In a city with an ever-evolving restaurant scene, it can be hard to keep up with all of the new buzzy restaurants in Chicago. So it was nice when the D.C. Bitches connected me with the partner of a new restaurant in Lakeview called Maison Marcel.
After a few email exchanges to learn more about the new spot and when it would be open, I was delighted when I was invited to bring a few girlfriends in and check out brunch. So we set a date for the first weekend of fall, and Svetlana, Ashley and I headed north to enjoy Sunday brunch.
Having not had our first cup of coffee yet, the day didn’t start off exactly as Svetlana and I planned, thanks to a 15 minute detour to a restaurant called Maison Parisienne, another French spot in Lakeview. Luckily, we were en route early, so by the time we figured out our mistake we arrived at the restaurant to meet Ashley just in time for our reservation.
Maison Marcel is a gorgeous restaurant with a chic, relaxed interior. Inside there are comfortable and quaint tables and chairs, with hanging plants and hammocks that adorn the space. A cute bakery counter and juice bar are located in the back of the restaurant. It is a picture-perfect atmosphere for an Insta-worthy brunch, for sure.
The restaurant was buzzing with people, inside and out, so we were thankful to have a reservation … or so we thought. To our surprise there was no reservation under my name, and with the restaurant packed and with a small wait, it was quite the uncomfortable arrival.
Despite me having an email exchange from just days prior confirming our reso, no one was aware of it. Additionally, we were informed that the partner who made the reservation was no longer a part of the restaurant. A weird arrival.
The hostess, though completely confused, did her best to accommodate us and seated us at a lovely little three-person table complete with two seats and a swinging hammock chair. Of course I had to have the swinging chair.
The restaurant serves coffee, tea, and fresh made house juices. We were brought over a sampler plate of the new juices thanks to the handsome head juice guy, and they were all delicious. Svetlana opted for an iced coffee, while I went with a hot drip coffee. They were both bold and tasty—Metric coffee is my favorite.
Service was kind of slow at first; the restaurant was really busy. But once our server caught his breath he kindly guided us through the menu and gave us all of his recommendations.
Being the complete Francophile that I am, I ordered a croissant without hesitation, and imagined I was in a boulangerie in the middle of Paris. Oh la la! Everything on the menu sounded delicious, a good mix of French dishes and breakfast favorites, with a hint of Mediterranean influences.
In addition to the croissant, the girls and I couldn’t help but order the crêpes Maison Marcel with homemade marmalade. Both the croissant and the crêpes were rival of any patisserie in France, and were enjoyed by all three of us. The marmalade was sweet and fruity, and thankfully not too heavy.
We ordered the rest of our plates to share as well; the avocado toast tartine, the purple cauliflower grits, and the Moroccan couscous. They arrived at the table at the same time and were presented beautifully; rich in color and texture, the dishes looked delectable.
The avocado toast tartine came topped with red radishes, seeds, micro green, organic farm poached eggs, and was served with a side of sweet potatoes sautéed in herbs. The bread was thick, making the toast perfect for absorbing the egg yolk and the avocado. It was a good healthy addition to our otherwise filling meal thus far, of crêpes and pastries.
The purple cauliflower grits were fantastic. Not only did they look beautiful, but they tasted as good as they looked. They also came with poached farm eggs on top, which was a nice creamy and savory touch to a dish that I would have otherwise considered a side. This could easily have been a meal; it was flavorful and filling thanks to the eggs, beets, and turnips.
The overall favorite at the table was hands down, the Moroccan couscous with red peppers, potatoes, raisins, hummus, eggplant, mint, and a side of Merguez sausages. Our server raved about it, so we were delighted when it tasted as good as he described. The hummus was light and tarte, the raisins added a touch of sweetness, and the sausages were the perfect amount for sharing. We all really enjoyed this dish!
Maison Marcel also has a variety of fresh pastries and of course, the French dessert favorite, macarons. These beautiful little dessert pillows were as delicious as one would imagine. Larger in size, you definitely get your money’s worth with these macarons.
Although it was an interesting and at times uncomfortable meal, to say the least, the fresh American-French fare is truly delicious. It is the perfect spot for a quick weekend bite with friends, or bring your laptop during the day and enjoy some delicious food and coffee as you work alone. Though the space is charming, it can be a little stuffy with foot traffic. Additionally, they don’t serve booze so don’t expect brunch libations.
The Bitches Say: B-. The atmosphere at Maison Marcel is lovely, reminiscent of an adorable French patisserie in Paris. The menu isn’t vast but the food options are unique and delicious, and the housemade, breads, pastries and juices are fantastic.