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May 30, 2007 06:26 AM

NYC Chowhounds need High-end French Lunch

We are two NYC foodies who have been to La Francais (when it was great) The Everest Room, Ambria, Tru, Trotters, Blackbird etc. We are looking for a great haute-French lunch spot and are having trouble finding a place that serves a great, relaxed three hour type lunch.
We are also after a stunning wine list to go along with it. Please help!!

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  1. I for one cannot think of a place that fits your criteria, at least during the lunch hour (and unfortunately I can't remember the last time I took a three hour lunch).

    Kiki's Bistro is open for lunch and serves good french cuisine (although perhaps not the haute-French food for which you are looking).

    3 Replies
    1. re: JJ.

      IMO, the food at Kiki's hasn't been edible for many years and the wine list quite poor at best. When you mentioned Le Francais (when it was great) were you speaking of the original Jean Banchet Le Francais or the Roland Liccioni incarnation of Le Francais? Chef Roland has been back in the kitchen at LF since 2005 and is turning out some truly delicious food. The wine list remains formidable (albeit pricey). LF may very be the last 3 hour lunch spot left in the Greater Chicago Area.

      1. re: Vinny Barbaresco

        Actually no, LF is not left either.

        From today's Trib.:

        It's adieu to Le Francais
        Posted by Phil Vettel at 1:40 p.m. CDT

        It appears to be c'est tout (that's all) for the legendary restaurant Le Francais (269 S. Milwaukee Ave., Wheeling). Owner Michael Moran quickly and quietly closed the restaurant last week. The restaurant's answering machine announces that the restaurant has "temporarily suspended service," but insiders are saying that Le Francais is gone for good.

        "What can I say? I was shocked when I found out," said chef Roland Liccioni, who acknowledged that business had been slow but had been hopeful of a turnaround. "I have no idea what I'll do now, to tell you the truth. I'll take some time off to clear my head."

        Le Francais opened in February 1973 under chef Jean Banchet, and for most of the ensuing 34 years was the standard-bearer for fine dining in the Chicago area. It closed for nearly a year after a fire in July 1975, and again in June 2003 before being resuscitated five months later after Moran purchased the moribund restaurant. But, 4 1/2 years later, that rescue effort appears to be over. (Efforts to reach Moran for comment were unsuccessful.)

        Michael Lachowicz, one of just four chefs in Le Francais' history, praised the establishment as "a chef's restaurant" that "changed the face" of the restaurant industry.

        "Any chef who isn't sad at this news either forgot why he became a chef, or was never a chef in his heart in the first place," Lachowicz said. "All its ups and downs of the last few years doesn't change the impact this restaurant had on Chicago."

        What will you miss most about Le Francais? Share your memories here.

      2. New place called Aigre Doux has been getting great reviews...high end food, but may not be high end decor...similarly, Chez Joel on Taylor Street. Otherwise Nomi at the Park Hyatt or Cafe des Architects at the Sofitel

        5 Replies
        1. re: ChicagoKat

          I had a very mediocre meal at Chez Joel a few months ago. And, it is really more of the bistro genre than high-end French. Unfortunately, the market for high end French food has really declined. Once upon a time Chicago was home to places like Le Perroquet or La Tour, which would have fit the bill but no more. The few that remain (Everest, Nomades) don't serve lunch.

          1. re: masha

            Interestingly, a semi-recent NYT profile of Chicago dining took the position that the decline of old-school French restaurants in the city was a sign that the currently vibrant restaurant scene had arrived.

            1. re: Dedalus

              I find that a glib interpretation.

          2. re: ChicagoKat

            Have you been to Aigre Doux? We went for dinner and I don't think it fits with what the OP is looking for (plus I didn't think it lived up to the hype, but that's another story...)

            1. re: jesteinf

              NoMi might do the job, though their lunch menu is trimmed down (not sure the evening menu is available).. See their site:

          3. Would Les Nomades fit the bill?

            Les Nomades
            222 East Ontario St.


            1 Reply
            1. re: chigirl71

              Guess not. . .they're not open for lunch. Sorry!!!

            2. I think you've uncovered a real "missing" in the Chicago dining scene. There are a number of great Italian restaurants for leisurely lunch, but I don't know of any French. Spiaggia would be an option, as would Coco Pazzo.

              Hope someone fills that French lunch option.

              1 Reply
              1. re: chicgail

                For a French lunch, I am afraid you will have to settle for bistro fare. The reason that formal multi-course lunch options don't exist anymore in Chicago, is that there is no market for them. Most people do not have the time, or the desire, to spend 3 hours eating lunch. 25 years ago, there were several places in the Gold Coast that offered such options. They catered to the wealthy matrons of leisure, who could take 3 hours off from shopping on Oak Street and Michigan Avenue, to enjoy a lengthy and costly mid-day meal. However, as the clientèle passed-on, so did the restaurants. If you want a nice, (non-French) lunch, I would suggest Naha or (as suggested up-thread) Nomi. North Pond also starts serving lunch on June 6 until September.

              2. The only option (and not quite a fit) is La Sardine which is open for lunch I think and considered competant French by many.


                2 Replies
                1. re: Scooped

                  Never been to La Sardine for lunch, but it's good for dinner...and on Tuesday nights, with the $25 3-course, you'd think there were no other restaurants in the West Loop. Geez!

                  1. re: ddfry3

                    La Sardine for lunch is quite nice, and certainly more relaxed than the Tuesday night dinners. In fact, there is a $22 prix fixe lunch deal too - I believe every day. Not quite the haute cuisine genre that the OP was seeking, but certainly a possibility.