Cari Taylor-Carlson
Dining

Café Grace Boasts French Bistro Fare

New Tosa cafe has good food, cozy atmosphere.

By - Dec 20th, 2016 03:50 pm
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Café Grace. Photo by Cari Taylor-Carlson.

Café Grace. Photo by Cari Taylor-Carlson.

After I interviewed Zach Espinosa, Executive Chef at Café Grace, a Bartolotta-managed restaurant, one of three in the Mayfair Collection, I knew Espinosa would set a high bar for the cuisine in this café/bistro. He came to Café Grace from Harbor House where he also served as Executive Chef. That menu focuses on seafood and steak. Now he’s taken on a different challenge, bringing French flair to Café Grace, an unpretentious white tablecloth restaurant, easily accessed from Highway 45 for people who live in the western suburbs.

At a private gathering, prior to the official opening, I enjoyed a taste of several of the choices now found on the menu. From a few samples, I can report on the following: Gougeres, pastry puffs filled with Grand Cru fondue are mini-cream puffs, single bites that explode into savory cheesy deliciousness; Pate de Campagne, a coarse country pate, served with cornichons, has a robust earthy flavor, very French and needs the sweet/sour cornichons to take the edge off “earthy;” Corvelle De Canut, a farmers cheese spread, enhanced by shallots, chives, and olive oil, goes down easily, a mild crowd pleaser to spread on a baguette; Crevettes or poached jumbo shrimp, truly “jumbo,” will be appreciated by all who crave more than a singular bite of the usual cocktail shrimp. Pickling spices and lemon in the poaching liquid added flavor to the shrimp while mild horseradish in the cocktail sauce added some pungent heat; Gigot D’ Agneau, leg of lamb, fork tender, juicy, with a hint of rosemary, will delight lamb aficionados; Canard Confit, duck cooked in its own fat, tasted strong, gamey. At dinner they will serve it with spinach, walnuts, and cherry gastrique, a classic French sweet and sour sauce to dull the gamey flavor.

We also sampled two desserts, a flawless, flourless chocolate cake, with a soft warm dark chocolate center, and a lemon tart, appropriately tart, a taste so delicious I can recall it as if it were today’s breakfast.

The bar at Café Grace. Photo by Cari Taylor-Carlson.

The bar at Café Grace. Photo by Cari Taylor-Carlson.

Since the café will serve 11:00a.m.-2:00p.m., Monday-Friday, until the end of the year, a friend and I return for lunch. As soon as we come in the bar area, we notice light pouring in from the west in this airy space, larger than your average French bistro. Yet, it’s cozy, with well-spaced tables to give diners some privacy. An open kitchen provides some entertainment if conversation lags. The fleur-de-lis tile floor mimics carpet, but doesn’t do much to soften the noise level when the restaurant is full, as it was on my first visit.

When we’re seated, our attentive server asks, “Would you like lemon with your water?” It’s a small gesture, a harbinger of good coming. Soon after he returns with bread, crusty warm, fresh from the oven, accompanied by two slabs of butter, solid, almost frozen.

Okay, this is a nitpick: please do not serve me butter so hard that I need a sharp knife to cut through it. The bread and I deserve better.

While we wait, soft music plays in the background, Edith Piaf caberet-style tunes which put us in a happy place, far from the view of the parking lot visible through the generous front windows.

The Crepe au Boeuf surpasses my expectations. The filling, dominated by tender, juicy shaved top sirloin has slivers of wild mushrooms, caramelized onions, braised kale, and pops of roasted tomato which surprise my mouth as I revel in this succulent beefy crepe. It comes with extra skinny fries, also very French, and some especially garlicky aioli. Aioli so yummy, that I scrape the edges of the cup with the crust from my bread.

My companion’s Vegetable Quiche has a thick crust, “Too thick,” she says. It comes with salad, or, those skinny fries. She says the salad, lightly dressed as French salads tend to be, has nice variety, but, she wishes she had ordered the fries.

Café Grace offers, in addition to onsite dining, offsite catering and The Library, an intimate private dining room for groups up to forty.

As we leave, my friend confesses Crepe au Boeuf envy, and says, “I’m coming back and I will have a hard time ordering anything else.”

I agree.

On the Menu

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The Rundown

  • Location: 11200 W. Burleigh St.
  • Phone: 414-837-6310
  • Hours: 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. until December 30. Regular hours: 5:00 p.m. to 9:00p.m. Mon-Thu, 5:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. Fri, 4:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. Sat, 10:00 a.m. to 2:00p.m. Sat-Sun brunch
  • Website: http://Cafegracemke.com
  • UM Rating: 4.2 stars (average of Yelp, Trip Advisor and Zomato)

5 thoughts on “Dining: Café Grace Boasts French Bistro Fare”

  1. blurondo says:

    “The fleur-de-lis tile floor mimics carpet, but doesn’t do much to soften the noise level…”
    I’m tired to death that every restaurant that opened in the last 10 years makes my ears bleed and makes it impossible to hear the server or my dining companion.

  2. Richard says:

    blurondo – I have felt the same on many occasion. I find it very difficult to isolate and hear conversation when there is busy background noise going on. Have you ever tried private dining? Café Grace as noted above is for big events up to 40 people, but I have found many rooms for couples and smaller groups on the Private Dining Directory It’s a great way to enjoy time with friends or your other half whilst being able to hear what they are saying!

  3. Edith says:

    A couple years ago I was at a very popular restaurant (then and now) but was shouting at my companions: not the way to enjoy a dinner tho the food and service were incredible. Couldn’t wait to comment on the noise level so when I went online to review: every other review said the same: great food, great service, WAY too noisy. I wrote to the various restaurant reviewers and now often seen a noise level comment with reviews. But also read somewhere that the noisier the place, the more people order. Really?

  4. Karen says:

    You might want to fix the typo in line 10 of the second paragraph. “leg of lamp.” It spawned a host of pretty good jokes among my writer/editor friends and I, but we know typos happen to anyone and can distract from good content. So do the writer a solid and fix it!

  5. Dave Reid says:

    @Karen. thanks. fixed.

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