Hours: Monday, Tuesday and Friday, 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Wednesday and Thursday, 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Saturday, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Breakfast served weekdays from 7 to 11. Cafeteria style at breakfast and lunch; table service at dinner. Carry-out available.
Price Range: Main dishes at dinner, which include vegetable and French bread, range between $4.50 for the coq au vin or veal cordon bleu to $9.50 for the filet mignon aux champignons. Sandwiches are $2, quiches $2.50 and $3. Everything is slightly cheaper at lunch.
Atmosphere: A modest, clean and inexpensive French restaurant.
Reservations: Accepted in the evening but probably not necessary.
Credit Cards: None Accepted.
Special Facilities: Accessible to patrons in wheelchairs; street parking available after the rush hour restrictions are lifted at 6:30.
You might expect to find a place like Le Concorde Cafe -- a small and very unpretentious French restaurant -- at a provincial crossroads in France or even in one of the less fashionable faubourgs on the outskirts of Paris. You wouldn't expect to find it where it is -- 1415 H. St. NW on the ground floor of a parking garage near the 14th Street adult book store strip. We were so happily surprised to find it that we were almost willing to forgive the glaring imperfections in the cuisine. Almost.
The decor is so unpretentious that it makes for an appealing ambiance. On the walls, cheap reproductions of Paris scenes hang next to prints of wide-eyed children. The linoleum floor is spotless and the tables are covered with red-and-white plastic cloths. Plastic flowers in empty Perrier bottles complete the decor. Recorded songs in French -- La Vie En Rose, La Seine etc. -- provide suitable background music.
Although there wasn't another family group there when we arrived at about 6:30 on a recent Thursday evening, the manager, a charming and warm French woman, greeted us enthusiastically and made our two daughters -- ages 6 and 3 -- feel welcome.
Feeling in the spirit of things French, my husband ordered a Ricard aperitif ($1.75) -- a yellow, anisette-flavored drink that one lingers over in French cafes. I decided to skip the aperitif and wait for the house wine, a California red ($4), which we had with dinner. That turned out to be a mistake, as the carafe wine tasted something like prune juice. There are however, other wines available at slightly higher prices.
Since our visit was during the post-holiday slump, the manager explained. "We were not expecting too many people so the chef did not prepare everything."
The lunch crowd also had gobbled up many selections. Even the soup of the day -- lentil -- was all gone, as was the leek soup. Onion soup, with cheese and croutons, was available $1.50 a bowl.
For our 3-year-old, we ordered a ham and cheese sandwich on French bread. She gnawed on it happily -- not horrified, as we were, that the ham was really ham loaf. Tabitha, our 6-year-old, ordered the coq au vin and got at least half a chicken with several potatoes and some beans -- a hearty meal and a bargain at $4.50.
My husband wanted the escalopes de veau a la cream ($7.50) and was disappointed to hear that they were not available, but that the veau cordon blue ($4.50) was. Unfortunately, we didn't catch on to the implications of this fact -- that the veal cordon bleu was not made from slices of veal -- until it was too late.
The dish turned out to be a ground veal pattie topped with ham and cheese and deep-fried. The frying made it impossible to tell whether the ham was ham or ham loaf. The dish was covered with the same bland, pale brown gravy that came with the coq au vin.
"Maybe it's the gravy of the day," suggested Tabitha, who had profited from our discussion of the soup of the day.
The string beans, however, won approval. They were cooked with onions and very tasty, although cooked far too long by nouvelle cuisine standards.
I wanted something lighter and ordered the only salad available that evening -- salade nicoise. To go with it I chose the pate platter, although the manager warned me that pate also came with a salad.
The classic salade nicoise, a dish from the southern French city of Nice, contains sliced potatoes, string beans, olives, capers, anchovies and tomatoes in a dressing heavy with olive oil. What I got was a pale reflection of what I had in mind. It has only one small piece of anchovy fillet and two olives, awash in a sea of iceberg lettuce, pale winter tomatoes, and slices of green pepper. The dressing was watery and spiceless.
The pate tasted like pure chicken liver -- good in its own way, but not the coarse country pate you'd find in a similar establishment in France. The restaurant is, however, very generous with its French bread, which makes the pate platter a meal in itself.
For dessert, we had Napoleons ($1.50each). They were delicious with pastry that was flaky rather than greasy, as such pastry sometimes is. The expresso was excellent but cost 92 cents.
Despite the disappointments, we would return to the Concorde, but we would order more selectively and hope that more of the dishes would be available. I would like to try the homemade chicken soup, for example, and the coquilles St. Jacques (scallops and shrimp in cream sauce for $7.25) or truite sautee Bretonne for $7.50, which the fresh trout. And I would avoid the house wine.
As it was, our bill came to $34.44 including tax and tip.