Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Au Pied de Cochon.

The Georgetown Metropolitan posted something yesterday that put me in a nostalgic mood: a remembrance of Au Pied de Cochon, a longtime fixture of the Georgetown dining scene which closed in 2004. Au Pied de Cochon (yes, it's "de" - not "du" as GM would have it) is a place that I remember with great fondness and still mention from time to time in conversation, typically as an example of the wonderful particularities that made Georgetown a great place to go to school.

Affectionately known as "The Pig's Foot" or simply as "Au Pied," Au Pied de Cochon was a greasy spoon French restaurant, open twenty-four hours a day and with prices and portions that suited the budgets and stomachs of thrifty yet hungry undergraduates. If you wanted a croque-monsieur at three in the morning, Au Pied was your place; no one would ever mistake this restaurant's humble offerings for haute cuisine, but the amiably surly help and charmingly divey ambience nonetheless inspired a certain kind of devotion among repeat customers, myself included.

As noted in Au Pied's DCist obituary, this greasy spoon featured in a chapter of Cold War history. In November 1985, a KGB agent who had defected to the United States, Vitaly Yurchenko, dined at Au Pied with his CIA handler. As the above-pictured plaque in a booth at Au Pied points out, this was Yurchenko's last supper in the United States: excusing himself during the meal, Yurchenko ran to the nearby Soviet Embassy and reversed his defection. Described by Time as "the spy who returned to the cold," Yurchenko was awarded the Red Star when he returned to the Soviet Union; after the fall of Communism, he reportedly ended up working as a security guard at a bank in Moscow.

Au Pied de Cochon has been gone for a while, but I still miss the place - whenever I'm back on the Hilltop, I invariably notice the glaring absence of Au Pied as well as other extinct businesses that played some part in my Georgetown experience, like Sugar's Campus Store at the corner of 35th and O Streets, Olsson's Books on Wisconsin Avenue, and even the Orleans House across the river in Rosslyn. Here's hoping that Martin's Tavern at least remains in business, yea, even unto the end of the world. AMDG.


At 11/08/2012 1:42 AM, Anonymous Michael A. Cavanaugh said...

boy I miss this joint! When I was in grad school at Pitt, 77-83, I used to go to DC often to visit my father's aunt & uncle, had to stop in here. Good & cheap boeuf bourguignon (now a favorite of mine to cook at home), cheap Franzia jug wine, waiters straight out of Algeria. Here too I was introduced to the mysteries of alcool blancs, which I enjoy to this day. Once I was at an academic conference in DC, the Canadians were digging the rubber chicken at the hotel but our French colleagues were in despair; I sent them to Au Pied, they returned with smiles on their faces, enough to get through the rest of the conference.
Oh, yeah, Martin's Tavern is still there! Shad in season but always, Dogfish Head beer.
But on the whole, Georgetown is not what it used to be. I remember a French joint down Wisconsin from Au Pied, creperie, first (and last) place I tried brain. Also a great French bakery across the street from it. And a mens' shop (Britches?); now it all sterile & high-end international shops, one could be on Rodeo Drive.
One bright spot: when my friend Michel Richard left LA, he landed in Georgetown; though the hotel in which he established his new restaurant Citronelle had burst pipes (the very day I had a reservation this summer . . .) may take a year to fix; hope Michel hangs on. Michel is a genius in the kitchen; "worth the (proverbial) detour;" fortunately he also has Central on Pennsylvania Ave, near the National Archives/National Gallery (or the FBI building, if so inclined . . . or summoned!)

At 11/08/2012 2:00 AM, Anonymous Michael A. Cavanaugh said...

Duh-oh, I forgot to mention its sister restaurant, Aux Fruits de Mer (which shared a TINY kitchen); I remember fondly the homard Thermidor (my wife now makes this for me on occasion), also in summer the cold steamed lobster, which my mother also enjoyed.
Alas, Au Pied is now replaced by a sterile Five Guys with too much fluorescent lighting; Aux Fruits has been razed, nur Gott wisst what is in its place. But, thanks for the memories!

At 11/08/2012 3:05 PM, Blogger Joseph Koczera, S.J. said...

Thank you for the reminiscences - I agree that Georgetown isn't what it used to be; everytime I go back, some old favorite eatery or store is gone and replaced by a corporate chain place (or just as often by an empty storefront, given the sinking economy).

I heard that Au Pied's owner has opened a new place with a similar menu and ambience in Alexandria, but I don't have the name or location handy.

At 6/06/2013 10:07 AM, Blogger Joseph Koczera, S.J. said...

A reader has written to provide info on the new place started by Au Pied's former owner:

Yves Bistro
235 Swamp Fox Road
Alexandria, VA 22314

My correspondent also notes that said location is opposite the Eisenhower Metro, so it should be relatively easy to reach...

At 9/20/2013 10:56 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The hosts from the 70's, Henri and Francoise Lubet made my world go round back then. I think I was in love with the beautiful Francoise, but I'm sure I wasn't the only American boy smitten by her charms.
Que je me souviens d'eux.

At 6/08/2019 6:37 PM, Blogger vivian thompson said...

There was no place like it. My friends and I would meet at Au Pied, have a drink, maybe an early dinner and then off to wherever the night would take us! It was a magical time. Pictures of our locals and celebrities from all over the world were plastered on the walls, with wonderful stories behind each one. Bastille Day was always a blast. Steve Feldman's band Machu Picchu would play and we would pack in like sardines loving every minute. It was "the place". Not a day went by without stopping in. It was a second home. Au Pied will always hold a special place in my heart and there it lives on.

At 3/29/2021 2:45 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

wow, i just came across on the web about that night, my name is Marco Brenrini and I was working as a waiter the night Yurchenko was sitting at that bar with this 2 dudes ,(man in black) and yeap, he did it, next morning CIA shows up and did asked me question of what I remembered

At 3/29/2021 2:48 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

na na na, the man at night was Julio, PAPA was called by everyone and nobody will go if PAPA sais so, he was the GM and we the waiters run the place after 2am with an iron fist, literally


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