I have two confessions: 1) Any place with a champagne and Bloody Mary bar is going to win my favor. 2) Mon Ami Gabi is a chain. We try not to write about chains here (with the exception of local franchises) but here I have made an exception. Consider yourself warned.
Mon Ami Gabi is a faux French bistro that does an excellent job of making itself feel authentic. Or at least as authentic as a French destination can feel in the middle of downtown Bethesda. The tiny floor tiles are black and white, the menu chalkboard is prominent, and the food options are heavy on the steaks, frites and frisees.
One major difference? The portion sizes in this particular bistro, unlike its kissing cousins across the pond, are generous. Before ordering, the friendly (another key difference) server plops two long baguettes in bags down on the table with a tablet of butter – soft butter, so clutch – for munching. This bread was perfect. Warm and soft in the center and with the slightest crunchy crust on the outside. Give me these and a bottle of wine and I’ll be set for hours.
The portion generosity continues to the meal. Hanger steaks live up to their name, with glistening corners nearly dangling off the side of their plates and piled with crispy frites. During a recent visit, my friend The Rocket Scientist (for realsies, it’s what she does) ordered an onion soup au gratin (read: French onion soup) and received a white cauldron of the delicious broth, topped off with an abundant serving of gruyere cheese. Many diners might order this as an appetizer and they would soon find themselves leaving soup behind or still slurping as their companions tucked into hot entrees.
Mon Ami Gabi’s brunch is one of my favorite features. For those of us who don’t live in Bethesda, it’s a great excuse to spend time in a fun neighborhood with the luxury of weekend laziness. Plus – and this is big for me – Mon Ami Gabi’s brunch menu is a combination of brunch items such as crepes and waffles and their full lunch menu. I’m not a big egg person which means brunch menu often translates to “Hmm… pancakes or waffles?” On my most recent visit, I opted for the smoked salmon crepe served with a small salad. The crepe was buckwheat, making it heartier than expected but also standing up to the light sauce and delicate flavor of the salmon. It was both satisfying and light; the perfect late brunch meal.
Admittedly, Bethesda is not an easy drive from the Hill so I don’t know how often we’ll find ourselves dining there. But considering the abundance of restaurants we can just as easily find in DC proper (Jaleo? Raku? I’m looking at you) it’s nice to know dependable, friendly Mon Ami Gabi is there.