Upscale eatery goes 'family style'

Same owners, different menu as Madison Street Grill replaces Bistro Marbuzet

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By SETH STERN

Bistro Marbuzet, the upscale restaurant that helped usher in Forest Park's Madison Street renaissance when it opened just under five years ago, has officially served its last filet mignon.

All is not lost though, as chefs are back in the kitchen grilling up specialties such as pulled pork and jalapeno stuffed burgers at the new Madison Street Grill.

Bistro Marbuzet owner Jack Jones, who has retained ownership of the new restaurant along with his brother Michael Jones, said the decision to change the restaurant's theme was made in an effort to attract a more economically diverse clientele.

"It's hard to bring in the upscale dollar," said Jones. Though he acknowledged that other higher end restaurants on Madison Street, including La Piazza and caffe De Luca, have thrived, Bistro Marbuzet apparently did not share the same success.

He said he briefly considered selling the restaurant after getting two offers over the summer, but decided that the space on Madison Street and Desplaines Avenue was too good to give up.

"We took a step back and decided on change. I still love that room; it's a gorgeous restaurant," he said.

Bistro Marbuzet opened in 2000 at the former site of Ambrosia Cafe, a 24-hour diner which previously went by the name Venture Restaurant.

Marbuzet received rave reviews upon opening, including being named one of Chicagoland's 20 best new restaurants by Chicago Magazine, but has long been rumored to be suffering financial difficulties.

Jones hopes the new theme and lower prices will allow local diners who could only afford to go to Bistro Marbuzet on special occasions to dine at the Madison Street Grill on a more regular basis.

The new menu, he said, concentrates on ribs, steaks, burgers and pastas and features a vegetarian section. He is particularly excited about the stuffed burgers.

"My Grandma when I was a kid used to stuff us a burger. Now I see them popping up at gourmet places in Manhattan, so I thought it would be great for us to put it on the menu," he said.

Among the options are the aforementioned pulled pork and jalapeno burger as well as burgers stuffed with bacon and mushrooms and his grandmother's specialty, a burger stuffed with mozzarella cheese and tomatoes.

He said that a couple of favorites from the Bistro Marbuzet menu, including popular tuna and salmon specialties, will remain in order to keep the regulars coming back.

Bistro Marbuzet's wine offerings have been cut back significantly in favor of an expanded beer list, but the restaurant is still serving some "great, less expensive wines," according to Jones.

Though interior renovations are fairly minor, the new restaurant features televisions at the bar and a more "family style" look overall.

The Madison Street Grill opened last week. The restaurant is serving dinner from 5 to 10:30 p.m. Brunch is served on Sundays, and it's closed Mondays.

The Jones brothers also operate three Chicago restaurants: Rioja, a Spanish tapas restaurant on Clark St.; Jack's on Halsted, an American-style bistro; and Corner Grille, an upscale diner in Andersonville.

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