Great New Places to Eat

There’s a saying that when one door closes, another one opens. Last year was tough on local eateries, but some very exciting restaurant doors have opened in the past few months, including one inspired by a food truck, another by a 56-foot-long bunny, and others by cuisines ranging from French to Mongolian and Indian to Southern (grits, anyone?). So feast your eyes on our favorite new spots, and you’ll see why we think the food scene is looking very sunny-side up.

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Estelle's Patisserie
901 K St.
551-1500
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Estelle's Patisserie - As much as we love our City of Trees, sometimes we wish to be whisked away to the City of Lights. Now we almost can, thanks to Estelle’s Patisserie, which opened recently at the corner of 9th and K downtown. The bakers’ day there starts before dawn, when they begin rolling the flaky morning croissants—made in-house from scratch each day, just as in a Parisian bakery—that are the favorite of owner Esther Son, also of the wildly popular Esther’s Cupcakes. (The name of the new place, which opened in early December, refers to the French version of her first name.)

The mille–feuille at Estelle’s Patisserie with layers of puff pastry and crème diplomat (Photo by Marc Thomas Kallweit)For sustenance at lunch, look to rich tomato bisque and crusty baguettes, or exceptional sandwiches on those house-made croissants (the most popular are turkey and ham). Or perk up with sweet treats, from the petite macaron sandwich cookies to beautiful tarts like a sleek chocolate and a jewel-like raspberry filled with pistachio paste. No wonder this pretty pastry shop has been an immediate hit with the downtown morning and lunch crowd.

Son has been dreamiTiers of green tea, pistachio and rose macarons (Photo by Marc Thomas Kallweit)ng about opening a just-so bakery of her own like this since high school, when she used to spend her lunch money on madeleines (yes, Estelle’s makes memorable ones, in flavors like chocolate and Earl Grey). Long before opening, Son—who has not trained as a pastry chef herself—assembled a team of pastry chefs whose résumés boast stints with the likes of the Ritz-Carlton and Thomas Keller’s Bouchon, and worked painstakingly with them to translate her vision, honed from years of travel, into impeccable, delicate treats. (They’re not all French: Estelle’s also features refined takes on all-American morsels like pecan sticky buns and has been offering Doughnut Fridays.)

The French-inspired lunch menu includes sandwiches with house-made croissants and baguettes. (Photo by Marc Thomas Kallweit)The ambience is as pitch-perfect as the fare, balancing Parisian style and the easy comforts of a French village boulangerie in made-for-lingering touches like a reclaimed wood communal table, little marble-topped tables paired with woven bistro chairs, and big windows that flood the airy space with light. When you’re ready for a Parisian mini-break, all you need is a copy of Paris Match to pair with that cup of café au lait and a croissant.

And if you’re not downtown often? Wait until summer, when Son plans to open a second, larger location at Arden Way and Fulton Avenue.

—K.W