The recent closing of the venerable Le Francais restaurant has touched thousands of food and restaurant aficionados, not only in the Chicago area, but across the nation. The restaurant, once called the Best in America by Bon Appetit magazine, quietly closed their doors a couple of weeks ago.
Two recent articles in the Chicago Tribune centered on the memories former patrons had of Le Francais (click here to view article); and the other focused on the reasons why Le Francais closed (click here to view article).
Phil Vettel, the restaurant critic for the Chicago Tribune, pretty much validated what I said in my original blog entry as to why Le Francais closed. It was the competition from high end restaurants in the downtown Chicago area - restaurants that Vettel says were inspired by Le Francais to push the culinary envelope.
As Vettel points out, many of these restaurants aren't French, but they offer some of the finest styles of food available in America. And while Le Francais' prices were exorbitant to the extent only the well-heeled or those on unlimited business expense accounts could afford, a number of similarly great restaurants popped up over the past 10 to 15 years in downtown Chicago. Suddenly, one didn't need to drive the 28 miles one way from downtown Chicago to get a world class meal.
Actually, as Vettel said in his article, while it's not surprising Le Francais finally closed, it's surprising that it lasted as long as it did with the competition in place over the past few years. Restaurants come and go, but Le Francais obviously had a large place in the heart of their customers.
I'll tell you - both times I ate there, it was No. 1 and No. 1A on the list of the best meals I've ever had in a restaurant.