French Restaurants in Chicago: A 75-Year Retrospective (1924-1999)

Alain Maes,
French Virtual Cafe

Food Served:
Quiche from The Bakery
Chef Didier’s Pate
Chocolate Mousse

Since 2010, Alain Maes has published a five-part series on French restaurants in Chicago from 1924 until 1999. 

Part 1. 1924-1959. A few glorious years and then a big gastronomic desert

Part 2. 1960-1969. A new beginning for French restaurants in Chicago

Part 3. 1970-1979. The Fantastic Decade

Part 4. 1980-1989. A period of transition: Younger chefs in search of a new contemporary French-American style

Part 5. 1990-1999. The end of the “haute cuisine” period, and the confirmation of the bistro supremacy

Alain Maes was born and educated in France. In Chicago since 1970. American wife, a free-lance writer and journalist. Two sons and a grandson. Since my childhood during World War II in the Languedoc and Geneva, Switzerland, and especially since the late forties when my parents moved from Southern France to Reims, the capital of the Champagne producing region, where we started to eat a little more normally, I had lots of exposure to the secrets of good food and wines. My Swiss grandmother, aunts, and my mother were great ”cordons bleus” and taught me many of their cooking techniques and secrets. My father initiated me to the art of wine selecting and drinking when I was 17 and explained to me the various regional food specialties of the French provinces. And when I was old enough to accompany them to restaurants, my parents introduced me to the world, rules, and tricks of restaurant going. Since my student years in Aix-En-Provence and Paris, I never stopped trying to improve my culinary skills, to experiment with an ever-growing spectrum of new wines and different types of foods from all over the world, and to conduct a non-stop search for new exciting eateries.

Maes has been a wine consultant for the last 10 years, doing lots of French wine tastings at Binny’s, mostly in Highland Park and occasionally at some Whole Foods stores. He also helped a couple of French restaurants, such as Kiki’s Bistro to compose their special “themed” menus.

Saturday, February 2, 2019 at 10 AM
Bethany Retirement Community, 4950 N. Ashland Ave, Chicago, IL 60640

Free street parking and Bethany Hospital parking lots
Cost: $3.

This program is hosted by the Greater Midwest Foodways. To reserve, please e-mail: or call 847-432-8255.

The Greater Midwest Foodways Alliance is dedicated to celebrating, exploring and preserving the American Midwest’s unique food traditions and their cultural contexts.