Eat Smart Review: Kafe Leopold in Georgetown, D.C.
It's a sharp "modern Austrian" cafe right near the heart of Georgetown in Washington, D.C. Hint #3: Go to the bathroom
Kafe Leopold's is another in our series of great restaurants in D.C. that often don't make the Top 10 lists. It's "modern Austrian," affecting a hip Viennese bistro vibe. Hence the "K" in "kafe."
Getting to Kafe Leopold
Leopold’s isn’t far from Georgetown’s molten core of crazy at Wisconsin and M. But it’s tucked away on a quiet, lovely pedestrian lane about 5 minutes away called Cady’s Alley.
To get to Leopold’s, you’ve got to find a little cutaway niche on M Street almost hidden between 33rd and Bank Streets. You go down the pretty long staircase, and come out directly in Leopold’s small but pleasant little courtyard.
It’s got about a dozen cafe tables with umbrellas, and a neat fountain to build that European vibe. They put out fans in Washington's punishing summers, and heat lamps when it's cold, providing three-season outdoor dining.
Eat Smart Tip #1: Expect modern Austrian, not old-school
Leopold’s bills itself as Modern Austrian, which gives it a kind of hip mid-European vibe, like a contemporary bistro in a swank neighborhood in Vienna.
A lot of items on the menu will be really familiar to what you see at other bistros -- things like kale salad, avocado toast, croques madame and monsieur, mushroom tarts.
But they’re given German names and often have European-style tweaks, like Emmenthaler cheese, olive-bread croutons, or an elderflower vinaigrette.
Go old-school Austrian if you want
But if you want to go all-in with old-school Austrian, you can do that. Order Leopold’s signature item: the schnitzel.
It’s a beautiful cut of veal, pounded thin like it should be, breaded, and fried crisp.
It’s crunchy and savory and tender -- and tart and peppery from its big showbiz garnish, a handful of arugula with lemon-mustard dressing.
On the side? Another Leopold’s essential: Potato salad. This is not that crayon-yellow stuff called "German potato salad" in the deli case at the grocery store.
It shows up as a little bowlful of thick slices of beautifully tender boiled and roasted potato, skin on, and dusted with parsley.
There’s a ramekin of creamy, punchy mustard sauce. You dip the potatoes yourself to essentially finish the dish in your mouth. That potato salad is a real knockout.
Eat Smart Tip #2: Get dessert
Don’t leave without getting dessert -- it’s probably Leopold’s greatest strength. They have their own pastry chef, and it shows.
On our last visit, trying to stick with the Germanic theme, we followed our schnitzel with the Black Forest cake. It was gorgeous and delicious, slightly bitter and with the sweetness a bit restrained -- in that European way.
They’ve got dozens of choices...opera cake, eclairs, Napoleons, Sacher torte, petit fours, and more.
And Leopold’s has a pretty expensive European coffee machine. It turns out fantastic, beautifully presented Viennese coffees in a style you won’t in other Georgetown coffee shops.
Eat Smart Tip #3: Go to the bathroom
I know, I know -- this sounds crazy. But don’t leave before you’ve used Leopold’s bathrooms.
They’ve got several immaculate, private unisex stalls lining a mirrored hallway, with floor to ceiling doors, stainless steel handles, and little signs in German.
It all feels very hip and very European...
Kind of like Leopold’s.
Note: We've found the Kafe Leopold post-Covid service spotty in busy times, and the front-of-the-house management sometimes unfriendly and unhelpful. You may need to be both friendly and assertive to get seated and served. That approach has worked for us.