8.1
CHI

Cafe Marie-Jeanne

Perfect For: Breakfast Casual Weeknight Dinner Coffee & A Light Bite Date Night Dining Solo First/Early in the Game Dates Small Plates
PHOTOS: Sandy Noto

Do you remember that kid from school who was just cool? You didn’t want to sit at their lunch table because they had a Game Gear, and you weren’t trying to hang at their house because of the unlocked liquor cabinet - there was just something about them that made you want to be their friend. That’s what Cafe Marie-Jeanne is for us. It’s a restaurant with outstanding French food, and an easygoing neighborhood feel. It’s the kind of spot where the food speaks for itself and nothing is trying too hard to impress you - it just effortlessly draws you in and makes you want to be there.

This restaurant is basically a laid-back French version of a typical American diner, serving all three meals in a casual space with high ceilings, a tin roof, and small wooden tables. While you’re here, you’ll most likely see the chef wandering in and out of the kitchen, joking with the staff, and talking to the regulars. This doesn’t make you feel like an outsider, but rather adds to the friendly, approachable vibe of the whole place.

The food here is pretty great across the board, with a meat-heavy menu that’s helped along by a chalkboard updated everyday featuring rotating specials. You’ll find classics like boudin noir and steak tartare, as well as a lot of organ meat, including calf brains and foie gras. It feels like whoever’s cooking might have cigarette hanging out of their mouths, and everything is served on stoneware and dented metal platters. Most of the dishes are very rich, and any attempt to eat light here is doomed. Also, most of it is available all day long. You can roll in at 9 am and get a croissant and duck frites, which comes with a scoop of duck pate and a gravy boat of jus. Or you can get a perfectly cooked smoked salmon omelette topped with trout roe for dinner. If you come during lunch you can get the best of both worlds, and that’s our favorite time to be here.

Like that kid in high school, Cafe Marie-Jeanne doesn’t need any gimmicks to draw you in - it’s just cool without trying. This is the type of place that would make us consider moving into a neighborhood just to be a little closer to it, and making us just a little cooler by association.

Food Rundown

Market Veggies and Onion Dip

This is a very intense-looking dish, and reminds us a bit of the shrimp cocktail hands from Beetlejuice. The dip is basically an onion creme fraiche, and tastes amazing.

Sandy Noto
Calf Brains

Even it’s not something you would typically order, we encourage you to try the calf brains. Served on a sweet brioche, the brains have a flavor similar to foie gras, with capers that cut through the richness.

Sandy Noto
Smoked Trout

There’s a assortment of smoked and cured fish on the menu, and all of it’s delicious. The trout is served with hard boiled egg, pickled veggies, potato salad, and toasted bread.

Sandy Noto
Duck Frites

This is one of those dishes that you should drive all the way across town for. The duck is juicy, the fries are crispy, and it couldn’t make us any happier.

Sandy Noto
Steak Tartare

We aren’t crazy about the tartare here. It’s seasoned well, but we can’t get past the fact that the steak is cut too roughly, giving it an unpleasant shredded texture.

Apple Fennel Salad

One of the few items on the menu that could be considered refreshing, this salad is very simple, with thinly shaved apple, fennel, hazelnuts, and yogurt. It has a great balance of sweet and tangy.

Sandy Noto
Omelette

There are a few varieties of omelettes here, and our favorite is the smoked salmon with trout roe.

Sandy Noto
Donuts

In the front of the restaurant there’s a pastry case featuring a small but mighty assortment of pastries. The donuts are great, and perfect for taking something sweet to go.

Sandy Noto
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