It was great to see Tre Wilcox at a press lunch recently. Contrary to rumor, he hasn’t disappeared perpetually into a TV personality void, he has been working hard on the opening of Marquee Grill and Bar in Highland Park Village. For weeks he has been involved hiring and training staff, supervising contractors, and developing the menu. Several key positions were filled with veterans from other restaurants around town. Construction is due to finish mid-April meaning, he says with a grin, that he will be open by the end of that month. Menu development is essentially complete, as some probing questions along the lines of “will you be serving any X” revealed. What can we expect? A New American restaurant with sophisticated Asian accents and a few selected cuts of steak. The latter will be cooked on a wood grill custom made for the restaurant. About 70% of the menu will be tailored to the tastes of the mainstream Highland Park residents that he expects to be the backbone of his clientele. The other 30% will be his creative outlet for foodies and regulars who want something that they can’t get elsewhere. He says he will eschew such modern cuisine paraphernalia as liquid nitrogen, although he reiterated his admiration for Grant Achatz, the iconoclastic chef at Alinea. An example of the kind of chef indulgence we will see is Duck 3 Ways: duck breast, confit, and foie gras embellished with something like a huckleberry sauce. When I pushed on whether he will serve organ meat or not, he says there will be sweetbreads and foie gras but every item on the menu will survive based on demand.
This is a big restaurant above the renovated Highland Park Theater. There are 170 seats and roughly 40 places in the bar and 40 on the patio. The success of the cocktail program is pretty much guaranteed following the hiring of Jason Kosmas, the author of a book on cocktails and widely cited on the subject in food and wine magazines. Kosmas is also in charge of the wine program which will encompass about 120 unique bottles. The bar will stay open until 2am on weekends and I assume it will become a destination place to hang.
We ran out of talking time so I didn’t get to ask about the dessert menu or if he will be baking his own bread. But I know where to find him now.