Atmosphere: Snug and side-street French.
Price range: From pate platters at $2.25 to steak tartare at $3.85, with unskinned French fries, $1, and homemade pastries, $1.25.
Hours: 24 hours, seven days a week.
Facilities: Ground floor, accessible to handicapped and those who can find parking places in Georgetown.
Reservations: Not needed and not taken.
Credit cards: Cash only.
"Capital Soccer League" is not the name of Georgetown's oldest French cafe, although that's all it says on top of the menu. And photographs of soccer players are all you see above the patisseries and small tables when you enter the restaurant at 3056 M St. NW.
While Cafe de Paris often is acclaimed for its homemade pastries, French fries and hours - it is Washington's only all-night French restaurant - the claim to fame on its menu is simply that it is "the mecca of soccer in D.C."
We almost expected to find waiters in uniform, lining up in soccer formations - after all the waiters at La Nicoise roller skate. But instead we found a quiet and cozy, but slightly dingy, neighborhood cafe where you might go to read a book and sip an espresso, forget the damp winter cold Washington and dream of Paris.
Our two soccer-playing sons have not been to France, so did not suffer from nostalgia. They liked the autographed pictures of Pele and other soccer stars, but the atmosphere that we found reminiscently French they apparently found depressing. They also were disappointed when the juke box didn't work and then disappointed when the manager got it going.
"All French music sounds the same," said our eldest, who is studying French and not too happy about it.
But they perked up when Cokes and sandwiches came, a hulking club sandwich six inches high and a "French hamburger" permeated with onions, both accompanied by gargantuan French fries cooked with the skins on. They were followed by two puffy pastries, which the boys enjoyed choosing from a well-stocked display cabinet.
To combat the cold that washed over the cafe's front room every time the door opened my wife and I had hot garlic soup. It was good as the duck and country pates that followed, their passage eased by glasses of beer and accompanied by Vie de France bread - a staple in many Washington restaurants now.
We lingered over excellent espressos, and after all coffee is what a cafe should be judged upon. I had a tart with fresh spring strawberries.
"You could make a meal out of just the French fries," our younger son concluded after conquering his towering meringue dessert.
"What am I to do with it," our eldest had asked about his even taller club ("cafe") sandwich. But after discovering it was mostly lettuce he easily disposed of it as well as an eclair he described as good but almost too sweet.
The "mecca of soccer" also was relatively reasonable, befitting the world's cheapest and most popular sport, with the bill coming to $29.43 without a tip.
As for the soccer connection, the cafe's owner Michael Sellier began founding and funding soccer teams here almost the day his cafe opened in 1973. The Cafe de Paris team, now called Georgetowners, first played in a semi-pro Northern Virginia league until Sellier established the Capital Soccer League, with six teams, including the "Pro Kickers" sponsored by the Dips. The league resumes play in March.
Sellier says he also has just formed a junior team of 12-year-olds which will play in a Northern Virginia league "since the city has no soccer league." But to get one started he is offering to sponsor "all the teams we can get . . . 200 teams" to start a regular youth soccer league in the District. It would mean a lot more pictures on the walls of Cafe de Paris.