When Paul Virant announced last year that his acclaimed restaurant in Western Springs, Vie, was closing, it caused a ripple in the dining scene. Vie was a notable stalwart, a reliable yet innovative restaurant that had received consistently excellent reviews for almost 20 years and provided a platform for Virant to showcase his love of local ingredients and preservation. Now, almost a year after the closing, Virant has opened a new spot just around the corner, Petite Vie, showcasing his love for French brasserie favorites.

As so often happens in the restaurant business, Vie died because of real estate issues. “The landlord had been difficult for a long time,” Virant explains, noting the landlord wanted to aggressively raise the restaurant’s rent. Luckily for Virant, a nearby building with an existing restaurant space was for sale, and he was able to get ahold of it. “I’ve never owned a commercial building before,” Virant says. The existing restaurant buildout made Petite Vie a relatively easy construction job.

I asked Virant why not just move Vie, so successful after 19 years, around the corner and keep it going. “I think as a chef, it’s fun to look to reinvent things at times,” he says. He also noted the success of more casual restaurants, the closure of nearby Mon Ami Gabi, and his traditional French training as factors in the choice to change concepts. “It felt like it was time to go back to my roots.”

At first glance, the menu at Petite Vie is about as typical French brasserie as a menu could possibly be. From pâté to escargot to duck confit to steak frites, it is a menu of classics, without much obvious innovation. That’s an intentional choice. “When I opened Vie, I was 34 years old. At that age, you want to create your own unique food,” explains Virant. “As I’ve gotten older, I have so much appreciation and respect for the classics done well.”

That doesn’t mean that innovation and Virant’s signature touches aren’t hiding beneath the surface. Meat is still local, with Slagel Farms pork tenderloins being cooked hunter style with tomatoes, white wine, and mushrooms and then reappearing again in the restaurant’s housemade pâtés and charcuterie. The pickles, a combination of cucumbers and haricot verts, are housemade, and seasonal produce abounds — a spring gnocchi with peas and ramps is about to drop off the menu, so stop by soon. You might be pleasantly surprised by the low prices; Virant wants to keep the place approachable, so don’t expect to blow your bankroll here.

A few dishes may be a little more unfamiliar. The tourtons du champsaur, which Virant describes as “basically a French empanada” is a buttery pasta dough filled with potatoes, leeks, shallots, garlic, cream, butter, and cheese. Don’t miss a classic dish (that you almost never see anymore) which is inspired by Virant’s first restaurant job outside of St. Louis — it’s a take on Sole Veronique, made with halibut, white wine, butter, grapes, and lots of and lots of shallots.

Virant has big plans for Petite Vie — as he put it, he wants to “build a beast” with the concept. For the moment, it’s open for dinner six days a week, but brunch starts on June 22, and then eventually all-day café dining featuring Sparrow Coffee and French pastries. And that isn’t the only development to come from Virant, who also plans to expand his Japanese spot, Gaijin, to the suburbs, possibly to O’Hare, and to other locations across the country. So, while Vie may be just a happy memory, Virant isn’t slowing down a bit. 909 Burlington Ave., Western Springs