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Cafe Parisien Closes on Lee Highway

by ARLnow.com September 6, 2011 at 1:06 pm 7,277 87 Comments

Cafe Parisien, located at 4520 Lee Highway in the Lee Heights shopping center, has closed.

The French restaurant first closed its doors about a week ago, one of the neighboring shopkeepers said. Most of the interior has been emptied out and a sign announcing that the space is for lease is now displayed in the window.

The closure was sudden, and customers have told ARLnow.com that they had no indication the restaurant was even considering closing. A long-time fixture of the Lee Heights shopping strip, Cafe Parisien lacked a web site, but it did earn a write-up in the Washingtonian Magazine ‘Cheap Eats’ column in 2005.

“The menu is heavy on sandwiches, salads, quiches, and crepes,” Washingtonian said. “Everything is house-made, except for the cheesecake.”

  • North Cherrydaler

    That’s too bad; it was a nice little place for breakfast.

  • Richard Cranium

    “They” should put a Wegmans there.

    • Lou

      That area is a froyo desert.

  • WestoverChick

    That place was ok but I like Cassett’s. I wish Cassett’s could expand into that space.

    • MaydayMalone

      Your geography is a little off – for Cassatts to expand into that space, they would have to also expand through a Starbucks, a Jewelry store, a furniture store and Bradshaw’s shoes.

      • Key Word “Wish”

        I believe that’s why she used the word “wish”. She wishes Cassatts could expand to that place, didn’t say they should, or that it was a possibility.

  • RosslynBoom

    damn, this sucks. i have good memories here

  • Chris

    So sad, my wife and I used to get weekend breakfast there when we lived in Cherrydale. Amazing bread and jam.

  • Ballston Resident

    For years they gave cheap plastic cups when you bought one of their expensive bottles of wine. Why not a real glass instead of plastic? It was never a good experience which it could have been. This would not fly in Paris nor did it in Arlington.

    Sorry to see them go, but it is their own fault. They did not respect their customers.

    • Josh S

      I always thought the plastic cutlery, etc was very strange and wrong. And the portions were a bit small. But they did seem to get decent business over the years.
      Sad to see them go….

      • CW

        Wait, small portions at a place with “Parisien” in its name? No way.

  • dallynd

    Rasmus.com had an auction of all their stuff online fully a week before. It was very short notice.

  • I got that PMA


  • EStSRN8

    @ARLnow – copy edit needed “shopping” strip instead of “shipping.” Graph 2. Line 2.

    • Okay

    • but given the forecast

      and the proximity to Donaldson Run “shipping” could be correct before the week is out

  • Wow

    That sucks. We ate there maybe a month ago. Great crepes, etc., and very affordable. Now Le Madeleine is the only affordable French place.

    Not sure why they folded. Great spot for a business. Plenty of parking and seating and right there between two major highways.

    • Lee-n-Glebe

      The business sold maybe 18-24 mos ago, (maybe a little longer ago than that). It went a little downhill after that. I thought it was great, although expensive, before then.

  • MaydayMalone

    The Homemade Pizza Co should be the next to go – there’s never anybody in there and it’s a ridiculous business model. They don’t open until 3 pm, it’s very overpriced, and – oh yeah – you’ve gotta go home and cook the pizza yourself.

    • Lee-n-Glebe

      There’s never anybody in there because you order ahead and the go pick it up, very little need to hang around for more than a minute or two.

      I think they are doing just fine – their pizzas are good and their salads are very good. A scientifically inaccurate sampling of less-than-random people that I know indicates that “everybody” likes them and gets their pizzas “all the time.” (1)

      (1) Margin of error +/- 92%.

    • Sean

      I’m with you Mayday. I was baffled by the Homemade Pizza Company. Their pizza is nothing to rave about. It’s no exaggeration to say that some frozen pizzas at the grocery store are better. And the prize is unexplainable given that you have to cook it yourself.

      But I will say that there are some folks who like it quite a bit. You and I are just not their demographic.

  • Ballston Resident

    Space is now open for a more worthy business. Hope we get a better one.

    • DR

      Yeah maybe a bagel shop, that would be great.

      • Wow

        Try Brueger’s in Ballston. I know it’s a chain, but ohmygod their bagels are good.

        • TJ

          You’ve never been to Brooklyn Bagels in Courthouse, have you?

          • Wow

            Nope, but good to know! Still, Brueger’s are really good–light, chewy, very fresh–hard to see what’s wrong with ’em.

          • Bagel Queen

            That Iranian-run joint next to Four Courts? Awful.

          • Bon Air mom

            I never post here but I have to disagree – born and raised in Manhattan, the real city, and I know bagels – practically teethed on them. Brooklyn Bagels are the closest to an authentic New York bagel and they are good. Owner is from Brooklyn & his nationality is not something you need to mention in your post.

          • Bagel Fan

            Agreed – Brooklyn are the closest you’re going to get to a bagel in the area. Most things sold in the DC area as a bagel is just a chewy bread roll. Not necessarily bad, but not a bagel.

          • Ethnologist

            Other posters mentioned the previous and current owners of Cafe Parisien’s nationality, so why not.

          • Clizzle Dizzle

            Seconded. We go there every weekend to get our fix.

          • FYI

            “Nationality” = citizenship. You mean “national origin” or “ethnicity.”

      • Ballston Resident

        Giant and Harris Teeters have great bagels – and they are reasonable.

        • Josh S

          *sputters* – Wha—?!? Those are NOT “great” bagels. They’re fine, but they are a far cry from “great” bagels.

          • Ballston Resident


            Go to Giant or Harris Teeters at 6:00 a.m. when the bagels are coming out of the oven fresh. They are great, not sputters whatever that means. For the price, they can’t be beat. They really are great.

            What’s wrong with getting a good deal on a bagel?

          • david

            Nothing’s wrong with getting a good deal on a bagel but Bruegers are only a small step above Chesapeake Bagel – which isn’t saying much.

          • Ballston Resident


            I’m suggesting Giant or Harris Teeters for a really good and reasonably priced bagel – not Bruegers or Chesapeake Bagel. I think it is the best deal in town for a bagel. Try it, you’ll be surprised.

          • CW

            What? You mean there’s not only a very small subset of people who can combine flour, water, and a few other ingredients, then cut, proof, boil, and bake them? Blasphemy!!

          • Josh S

            Careful, CW. Making a joke out of arguments about quality can come back to bite you…..

          • CW

            Yeah, you’re right.

          • Wow

            So where do you get yours, o bagel connoisseur? And where can I find bialys?

  • Thank stinks. They had some good hot sandwiches.

    • Ballston Resident


      Their hot sandwiches were not that good.

  • CW

    Outsourced cheesecake has been the downfall of many businesses.

    • Nicolas Sarkozy

      Is cheesecake French?

      • Gataeux Du Fromage

        But of course it is French you nincompoops!

  • charlie

    good riddance.
    perfect example of an over-priced, poor service, non-courtesy oriented business that only survived … for who knows why…
    this is the kind of restaurant that would never make it in another city. but here in Arlington we celebrate mediocre restaurants and they stay in business long after they should have been closed.

    I went there years ago for a romantic breakfast and had horrible eggs, charged for a dixie cup of water, was requested to leave a tip, and all that for about $25.00 Never ever went back.

    • Ballston Resident

      Charlie – Well said. Glad they are gone.

      • Rosslynite

        You’re glad that a bunch of people lost their jobs?

        • Ballston Resident

          Glad that a bad restaurant is finally gone. Sorry for the people who lost their jobs. Hope they find something better soon.

        • charlie

          gosh no.
          glad a poorly run business is gone. they probably only had 2-3 staff. a restaurant in that location could have 10 staff if it cared and worked hard.
          short term loss long term gain. hoping.

    • Gonna stereotype but….

      “non-courtesy oriented” Aka – French. Haha… Sure, hate on me for it, but although known to be a romantic lacation, France isn’t exactly known for the people’s warm and fuzzy attitudes. 🙂 Some people like that… they don’t want to chat with their servers or be forced to smile at someone’s flair on their uniform… (not saying it’s for me, but it’s for some people.)

  • robert Quinn Cherrydale resident

    We liked the place. the food was good and the portion the right size for normal people unlike most places that cater to over weight americans.

    • Ballston Resident

      Robert – “Over weight” should be one word and “americans” should be initial caps.

      • RosslynBoom

        Grammer Police? Really Ballston Resident?

      • RosslynBoom

        Really Ballston Resident? Why are you picking on him?

        • drax

          Same reason robert is picking on “over weight americans.”

          • shirley

            +10 lbs.

      • RosslynBoom

        This is a comment section in a blog. He is not the author of a big time publication, relax.

        • Josh S

          Have you spent much time on blog comment sections? Grammar, puncuation, spelling – all fair game and quite common targets.
          Your first response is classic by the way – complaining about someone making a grammar comment and it includes a misspelling. Happens ALL the time. It’s almost like a scientific law now.
          Or was the misspelling intentionally “ironic.” You can’t always tell around this joint….

  • Chris

    Wait just one second everybody, STOP THE INTERNETS! Somebody made statement of personal opinion and\or a grammatical fauxpas. This cannot be tolerated.

    • RosslynBoom


  • jenny

    sad, that place has been there ever since i was a little kid living across the street. i adored the cafe’s chicken salad tarragon and their chocolate croissants. in high school, when i worked at the kid’s bookstore a few doors down, they used to deliver us platters of free finger sandwiches on christmas eve.

    even though people have bad things to say about their service, i really hate seeing that place ago. especially as the rest of that strip seems doomed to slowly lose it’s privately-owned, small restaurant feel.

    can’t wait until the giant yuppy chains move in.

    • Richard Cranium

      Yeah. Before you know it there’ll be a Starbucks there!

      Wait, what? Oh . . .

  • Shirley

    I ordered some kind of meat lunch there a while back and it sucked. Was so tough I couldn’t really even chew it. I thought to myself, this place isn’t going to last much longer.

  • Shirley

    Should add, I think the previous owners had better food than the most recent owners.

  • Mike

    Well, for what’s it worth I have to agree with most of the sentiment. Even so, I knew the owners when they first opened back in the 1980s as my wife and I had just purchased our first home in the surrounding neighborhood. And it was a delightful place to eat then, rest a bit and chat. Both the owner and his wife (who was a Foreign Service French Teacher) were very nice souls. But again, and like most establishments, the quality began to deteriorate after opening and for a multitude of reasons.
    Pure nostalgia for me. I’m sorry that it wasn’t as good as it was for those who visited in recent years.

  • Caroline Bouhdili

    To set the record straight: Lyddie and Yanni Staphanapoulos founded the restaurant and remained there until it was sold about three years ago to a guy who had no idea how to run a restaurant business. When Yanni and Lyddie ran the business the food was usually very good. The new guy tried to save on all the stuff that made the recipes good and the result was bad food. The new owner also lacked the Staphanopoulosees natural hospitality. I hope that this will become another restaurant run by nice folks who really cared about their customers. BTW the French Conversation group that met there every Monday from 7:30 PM to 8:30 PM has now moved to the CowBoy Cafe a little further up on Lee Highway.

  • Nancy

    For years, I went there every week. Unfortunately I think that the Ethiopian couple that purchased it from the French couple a few years ago wasn’t able to maintain the level of cooking…I remember ordering a piece of quiche and it came out heated (and soggy from a microwave.) I don’t think the original owners would have done that. Haven’t been back very often since. Feel bad about it because the new owners seemed to be very hardworking but not able to cut it.

    • Juanita de Talmas

      So Staphanapoulos is a French name? Who knew?

      • Jill

        Mr. Stephanopoulos is Greek, but lived for many years in France and spoke excellent French. It was a great restaurant and a fun place to visit as long as he and his wife were running it!

      • Yanni is Greek and Lydie is French.

  • DobbyBoy

    I can’t believe what I’m seeing. I’ve been a Cafe Parisien Express customer for more than 10 years and I have never had a bad experience! I LOVED it and was shocked when it was sold and even more shocked when I saw it was closed. A BAGEL shop? Horrors. It was a quirky, wonderful, local place. I wish Arlington had more of them. How many franchises does one little county need?

  • Debbie

    Blanche and Solomon, the couple who bought the cafe from Yanni and Lydie, worked as hard as they could to make it work; sadly for all of us and mostly for them and their two young sons, it was not successful. It had a small town, nostalgic atmosphere and was charming in spite of the demise over the last few years. Investing in and successfully running a food business must be one of the greatest challenges in our fickle economy; loyalty among the community helps but does always save an establishment. Rest in peace my beloved cafe. Great memories will linger long after the lights are out.

  • Jenniebird

    Try Le Marche for not too expensive and causal French. They’re on the back end of La Cote d Or on Westmoreland. Nice deck and brunch. Also has decent happy hour. Friendly staff

    • Melissa

      My young daughter recently became addicted to Cafe Parisien’s warm baguettes. Is it possible to buy a whole baguette at Le Marche? (We wandered down and got one today at Pastries by Randolph, but it just wasn’t the same.

  • WaverlyHills

    It was a cheesy place- I mean paper cups and plates, plastic cutlery? in a “French Bistro”- oh please… good riddance.

    • cromagnon


      “A bistro, sometimes spelled bistrot, is, in its original Parisian incarnation, a small restaurant serving moderately priced simple meals in a modest setting. Bistros are defined mostly by the foods they serve. Home cooking with robust earthy dishes, and slow-cooked foods like cassoulet are typical.”

    • You are so wrong. if you had known Yanni and Lydie you would have known what a wonderful place it was.

  • Cate

    Place had indeed been around forever, and I’ve been going there since the 80s. Thats aid, when the most recent owners took over they just didn’t understand what people liked about it, and didn’t bother to continue the traditions of good food in a bargain environment. As one poster stated, the quiche, which had been a signature dish, was microwaved, and the crepe dishes were not high-quality. You cannot expect to last forever based on the feelings of people who simply miss what it once was. I do wish that someone who cares would buy and fix it, and certainly don’t want some chain to move in, but I’ve learned that in Arlington most people just don’t care about local. So I’m sure that whatever chain moves in will get plenty of business from the yuppified folk who inhabit what was once an intersting and diverse space in the universe. Hey, how about a teeny tiny Cheesecake Factory Abomination to match the one in Clarendon. And yes, I am bitter–so would anyone be who had a memory and some taste.

  • Dan

    Agree with prior posters. This was a fabulous place until it changed hands. Used to go once every couple months, and we were never disappointed. Then one day we went in and met the new owners. The first thing we noticed was the cleanliness of the place was off. And the freshness of the food had suffered. But most surprisingly, the two people behind the counter could not open the bottle of wine. A French restaurant where they can’t open a bottle of wine? We concluded then that the new owners faced long odds. Two more trips with poor food and we decided they weren’t worth another chance. I’m surprised they made it as long as they did.

  • This is a real bummer. I was at Cafe Parisien from the day it opened in 1986 or 1987. The founders, Lydie and Yanni Stephanopolis, are wonderful people. I was sorry when they sold it. I have such fond memories of good food, congenial staff and a little taste of Paris. I am truly saddened.

  • Greer

    Our group had an informal “salon” at the Parisian Cafe most Saturday mornings for probably 20 years. Yanni and Lydie were wonderful people dedicated to running a good business and became members of our “family.” We missed them when they sold the place, and we missed their dedication and service and food quality. Though they tried hard in many ways, the new owners were not cut out to run a restaurant and would not listen to any advice. We continued to go there out of habit but there was a noticeable lack of custom. When the eggs started coming out of a premixed package, I gave up on the food.

    We will miss the past. So many good, happy, sometimes loud times we had, with family and friends (some dear and now gone), “mystery guests,” and with Lydie and Yannie.

  • Joan

    I second all the comments about what a wonderful couple Yanni and Lydie were. I loved the baguettes with butter, the scrambled eggs, and the couscous, which they featured now and then.

    I also enjoyed having someone correct my French when I was brave enough to speak it.

    Does anyone know how Yanni and Lydie are doing?

  • Mary

    Just stumbled upon this posting as I was nostalgic for old arlington references. I’m an arlington native, born 1961. I used to take my very french, very proper grandmother there when it first opened and she was in her 80s. The food and proprietership were good enough for her tastes and she had both dined with and cooked for presidents. As for drinking wine out of a plastic cup, while perhaps not ideal, suit the accoutrements to the circumstances. This was a casual french eatery, after all! My grandmothers everyday wine glass of choice was a glass jam jar. She’d laugh at all these airs, I can tell you. Taste and class are something one brings to the occasion, not something one is served out of a sense of entitlement. Pauvre France, as my grandmother would say! Yuppification sucks, say I.

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  • Jake_O

    Speaking of places that have been around forever – what’s the story with the Carriage House in Cherrydale? That joint any good?


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