Looking for a place to go to brunch on a Saturday morning? Your options are surprisingly limited anywhere outside of Dupont Circle. Many of the staple brunch spots in the D.C. metro area only serve brunch on Sundays. Who knew?
So where does one go on a lazy Saturday morning for brunch when bagels and Mr. Coffee at home just won’t do? Enter Mon Ami Gabi in Bethesda. Named after owner Chef Gabino Sotelino, Mon Ami Gabi (“my friend Gabi”) is quiet and unassuming compared to its loud and flashy neighbors (Cosi, Austin Grill, Jaleo to name a few) and lends an air of sophistication to the rapidly growing downtown Bethesda.
Wrapped around a corner on busy Woodmont Avenue, this restaurant should not be overlooked. Inside it is surprisingly large and airy. The high ceilings, dark wood, and bistro chairs conjure up an authentic French café. Strategically placed walls and columns cleverly divide the open space into separate rooms providing a cozy and intimate atmosphere.
The food does not disappoint. With any large group there are inevitably a few people who are not fans of French cuisine, however the brunch menu at Mon Ami Gabi is so large and varied there is something sure to please everyone. The brunch menu consists of their regular lunch fare- salads, sandwiches, burgers, and of course, frites authentically wrapped in paper cones with mayonnaise to dip (or ketchup upon request). But it is their brunch specials that make the visit worthwhile.
Immediately upon sitting down a warm crusty baguette is placed on your table accompanied by a pot of delicious red raspberry jam. Their coffee is outstanding- it is strong, dark and nutty and a server is always at your side to top off your mug.
There are two types of quiche on the menu- the classic Lorraine (ham and cheese) as well as asparagus and mushroom. I expected a delicate slice of quiche so I was pleasantly shocked to find an entire mini-quiche the size of a salad plate set in front of me. The crust was crisp and buttery and the filling was thick and satisfying. The crêpes are also quite large and come with a variety of fillings. The chive scrambled egg crêpe with ham and cheese is a unique twist on the American breakfast sandwich.
The pièce de résistance is the Vanilla French toast. It is heaven on a plate. Two sinfully thick slices of brioche are served with cinnamon and brown sugar apples and topped with crème fraîche. Syrup, though provided, is definitely not needed. I suggest ordering one and passing it around the table for dessert!
To complete the brunch experience Mon Ami Gabi offers a Build-Your-Own Bloody Mary and a Champagne cart with Bellinis and Mimosas. While the Bloody Mary bar was impressive and loaded with all the fixings, the Bellini was too sweet and rather disappointing.
Last but not least, while some might not consider French dining synonymous with kid-friendly- Mon Ami Gabi shatters the stereotype. Child diners are treated as equals- with a variety of juice served in kiddy cups and an endless supply of crayons and drawing paper provided at your request. But for those of you without tiny tots, don’t be swayed, this is no Chucky Fromage!
Mon Ami Gabi is the perfect answer to a cozy, leisurely Saturday morning with friends and family. Loud and fun, yet sophisticated and refined, it’s worth a trip for the French toast alone!
Brunch served Saturday 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Sunday 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
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