Atmosphere: Comfortable and warm country French restaurant, medium-sized.
Hours: Monday through Friday, 11:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m.; Saturday until 11:30 p.m.; Sunday, 11:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Price Range: Dinners from $2.95 for crepes to $8.50 for most expensive entrees. Dessert crepes from $1. Lunches average $4, served with salads. Crepes available for lunch also.
Reservations: Taken for dinner only.
Credit Cards: Major credit cards accepted.
Special Facilities: Accessible to wheelchairs through a second front entrance; highchairs and booster seats.
In recent years, the charm of Old Town Alexandria has enticed many businesses, residents and tourists. And the need for a place to rest and refuel after a busy day of working, shopping or sightseeing has been amply met by Old Town's restaurateurs. One of the early arrivals in the restaurants rush was Maison des Crepes.
Located in Alexandria since 1973, the Maison has developed a reputation as a fine place for crepes. At one time, under the same ownership as the Georgetown establishment of the same name, it was only that -- a reputation. However, with the dissolution of the owners' partnership, Maison des Crepes gained an expanded menu, which includes an inviting array of classic and country French dishes, and retains the same charming decor.
When we visited the restaurant at 6:30 on a Thursday night with two young guests, the dining room was filling rapidly. The 11-year-old was looking forward to the evening out, but his younger brother approached the evening with trepidation -- neither had been exposed to ethnic foods, much less French.
Both boys were pleased with the restaurant's decor. The restaurant has a cozy, country inn feeling -- wooden beams, antique buffets, copper pans hanging above a large stone hearth, tables covered with colorful cloths, low lighting and a half-open crepe kitchen.
We started with a half carafe of the house white wine for the adults and Coke for the boys. Although we were tempted by the escargots as an appetizer ($3.95) and the saucisson au beurre -- French style salami -- we felt safer trying something less exotic. We chose the pate de campagne, telling the boys that it was a special kind of liver sausage. It was mild but tasty, particularly when spread over the crusty French bread which accompanied our meal.
Ordering took some time, for although the entree list is not enormous -- and the menu items are all in both French and English -- the dishes were unusual enough to merit explanations to the boys. The older boy chose the jambon gruyere crepes -- made with ham and cheese, at $2.95. For the younger boy, we chose fish in a white wine sauce with lemon and parsley at $6.50. The waitress was quite understanding about serving the sauce on the side. The adults ordered crabmeat crepes, chicken in cream and lime sauce and the day's special -- roast pork.
While we waited for our dishes, the boys watched the cooks prepare Brittany-style crepes. These are not cooked in the well-known, rolled torpedo shape. Rather, the batter is spread thin on a hot square griddle, then the crepe is filled and the corners folded in to form a smaller square, while the ingredients meld into the crepe.
Our dinner arrived quickly, even though each order is individually prepared.
The ham and cheese crepes, light and well-cooked, were good-sized with lots of ham and cheese.
The huge and exquisite crabe d'alaska en chemise -- crabmeat with a white wine sauce rolled into two torpedo-shaped crepes (at $8.50 one of the most expensive dishes on the menu) -- were delicious.
The roast pork, sliced thin and topped with a brown sauce, was served with crisp, cooked string beans and boiled potatoes. It was good and a super bargain at $5.95.
The chicken, an ample portion, was unusual in its tasty lime sauce.
Only the younger boy resisted enjoying the meal. We asked the waitress to bring him a couple of slices of ham and some more French bread, which she did, and he quickly recovered his ebullient demeanor with the more familiar food. And the rest of us enjoyed the fish, the sauce of which was excellent.
For dessert, we all split a piece of homemade chocolate cake and a piece of mocha cake. They were good, but at $2.25 each, the price was high. We could have done better by ordering dessert crepes, which cost $1 to $2.50 (for the fanciest), and which are still undisputed house specialities.
The bill for three adults and two children, with four entrees, an order of crepes, a side order of ham, shared hors d'oevres and dessert, a carafe of wine, sanka and tea for the adults, and Cokes for the boys came to $56.72, including tip.