Maison aims to be worthy new tenant for Meritage space

Maison, a restaurant specializing in classic French cuisine, is slated to open in the Washington Heights Neighborhood at 5921 W. Vliet St. in the former home of Meritage.

The restaurant, which could open as soon as early to mid-January, will be run by Chef Michael Quinn, MATC culinary graduate and sous chef at Coquette Cafe. Quinn began negotiations on the restaurant this past September and says he’s scheduled to close on the building as soon as licensing is approved through the city, which could happen as soon as the end of November.

Food and drink

The traditional menu, Quinn notes, is still a work in progress, but will reflect his love for charcuterie – including pate and rillettes – along with unique takes on other dishes he’s fallen in love with over the years, including Sanford D’Amato’s Provençal fish stew. In the end, he says he hopes to focus on classic French cuisine with an emphasis on dishes that depart from the usual.

“I think there are way more aspects of traditional French cuisine that haven’t been explored here,” Quinn explains. “And I’m excited about venturing into that territory. Along with our core menu, we’re toying with offering a daily prix fixe menu.”

Maison’s bar will offer a complementary selection of beer, wine and cocktails. The wine list will focus on wines from various regions in France, Quinn says, and will not be static.

“It will be an evolving list,” he says, “And we’ll be bringing in great new things all the time. I want to give people some new things to try when they visit.”

On the cocktail side, Quinn says he’s collaborating with longtime friend and Stand Eat Drink beverage director Daniel Beres, who will serve as a consultant on the restaurant’s cocktail program. The hope, says Quinn, is to incorporate a collection of classic cocktails that emphasize a variety of French spirits, including cognac.

Decor

In terms of the look and feel of the restaurant, Quinn says he’s not pursuing any major renovation. But he’s putting a great deal of energy into cosmetic changes and decor, which will define the experience he wants for guests.

New flooring, paint and lighting are on the docket, as well as a refinished bar to which Quinn says he’ll be adding a decorative top. Signage – which will be made from a mixture of wood and metal – is likely to be built by the folks at Milwaukee Blacksmith.

“I want to give it the space a vintage feel,” he says. “I’m replacing the current track lighting with chandeliers and we’re probably going with grey tones on the walls. We don’t want people to walk in and say, ‘Oh, this is Meritage.’ We want it to look like Maison. We also want to make it really accessible. I want it to be the sort of place where the staff is family, where we have regulars who come in and order a glass of wine and some pate.”

Quinn, who has worked with Chef Nick Burki at Coquette for the past five or six years, says the experience has helped cultivate his passion for French cuisine.

“Nick [Burki] has been a huge influence and he’s been so supportive,” Quinn notes. “I’ve learned so much from him, even in terms of his temperament. Sure, things get heated every now and again, but he’s so easy going. He knows how to get things done, and when to be stern. But he’s also a great teacher. And he’s just fun to work with.”

Quinn says he’s excited to embark on the new venture, but admits he feels the weight of the shoes he’ll be filling.

“It’s intimidating. I’m taking over a space that housed a James Beard nominated chef. Chef Kelly was like a ninja chef; she made delicious food and had regulars for a reason, and I really have to be on par with that. It’s a challenge, but it’s a good challenge.”

Once open, Maison plans to serve both lunch and dinner.

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