Not So Long Ago: Wisconsin and Dumbarton

This week on Not So Long Ago, GM stops by an old favorite for a lot of Georgetowners: the late Au Pied du Cochon.

Au Pied du Cochon means “With a Pig’s Foot”. The Georgetown location was probably named after the famous Paris brasserie of the same name, which has been open since 1947. Several other Au Pied du Cochons exist throughout the globe, including a rather well regarded one in Quebec.

Georgetown’s Au Pied du Cochon was not without its sordid history. Most famously it was the location where in 1985 Soviet defector Vitaly Yurcenko escaped from his CIA handlers by sneaking out the bathroom window and running up Wisconsin Ave. to the Soviet embassy in order to un-defect.

The restaurant closed in 2004. GM would like to say he misses the old place, but frankly he thought the service and the fare did not live up to the atmosphere. Not that having Five Guys is remotely better, though. Hopefully someday it will revert back to a French bistro.

It looks like the restaurant once spread over to the space next door. A rather dramatic and unfortunate renovation of that neighboring space took place in 2004. Now the building is faced with metallic formstone. And it’s empty. Oh well.

One last cool item: in both pictures, you can see an old ad for The Great Atlantic and Pacific Tea Co. (i.e., the A & P) on the side of the far right building.

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14 Comments

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14 responses to “Not So Long Ago: Wisconsin and Dumbarton

  1. The next-door restaurant was “Aux Fruits du Mer”, which was the fancier, pricier seafood restaurant cousin of “Au Pied”. You may recall that the next-door building was almost completely demolished but for the facade, and the developer got into a huge amount of trouble with the city as a result.

  2. Au Pied Du Cochon was a popular haunt. I took photographs of Mike Tyson dining there……and Sugar Ray Leonard loved the place. Before The Pig’s Foot, the place was called the Lehi Grill. All of the photographs that were on the wall dated back to the Lehi days. The Pig’s Foot was always an entrant in our Francis Scott Key Weekend Parade which came right down Wisconsin Avenue. Their entry consisted of chefs carrying little pigs…..always a big hit with the kids. The owner of the Pig’s Foot also operated a successful bakery (where Neyla is today). Five Guys is a desacration to the memory of Au Pied du Cochon and the Lehi Grill.

  3. John asadoorian

    Agreed with GM about the look of the adjacent building….not sure exactly the facts, but the facade was saved and the developer at the time had to replace the metallic formstone (the look was ‘historic’, go figure)….for a while, when it was off the facade, you could see the old wooden storefront underneath, which was quite interesting….I can’t understand the logic behind what is saved and what is allowed in some of the newer storefronts….

  4. Brad Altman

    In the Early 70′s Aux Fruits de Mer was a “somewhat famous” gay bar known as the Georgetown Bar and Grill” Were not many such establishments in those days

  5. Brad is right about Gtown Bar & Grill. It was the key gay bar in D.C. It was painted pink and had a neon sign in the window.

    I loved Pig’s Foot. It was great for mussels while sitting at the bar (a rarity in those days,) had nice onion soup and lobster bisque, and “my” favorite: artichokes with vinaigrette. I’ve not been in Five Guys.

  6. Cynthia Anthony

    I believe Aux Fruits de Mer (which was lovely) had a bad fire, after which the space was turned, briefly, into a bakery. Aux Fruits de Mer had a large fish tank in the window with some fairly exotic-looking specimens swimming inside. So far as I know, none was ever served at the restaurant!

  7. GeorgeM

    Was Au Croissant Chaud the bakery on N Street referenced by Dave Roffman? That place is very much missed. I recall at one point it relocated to Wisconsin Avenue near Au Pied. The other day I ran into a German diplomat (who was stationed in DC during the early 1980′s) walking on N Street who came down from NYC hoping to find the bakery still there. He was very disappointed to learn that it was long gone. As am I.

  8. Eric Weiss

    In the early 1990s, when I lived with six roomates in a rundown mansion on 33rd and O, Au Pied was the place to go to end an evening or attack a hangover. There was nothing better than their Eggs Benedict. Dipping their perfectly greasy frites in Hollandaise sauce, yum! And their French onion soup was great too. When I was exiled to Connecticut for several years, I kept a postcard of Au Pied’s inside mural (the one with the mad chef wrangling with a pig) on my fridge.

  9. Maggie

    The Aux Fruits de Mer space was a rundown sort of pool hall just before the botched renovation.

  10. Jacques

    Agreed. The Aux Fruits de Mer space had a run as George Toons cafe, which was known for not requiring any ID (even a fake one) in the late 90′s.

    And honestly, the neighborhood is probably better off with the faux-metal shoestores that came after it.

  11. RNM

    Au Pied was one of only a couple of places in Georgetown with 24 hour service…and was an all too frequent destination of the late night theatre crews when I was in college at GU. Later on it was as a post performance hangout for alums where they would just leave the bottle of vodka on the table for us. It certainly had its issues, terrible bathrooms, the fire and the big issue of illegal workers and under the table payments that led to the government raiding it and auctioning off its assets at one point. I also do not miss that its phone number was one digit off of mine then and now, so the calls for the place were way too frequent. It is missed, warts and all.

    I have to admit that I do love the Five Guys, recently named the best burger chain in the USA by Zagat, even if the use of the space by Five Guys seems out of place (I mean that beautiful bar sits vacant after how many nights of heart to heart conversations on the chairs there). My other half used to work behind it and would be greeted every morning with the wave of bacon being cooked. Oh, and from her office vantage point it was interesting to watch the demolition of Aux Fruits de Mer and then the long delayed rebuilding where only the street facade remained. All literally under the office of Richard Levy…talk about a bad place to try and sneak in a remodel.

  12. Anonymous, please: "Nemo"

    Before there was “Au Pied de Cochon,” there was the “Lehigh Grill,” an authentic working class bar dating from the days before Georgetown morphed into a theme park. The building next door with the tin perma-stone was a companion restaurant, “Fruits de Mer,” but before that, it was a reputed gay bar, “The Georgetown Grill.” Waggish observers noted a certain symmetry in nomenclature when the Grill was replaced by Fruits.

  13. Pingback: If Walls Could Talk: Au Pied De Cochon and 1335 Wisconsin Ave. NW – Part 1 « Ghosts of DC

  14. Alexandria has a new cafe’ in the Hoffman/Carlyle area of the Eisenhower Avenue corridor that is run by the former owners of Au Pied.
    I loved Au Pied de Cochon for its great country French cooking at such reasonable prices and for te fact that it was open 24/7; a darn good arrangement when you drive a cab. I used to go there after the post-bar crowd had cleared out but before the early morning rush of cab business. I hadn’t been there for years and decided to visit early one morning a few months ago. Five Guys is a pretty good hamburger joint. But CVS is a pretty good chain pharmacy and there’s a few too many of them. Ditto Five Guys.

    I remember the Georgetown Grill and the LeHi Grill, too. In fact (I am a shameless self-promoter) the “Prequel” I am writing to my novel “The Peterson Investigation” features the LeHi as the scene of an arrest in the first chapter.

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