Escargots at Pastis
Snails in their shells — a Pastis classic. Photos by Birch Thomas and Rey Lopez, courtesy of Pastis D.C.

The RundownWashington D.C.

Pastis Is Bringing Its French Good Vibes to the Nation’s Capital


Washington, D.C., has a reputation for being an overworked, buttoned-up city. Blame partisan politics and Beltway traffic, maybe.

Stephen Starr, on the other hand, wants Washingtonians to unbutton that collar with a nice bottle of Burgundy. His latest rendition of Pastis, opening Thursday in The District’s Union Market neighborhood is, as he describes it, a chance to pump the breaks in “a warm and unforgettably welcoming place to see and be seen.”

Maybe even read the daily newspaper with Sunday brunch, or break bread at dinner with the other side of the aisle. OK, perhaps that’s asking a little too much in an election year. In this latest edition of The Rundown, we share tips on how to snag a seat if you’re trying to waltz in. (And your name isn’t Stephen Starr.)

It’s not a surprise that Pastis is drawing a lot of attention, with reservations almost fully booked for its opening day, January 25, and several days after. Starr, along with partner Keith McNally (of New York’s Balthazar and the original Pastis) have created something entirely new for our nation’s capital. Sure, Pastis has the look-and-feel of its Meatpacking District original, or maybe even a cross between Starr’s Le Diplomate and St. Anselm (another Starr import from NYC that, by the way, is around the corner). Here you will find a je ne sais quoi, as Pastis has always stood between those two worlds: a French-inspired but American bistro.

For those keeping up, Starr’s latest theatrical release, El Presidente, opened just a few months ago (also around the corner from Pastis). But this New York import, which also inspired a Miami spinoff, promises something a bit different in this capital location. For one, it’s bigger than the New York original, with new dishes and new cocktails — and coming soon, brunch as only D.C. can do it.

And be sure to save some room. Later this year, Starr heads to Georgetown with Osteria Mozza — in partnership with Los Angeles star-powered chef Nancy Silverton. We are salivating already.

1. Pastis D.C. is a mirror image of the original, albeit with new dishes.

The dining room is actually built in reverse, and a bit larger than the original Meatpacking District location in Manhattan. “There’s also not a bad seat in the house, but I’m always partial to the bar,” Starr says.

Diners will recognize many design touches mirroring those in New York. “Every Pastis that we open has the spirit of the original,” Starr admits. “It’s important to honor the integrity of that iconic design.” At the same time, he points out several D.C.-centric dishes new to this menu: beef tongue, Wiener schnitzel, and roast chicken for two.

2. The banquettes may feel familiar. The high ceilings are new.

Ian McPheely designed the new D.C. location with the spirit of the original, mixing high and low with golden-hued lighting and distressed, hand-painted mirrors created by designer Robert Padilla. Patrons of the New York original will likely recognize the curved red banquettes, crisp white subway tile, artfully mismatched chairs, and tin ceilings. And like its sibling, the new Pastis occupies a former warehouse (at 1323 4th Street, NE) featuring more than 200 seats, plus a vast outdoor dining space.

“The biggest difference in detail at Pastis D.C. is the elevated ceilings that make the dining rooms feel so spacious and grand,” Starr says. “You can still expect our signature features like the rich wood finishes, banquettes, and distressed mirrors that are adorned with handwritten menus.”

The seafood platter.
Steak haché. “I tried it for the first time in Paris years ago and fell in love,” says Stephen Starr.

3. What’s the go-to order? Starr himself has thoughts.

“My favorite dish on the menu is the steak haché,” Starr says. “I tried it for the first time in Paris years ago and fell in love.” He had not had it for quite some time, so he challenged his culinary team, which includes executive chef Bill Williamson (formerly with BLT Prime) to recreate it. “This exceeded my expectations,” Starr says. “It’s perfectly seared on the outside and rare in the center, served with a tangy vinegar sauce — delicious.” Another go-to is the bouillabaisse. The seafood stew is loaded with shrimp and snapper, and is one of the plats du jour on the menu since day one.

For either dish, Starr’s favorite cocktail pairing is the Monsieur Marmalade. The drink calls for white Tequila, French amer, blood-orange marmalade, and lime. Pastis also features Parisian-inspired cocktail classics and easy-drinking spritzes. Try the San Tropez Spritz, made with St. Germain, Cap Corse blanc, and sparkling wine.

Beverage managers Oscar Henriquez and Ian Cruz (both Starr Restaurant Group alums) will oversee the bar program. They’ve also constructed an extensive wine list featuring most French winemaking regions, with numerous selections from new, trailblazing producers.

4. Brunch — a D.C. institution — is coming soon.

The District works hard and parties harder, especially if it’s weekend brunch. Starr says his staff is taking the brunch menu very seriously, and will be announcing service in the weeks to come. Just don’t expect bottomless brunch.

“We are extremely excited to bring Pastis’ iconic brunch to Union Market,” he says. The menu will feature all the classics such as the crêpe complète with ham, egg, and cheese; and the quiche Lorraine, stuffed with bacon, Gruyère, and onion. “More than anything, we want brunch to have the same vibrant energy of Pastis in New York and Miami, where the scene is to be seen,” Starr continues.

The décor in D.C. reflects Pastis’ classic bistro touches.
Boeuf à l’ancienne.

5. Reservations will be be tough at first. But there are strategies.

There will be many options to secure your table at Pastis; they’ll continue to expand each day after opening. “While the first week or so after opening is a bit more limited, guests should keep checking Resy for availability,” Starr says. “We will release more tables as we can, and actively monitor the Notify List, which is one of our favorite features.” (He beat us to saying it.)

Of course, you can also try your luck as a walk-in. Bar seats are first-come, first-serve.


Opening hours are Sunday to Wednesday, 5 p.m. to 10 p.m., until 11 p.m. Thursday to Saturday.

Tim Ebner is an award-winning food and travel writer. He has contributed to The Washington Post, Eater, Thrillist, Travel & Leisure, and Edible DC. Follow him on Instagram. Follow Resy, too.