Le Francais Bids Adieu
By Chuck Sudo in Food on Jun 6, 2007 3:25PM
Le Francais, the Wheeling restaurant that was the gold standard of fine dining in the Chicago area during its heyday, closed down during Memorial Day. The Sun-Times reports today that the restaurant filed a notice with the Wheeling fire department that it was no longer operating. A busboy and food runner who requested anonymity said that owner Michael Moran did not tell his staff of the closing ahead of time, and that he only found out about the closing via a phone call from Moran after Memorial Day.
Le Francais opened in 1973 under the guidance of the legendary chef Jean Banchet, who was initially questioned for opening a French restaurant in Wheeling. But foodies will be foodies, even in the '70s, and by the end of the decade Le Francais was named the best restaurant in America by Bon Appetit magazine. Roland Liccioni took over in 1989 and maintained the standard set by Banchet while building his own reputation, earning a five-star rating from the Mobil restaurant guide and a Beard award for best chef in the Midwest in 1997. Liccioni left Le Francais eight years ago to open Le Lan, but returned to Wheeling three years ago.
Le Francais' influence is felt on the local dining scene to this day. By proving that high-end French cuisine could work, especially in a suburb, Le Francais set the stage for all the great restaurants that have come since, from Charlie Trotter's to Trio to Alinea.
Image courtesy of Le Francais web site.