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Cafe Marie-Jeanne To Open Wednesday in Former KnockBox Spot in Humboldt

By Paul Biasco | January 5, 2016 5:30am
 Café Marie-Jeanne is set to open Wednesday at 1001 N. California Ave.
Café Marie-Jeanne is set to open Wednesday at 1001 N. California Ave.
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HUMBOLDT PARK — A Parisian-style cafe and restaurant is set to open this week at what has become a hot restaurant destination in Humboldt Park.

Café Marie-Jeanne will serve its first customers Wednesday at the intersection of California and Augusta.

Executive Chef Mike Simmons, formerly of Lula Café and Rootstock, is part of the ownership group that includes Valerie Szafranski, Jamie McLennan and Jake Simmons.

Café Marie-Jeanne will become the latest new name at that intersection joining C.C. Ferns, the revamped California Clipper, Rootstock, Spinning J pie and soda shop and Haywood Tavern.

"We are really, really psyched about it," Simmons said. "We feel like we are adding a sort of unique voice in terms of what we are saying, what we are doing with our service and product, and we think that we complement this sort of growing dining scene that’s happening over here."

McLennan, the beverage director (Rootstock, formerly of Webster’s Wine Bar) and Szafranski, the general manager (formerly of Rootstock and Café Matou) will help run the cafe, which is located in the former KnockBox Cafe space.

The concept, which was originally known as the Calaugusta Cafe and Grocer, will feature breakfast, lunch and dinner as well as a retail takeaway deli-type counter and packaged catering.

Café Marie-Jeanne is inspired by all-day modern European cafes, particularly the "hip sophistication" of Parisian wine bar and cafe culture, the dining scene of Montreal and local atmosphere of American restaurants and delis, according to the restaurant.

The restaurant, 1001 N. California Ave., has room for 56 seats, including eight along a counter overlooking California Avenue from the front window.

The cafe will open at 6 a.m. every morning serving coffee and pastries and begin serving breakfast around 8 a.m. The cafe will transition into brunch and lunch and eventually around 5 p.m. turn into dinner with a focus on prix fixe meals that can be served family style.

There will always been an ala carte menu for those who don't want to do prix fixe.

The breakfast menu will include homemade pastries and other ala carte items including bacon, eggs, griddle cakes and grits.

Lunch will focus on the casual style of European cafes and feature snacks, soups, salads, sandwiches and a few heavier plates.

The dinner menu is more indulgent and refined than the lunch menu, according to Simmons, and there will be a heavy focus on wine-culture. The name of the cafe references a 2.25L wine bottle, the equivalent of three regular-sized bottles.

The retail portion of the cafe will include specialties such as smoked brisket, Jambon de Paris, pate champagne as well as salads, eggs and cheeses.

The restaurant was able to open thanks in part to a Kickstarter campaign that raised $21,290 from 216 backers.

Simmons called the campaign's success a vote of confidence from the neighborhood in their European-style concept.

"Basically every dollar that we got from someone from Kickstarter was like a vote, like a wish, a good vibe, that we succeed," he said. "A vote of confidence saying we want you to do what you said.”

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