d just butchered the pronunciation of half the menu and ticked off the waiter by asking for bread.

(shamelessly stealing Alia's picture for this.)

I can’t wait to return and bring more friends to Le Diplomate and repeat the pleasant afternoon spent lunching on the dais. And as a parting gift before presenting the recipe for making a Lune Parisienne at home, let me warn you that the women’s bathroom is the left-hand option of the two. Apparently it is written in French in the stained glass panel on the door, but I couldn’t see it. Just a heads-up, darlings, lest you begin to wonder if a line of urinals in the ladies’ room is a European tradition or something, like a bidet.
“Let us not say ‘farwell’ but as the French say, ‘Au revoir!’”

Sparkling Rosemary Limeade
In the Style of Le Diplomate's "Lune Parisienne"
(serves 2-4)

Simple Syrup:
1 sprig of fresh rosemary
Zest stripped from one lime
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
Juice of 4 limes
Soda water
Crushed ice
Rosemary spikes for garnish, if desired.
1.) To make the simple syrup, bring sugar and water to a boil until sugar is dissolved. Turn heat to medium low and add strips of lime zest and rosemary. Simmer for 5 minutes until syrup is golden yellow, then remove from heat. Allow to cool.
2.) Fill glasses with crushed ice. Pour two tablespoons of rosemary-lime syrup over ice. Add a quarter cup freshly squeezed lime juice. Top off glasses with soda water and garnish with rosemary.


  1. I've been to D.C. once when I was 16 so it has been 10 years! If/when I go again, I'll have to check this place out! It sounds so lovely. I sort of get excited about good food too. I was at a cute little cafe on a road trip the other day. When they brought out my pancakes and I took my first bite, I actually bounced up and down in my seat. ^.^

  2. Sounds like you had a beautiful time, I love how you describe things. Makes me feel as if I was there. That limeade looks delish.

    1. I'm so glad you were able to feel as if you had been there!

  3. Washington is cooooooooool . . . And I love the way you described everything :)