1422 Wisconsin Ave. Washington DC 20007| Cuisine: French | $$ |★★★★☆
Founded by a father and son from Saint-Tropez, France, Boulangerie Christophe is a charming French bakery and restaurant on Wisconsin Avenue, a short 10-minute walk from the front gates.
The first floor is a casual cafe, serving light lunch fare and a wide selection of pastries. Prices on the first floor range from $1.50 for the mini croissants to $14 for the salmon salad. The second floor of Boulangerie Christophe is more upscale — for slightly higher prices, diners can enjoy a sit-down meal in a relaxed atmosphere. Access to the second floor is, however, limited to those who plan to eat in the restaurant section.
It is evident that Boulangerie Christophe’s aesthetic is carefully curated. The entire establishment is awash in warm beige tones and lit with exposed bulbs. The setting does not instantly call to mind a Parisian theme, however — an inspired choice, considering that this is the typical aspiration of many French cafes and bakeries. On the contrary, the cozy cafe boasts influences from the south of France, in terms of both ambience and cuisine. The entire space is wonderfully open and airy, thanks to its incredibly high ceilings and massive windows. Having visited the restaurant during off-peak hours, the open space seemed somewhat awkward, but lunch crowds will certainly appreciate the comfortable, wide space.
I arrived at the restaurant around 2:30 p.m., so the cafe’s atmosphere was relaxed after its lunch rush. There is limited seating; the first floor cafe is intended to be a grab-and-go bakery rather than a sit-down establishment, but there was outdoor seating and a few spindly tables.
The croissant is my go-to order at French establishments, and Boulangerie Christophe’s croissants were certainly up-to-par. Just as they should have been, the croissants were buttery and flaky on the inside, yet did not crumble; rather, the insides were nearly elastic when stretched. The outside of the pastry was crackled and slightly caramelized. The pain au chocolat — the chocolate-filled version — had just the right amount of dark chocolate folded in.
I ordered a baguette with ham, cheese and spring mix ($10), and my dining partner ordered the quiche ($6) and an iced latte. On the cafe floor, everything is served on paper plates, reminding visitors that they are not meant to linger for too long.
For me, the baguette is the most important part of a sandwich, and this is where Boulangerie Christophe excelled. The outside of the bread was crunchy, and the center had just the right amount of chewiness, striking a delicate balance. The ingredients inside the baguette sandwich were fresh and of high quality: The slices of ham were not your average deli slices, and the cheese was thinly sliced and strongly flavored, a perfect match for a simple lunch.
The quiche was, in one word, rich. Served warmed, the pastry was the perfect silky, crumbly vehicle to hold the rich custard filled with ham. Although the dish is prepared for one person, the portion is large and best shared, especially given how heavy it is.
For dessert, I had half of a chocolate mille-feuille — a puff pastry layered with chocolate custard, and it was more than enough. The puff pastry was exceptional — brittle, light and surprisingly undamaged by layers of chocolate custard. The chocolate custard had a good level of sweetness, but its flaw lay in its icing glaze. The glaze added too much sugar to what would have been a perfect balance between buttery pastry and light chocolate custard. If you are looking for a sinfully sweet dessert, the chocolate mille-feuille may be perfect, but, after a baguette sandwich and a quiche, the sugary richness was overwhelming.
Overall, Boulangerie Christophe serves quality French fare in a bright and airy space. It is perfect for a coffee date or light lunch with a friend. For a French cafe, the prices are reasonable, although a meal will tend to be slightly pricier than a Wisey’s run, especially if you want a taste of the dessert menu or cup of illy coffee. Although I cannot say I will be a regular, the next time I am craving a good baguette or delicate French pastry, I will definitely be heading back.