If everything that’s old is new again, then Space Coast diners are in for a wonderful surprise with the remodeling and updates that have been completed at the venerable Café Margaux in Cocoa Village.
Since opening 26 years ago with a nod to the old world charm of France, the restaurant has served thousands of people through thousands of lunches, prix fixe and a la carte dinners, specialty meals for holidays, wine and spirits pairings, wedding receptions, baby showers and more.
Preserving Memories Like Cherished Recipes
The memories and remembrances that make first time customers repeat ones, and draw visitors from all over the state and beyond, were important to keep intact. “We wanted to make sure we didn’t erase the past, so we chose instead to honor it,” said Alex Litras, the boyishly charming restaurant owner who greets most guests on a first name basis.
The parts of the restaurant that have been updated have been done so with soft, muted tones, and divided into three rooms: the French Country Room, the Black and White Room and the Ulysses room.
Entering through the patio, the door swings open to greyish pewter blue walls, porcelain tile floors reminiscent of reclaimed wood, exposed dark wood ceiling beams and whitewashed walls. The tables are double draped with navy and white linens and tabletop settings of cream and silver. Antique maps of Paris line the walls, visible from the soft blue velvet tufted chairs with a backdrop of blue silk pleated draperies.
Connecting the rooms via a linear path, the black and cream carpet ties together the varying themes. In the next room (to the west), the Black and White room ushers in a classic clean feel with uber-modern lines and chandeliers of white glass that evoke the craning necks of swans.
The dining spaces end at the Ulysses Room with amber glass panels inset into mossy green walls and Turkish chandeliers that feel both light and clubby. This room is for the guests who enjoyed the warmth of Margaux’s brother restaurant, Ulysses’ Prime Steakhouse, which recently closed doors after a decade of service.
“We brought the best part of Ulysses into this space,” said Litras, noting the colors and feel were still very much a part of the new space. Also, the 900°F broiler (from Ulysses) that sears and expertly cooks the Japanese Kobe beef has been integrated into the kitchen space, truly transporting guests between the old and new, the open and closed.
Final touches were put on the space the week before Thanksgiving in a transformation that was originally slated for one room, but eventually – and five months later – refreshed and renewed all of them.
“It was a logistical nightmare for our staff, but we were able to take care of our customers via creative seating assignments that had us serving Margaux customers at the steakhouse and also in our banquet room, a smaller space for just over 20,” Litras explained.
The merging of the spaces meant also merging the menus, and Litras has done a spectacular job of combining continental and Mediterranean favorites with new presentations that make the menu both exciting and stirring.
The lunchtime menu is still the one to turn to for more classic French presentations such as coquilles St. Jacques, crepes and quiche. However, the dinner menu has consolidated and offers these and others as appetizers to open a truly gastronomic experience to evening visitors.
New menu items (for Margaux) include the steaks, prime and A5 cuts, ranging in price from $38 (for a center cut prime filet mignon) to $180 for a butter soft 14-oz. Japanese Kobe A5 ribeye. Other notable options include the award-winning tomato bisque, steamed sea bass in saffron broth, Syrah braised short ribs, and walnut and fig stuffed quail.
The “drinks” list is an interesting and eclectic mix of standard and large format wines from around the globe (and a special selection of affordable choices from France and Italy), along with a heady list of bourbons, scotches, dessert wines, brandies and ports.
Desserts are always a treat at Margaux, with standards such as the classic French crème bruleé and standouts like the citrus and blood orange layer cake, a super-sweet and moist cake with layers of clementine jam, citrus cream cheese icing and toasted almonds.
A Little Help From Some Friends
Litras and his wife, Megan, put many of their own design ideas into play as the renovating evolved, but he admits that none of it would have started, or have finished, likely, without the assistance of close friends Tony and Aimee Diaz and Interior Designer Michael Gainey.
“We hired Michael, who helped us expand the ideas and plan and pull it all together. And Megan, Tony and Aimee were there, collaborating every step of the way – instrumental in helping me complete the vision, while staying true to the feel of the original concept,” Litras said.
In fact, Diaz built the new 10-seat bar that occupies a new space inside the restaurant by hand, and it’s gorgeous. “We call it the Toulouse Bar,” said Litras, noting he’s finally been able to accommodate a much-requested wish of his loyal clientele who have repeatedly asked through the years for a place to share a drink together.
Litras takes a final look around the bar at the end of our tour, and smiles broadly. “The best compliment I get is from my returning customers who tell me ‘You can always come home to Café Margaux.’ Now, the home is remodeled, but it’s still home.”
220 N. Brevard Avenue, Cocoa Village, FL
Lunch: 11:30 a.m.–3:00 p.m.
Dinner: 5:00 p.m.–9:30 p.m.