As we all know (and last week’s James Beard Awards further confirmed), Chicago’s restaurant scene has an embarrassment of riches. It’s about to become even more bounteous as another Beard award–winning chef enters the fray: Michael Mina will unveil Margeaux Brasserie (Waldorf Astoria Chicago, 11 E. Walton Pl., Gold Coast) this summer.
Along with partner/tennis royalty Andre Agassi, Mina’s San Francisco–based restaurant group manages 22 concepts—including Michelin-starred Michael Mina restaurant in San Francisco—but the classic French eatery (and the lobby-level patisserie Petit Margeaux, which will open a few weeks later) is the company’s first venture into Chicago.
Mina, who is based in San Francisco, appreciates the Baylesses and Gruenebergs of our city: “You already have amazing chefs here doing amazing food. It’s important to do something that will add to the [culinary] landscape, especially if you are from out of town.” The chef is trained in European-style cooking and operates two other French concepts (including another brasserie at the Aria Hotel in Las Vegas), and he feels Chicago is ripe for traditional French fare. “There’s always room for a good authentic brasserie,” he says.
While Mina continues to man the kitchen at his namesake San Francisco spot, Chicago-bred Brent Balika (the Dawson) will step in as executive chef at Margeaux Brasserie. He’ll cook breakfast, dinner, and weekend brunch using traditional techniques and Midwestern ingredients. Mina mentions classics such as roast chicken with braised bacon, steak tartare, steak frites, and Dover sole meunière. Pastry chef Ashley Torto (also formerly of the Dawson) creates such desserts as a chocolate macaron with chocolate crémeux.
With marble-topped tables, dark wooden accents, and burgundy leather chairs, “the restaurant will look very French. One hundred percent,” Mina promises. A brasserie is a natural fit for the Waldorf, which was designed to emulate the glamour of Parisian hotels of the 1920s. Similarly, a restaurant from another superstar chef will fit right in in Chicago.