Brasserie Liberté Opens in Georgetown
On Saturday, Nov. 16, restaurateur Hakan Ilhan opened his 6,000-square-foot casual French restaurant Brasserie Liberté at 3251 Prospect St. NW in the former Morton’s steakhouse in Georgetown.
Ilhan, who also owns the upscale French Mirabelle (along with Al Dente and Ottoman Taverna) said the preparation and cooking style is totally different.
You may remember Ilhan’s other moderately priced French restaurant, Bistro L’Hommage, in Mt. Vernon Triangle that closed in 2017. He cited erratic neighborhood dining traffic as well as his traditional bistro offerings as the cause.
Ilhan said Brasserie Liberté is looking to cater to the “combination of residents, tourists, Georgetown students and families who come to visit. Prospect Street is the gateway to Georgetown University. We don’t want to be a student place, but a place where everyone feels comfortable.”
The brasserie will have a wider appeal than Bistro L’Hommage. “We want to be an everyday place. Our price point is geared to many walks of life,” he said. “The whole restaurant industry is tilting toward millennials becoming the biggest part of our workforce. They travel in groups so you must have a menu that appeals to four or five people. They’re looking for affordable prices, more vegetarian dishes, more healthier options and a bigger wine program by the glass.”
Designers from Swatchroom gave the former steakhouse a multimillion dollar makeover. Divided into three spaces, the 250-seat restaurant has new 10-foot ceilings with curved archways and a 39-seat lounge reminiscent of a French farmhouse with a hunter green and white tiled bar. The main dining room is decorated in hues of pumpkin, crimson and navy anchored by a candlelit white fireplace in the shape of a Moroccan tagine. The room has large curved booths upholstered in an array of masculine gold plaids while the chairs are a red and gold plaid that match servers’ aprons.
In the back, a private dining room with a private entrance has navy walls and light blue floor tile with a rose gold mirror. Blackout drapes create privacy in the space, which can be divided into two and has front-row seats to dual glass wine cellars housing some 1,100 bottles. Also in the back is a “Fabergé egg” booth. Two patios will welcome diners come spring.
Leading the kitchen is 25-year-old executive chef Jaryd Hearn, who’s resume includes two years at the Michelin three-starred Alinea, Chicago’s modernist haute cuisine temple, and most recently Polo Grill & Bar in Lakeland Ranch, Fla., where he churned out meals for a 200-seat dining room. He says both experiences are helpful for his new Georgetown post.
“People forget the majority of French cooking is peasant food,” Hearn told DC on Heels. “It wasn’t palace dining. It is warm and welcoming. We want to see people three times a week so we have to beat the competition in price point, but not sacrifice quality.”
Hearn’s menus include vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free dishes. Lunch includes more salads and sandwiches like the French dip, croque monsieur and Liberté burger, a double patty with American cheese, burger sauce, lettuce, tomato, and pickles on a fennel seed bun with frites, while brunch offers pumpkin French toast, brioche cinnamon rolls and smashed avocado Benedict. For dinner, you will find French onion soup that is cooked for three days, traditional steak frites and beef bourguignon along with a vegetable cassoulet and mushroom bourguignon. There will also be healthy roasted carrot grain bowls, moules frites and winter cassoulet with lamb, chicken, country boudin and white beans. Entrees average around $25.
Ilhan’s next project is Lazy Kate’s Bistro, an American bistro with a heavy Mediterranean influence, which is slated to open in later spring at 2300 N St. NW.
Brasserie Liberté is open for lunch from 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday through Friday, dinner from 4-10 p.m. Sunday through Saturday, late night dining from 10 p.m-1 a.m. Sunday through Thursday and 10 p.m.-2 a.m. Friday and Saturday, and bruch from 8 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
Editor-in-Chief Mark Heckathorn is a journalist, movie buff and foodie. He oversees DC on Heels editorial operations as well as strategic planning and staff development. Reach him with story ideas or suggestions at dcoheditor (at) gmail (dot) com.