Café Marie-Jeanne: A Rustic French Dream That Transcends French Cuisine
Neighborhood: Humboldt Park
Vegetarian Options Rating: ★★★
Pescatarian Options Rating: ★★★★
Food Quality: ★★★★★
Overall Rating: ★★★★★
If you want a cozy, intimate, yet exciting dining experience, Café Marie-Jeanne is a perfect option. I absolutely adored everything about this place. It has “traditional” French food but also innovative, contemporary dishes that are made in really unique ways. There was nothing I ate here that I didn’t love. We came here on a Wednesday night and decided to try the $36/person prix fixe menu, which was a decent deal because it included options from each part of the menu. It was an excellent way to try the menu! The decor is rustic and adorable in a way that conveys they aren’t trying too hard but still care. They had written their specials on a chalkboard like a traditional French Bistro, which I found endearing. It was dimly lit, but not too dimly lit so you could still see your dinner companion. It is a perfect place for an intimate friend or romantic dinner date!
The hostess was pleasant and our server was really helpful with explaining the prix fixe menu. We also were there later at night and didn’t feel rushed out or anything. She was also helpful with recommendations and down to earth, which is unique in contemporary, rustic places like this. Being a fan of French cuisine and salty fish products, I was in love with the menu and wanted to try everything. The prix fixe option was a perfect way to try as much as I wanted and the portions were excellent. We had a lot of leftovers.
We started out with the caviar toast. The bread was amazing and soaked up the crème fraiche perfectly with the salty caviar. I typically don’t like crème fraiche, but this one tasted more like a cheese and not like sour cream (I hate sour cream). The caviar melted in my mouth. Another way of getting our salty fish fix was by ordering the smoked trout and the hot smoked salmon, which came with more delicious bread, pickled cucumbers, onions, a hard boiled egg, and potatoes. The fish was prepared perfectly, had an amazing texture, and was smoked really well.
One of their specials that day was “curry anchovy fries” which were also mouthwateringly delicious! The salty anchovy flavor went seamlessly with the curry flavor and the breading. It came with three different dipping sauces and my favorite one was this chili oil sauce that complemented the spice of the curry well. Being a cheesehead, I couldn’t go to a French restaurant without ordering a cheese plate. They have different cheese specials everyday written on the board so we ordered a cheese from France and from California. The cheese from California was very unique. It was light, flaky, and looked like a flower almost. It had a very mild, nutty flavor. The French cheese was like a traditional creamy Brie or Camembert cheese that paired well with the apples on the plate. It also came with more delicious bread!
For the entree part, I ordered the bucatini that had langoustines and a chili oil sauce and it was truly amazing. I unfortunately couldn’t enjoy this too much because I was full from the other courses. But the sauce had bread crumbs and chili oil that the langoustines were generously sautéed in. The bucatini pasta tasted fresh too. Since we were super full, we didn’t order dessert. The prix fixe was a really flexible option because we ordered an extra appetizer instead of dessert.
I truly cannot wait for the next time I have the opportunity to dine here. It is a pricier place, but it is worth the price and the prix fixe menu on a Wednesday night was a much more affordable way to try these delicacies.
Margeaux Brasserie: A Taste of Classic, Parisian Cuisine
Neighborhood: Gold Coast
Vegetarian Options Rating: ★★
Pescatarian Options Rating: ★★★
Food Quality: ★★★★★
Overall Rating: ★★★★★
Located within the Waldorf Astoria Chicago, Margeaux Brasserie takes you back to classic Parisian cuisine with a 1920’s style decor. I have had the pleasure of dining here for dinner and brunch. When I first came here, I was here for my dear friend’s birthday celebration. It was the perfect place for two Francophiles. I absolutely adore French restaurants and Brasseries. I really liked that this was a traditional Parisian Brasserie and it was sooo charming! The service was excellent both times. The hosts were nice and gave my friend a cute birthday card. The server was great as well and helpful with everything. They weren’t snobby and completely down to earth, which is refreshing for a fancy place like this.
Their wine list is expansive and their cocktails are amazing. They were uniquely crafted and flavorful. We had a sweeter, fruity cocktail that wasn’t overly sugary but had nice Tiki vibes. We had a more traditional old fashioned whiskey based cocktail that was intense but not too intense for someone who doesn’t drink hard liquor by itself.
Everything I ate here was absolutely delicious. They could have had more vegetarian options, they didn’t have any vegetarian entrees but for what they did have, it was absolutely delicious and there were enough pescatarian options at least. They serve you a nice warm baguette with a scrumptious sea salt butter. It was so nice and crusty. We started out with the sweet leek and corn veloute. It was like a lighter, delicious version of a corn chowder but it was some soup served over crab and truffle. The truffle wasn’t very strong but the crab tasted very fresh.
For my dinner I ordered the French Onion soup with the mushroom and fennel fricassee. Wow! These dishes in themselves are five stars. It was one of the best French Onion soups I have ever had in my life! The cheese was crusted and baked nicely. It was also a fine mixture of cheese such as an aged Gruyere. And the chives were freshly drizzled on top. The broth had a wine flavor to it as well that was impeccable. The mushroom fennel fricassee was out of this world. I can’t remember the last time I had mushrooms that were this phenomenal. The sauce was a mixture of wine, broth, and cream and every bite was heavenly. The mushrooms were fresh and had a perfect texture.
They also gave us a complimentary piece of Opera cake (I believe) for my friend’s birthday and that was decadent but not overly decadent. I couldn’t eat enough of it even though I knew I had to stop and did eventually stop.
I returned here for brunch a couple of months later and it was another exquisite dining experience. It has a classic, elegant feel with the option of sitting in the more private dining area or in the bistro style brasserie. They didn’t have too many savory vegetarian options on the menu but decent pescatarian options. Being the Nutella lovers that we are, we started with the Nutella Sticky Bun, which had some Tahitian vanilla brioche and toasted hazelnut drizzled on top. It was absolutely decadent and amazing.
When I go out for brunch, Smoked Salmon Eggs Benedict is my go to entrée and I’ve been disappointed many times at other restaurants. The Smoked Salmon Eggs Benedict at Margeaux was the best I have had in Chicago! The eggs were poached perfectly with a scrumptious, creamy Bearnaise sauce served over a bed of fresh spinach. Instead of the traditional English Muffin, it was served on a flaky, fresh croissant. The salmon was smoked perfectly and very delightful. We also ordered some breakfast potatoes on the side and they were seasoned exquisitely with herbs, sautéed onions, and a bit of a gravy. I don’t think I’ve had better made breakfast potatoes at a restaurant before.
We left our brunch feeling satisfied and in love with the flavors and ambience of Margeaux Brasserie. I love this place and can’t wait to come back here for another special occasion. Yes, it’s pricey unfortunately, but everything is high quality here ranging from the drinks to the food to the service. Brunch is a more affordable way to dine here though.