Inside Chef David Fhima's Newest Restaurant – Maison Margaux

Our YouTube Series “AEC All-Stars” continues with a rare telling of all that went into the construction of the newest Minneapolis hot spot – bonjour, Maison Margaux!

Our YouTube Series “AEC All-Stars” continues with a rare telling of all that went into the construction of the newest Minneapolis hot spot – bonjour, Maison Margaux

The May opening of North Loop’s French-inspired Maison Margaux signaled the coming to life of chef & restaurateur David Fhima’s newest brain-child. 

With an homage to his Moroccan roots and training in French cuisine, Chef Fhima followed his natural inclination to erect a French restaurant in the North Loop area – a location he thought was ripe for the picking. 

The Details

Although Chef Fhima can be quoted calling anyone who starts a restaurant as “crazy,” he couldn't resist the temptation to expand his restaurant empire. 

When monumental retailer Ribnick Furs closed its doors on 224 North 1st Street – a building that dates back to the 1800s – Fhima knew it was his time to act. 

And with that, his project launched in one of the most sought-after spots in the area. 

Spoiler: the end result is a thing of epic beauty.  

The Goals

Maison Margaux – now deemed the Paris in the North Loop – has become the talk of the town. And that didn’t just magically happen overnight. 

Quite the contrary. 

The swanky vision came to life guided by three primary goals:

  1. Apply the necessary budget and time constraints while bringing the mind-blowing concepts to fruition.
  2. Create an altogether cohesive atmosphere while curating intentional energy in different dining spaces.
  3. Preserve the bones of the historic building while fusing them with modern design and gourmet restaurant functionality.

The Challenges & The Response

It’s quite special to note that many of the initial concept sketches, imagery design boards, color palettes, and concept photos match almost identically to some of the critical features of the posh restaurant space. Talk about nailing it! 

But, that doesn’t mean this deeply collaborative project was immune from the gauntlet.

Challenge 1: Adhere to historical preservation codes- 

Response: Tony Ghilani and the design team routinely worked in partnership with the Minneapolis Historical Preservation team to uphold the historic notoriety of the building. The feature staircase had to be made of nearly all earthy wood, as opposed to steel, to get the preservation society’s stamp of approval.

Challenge 2: Create both distinction and unity in a three-level restaurant that bespeaks Parisian brasseries by day and Moulin Rouge by night. 

Response: Distinct tabletop colors, alternating seating styles, and various brick and plaster accent features are all splashed about the space. Tying it all together is the exposed wood on the walls, floors, and beams of the basement speakeasy, main-floor dining, and third-floor event space.

Challenge 3: Showcase an extensive French wine collection while maximizing seating-

Response: An old vault sitting underneath the sidewalk of the building now showcases Maison Margaux’s most precious wine and liquor offerings. A custom-fit glass door was erected in the shape of the historic vault opening and the original door now adorns the adjacent wall. 

The Highlights

Can we name “the entire thing” as the project highlights? 

That would seem most fitting, but to get specific, here are two big moments:

Underground Speakeasy: Tons of high-end custom features are on display in the once-basement of this historic building. 

  • The original limestone foundation walls give way to different unaligned pockets that were made useful with built-in custom cabinetry. 
  • The whole bar is a lighting fixture in itself. You have to see it to believe it. 
  • Gorgeous Cambria products outfit different surfaces with custom booths and private dining experiences that draw you in. 
  • The whole space’s existing footings were reinforced with new ones and more columns and beams were added to support the additional load of a social area. 

Top Floor Event Space: The renovated third floor of this building is reserved for corporate events and personal group parties. 

  • The decor evolves to warm, bright, and deeply rich hues, delivering an intentionally different feel from the two levels below. 
  • A massive mobile bar was constructed with the unique ability to be pulled apart and serviced in different parts of the space. 
  • Lighting was a primary focus and lots of time went into studying how to best wield it.

The Dream Team

A renovation of this scale calls for a team of super-talented experts who combine their niched forces to forge a thing of beauty. 

Special shout-outs to…

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