Megan Langlade, the Brookside restaurateur who operates Aixois Restaurant with her husband, French-born chef Emmanuel Langlade, shows me a photograph on her cell phone: 13-month-old Charlotte, the couple's fifth child and first daughter. "She was a surprise," Megan says, "a very happy surprise."
This year, the Langlades are giving birth only to a new restaurant. "I've been wanting to open a second location for some time," Emmanuel says. "I just didn't know when or where."
The where is finally a known commodity: downtown, in the Commerce Bank arcade at 1000 Walnut. Formerly occupied by a pizza joint, the location of the new Aixois Brasserie - it's scheduled to open before the end of June - is a stylish, sunny room with high ceilings. The space was completely gutted for the Langlades, who installed a sleek new kitchen (it's bigger than the Brookside Aixois), dark wood flooring and woodwork, a striking white marble bar (the stone was found in one of the bank's basement storage units) and handblown globe light fixtures disvovered by Dolphin Gallery owner John O'Brien, who has been an instrumental figure in designing the space.
The restaurant is filled with recycled materials that O'Brien found in the Commerce Bank's basement, including antique doors. Executives of the bank came to the Langlades with a proposal: "They wanted a more upscale and sophisticated restaurant for the tenants of this building," says Emmanuel, who plans to serve breakfast, lunch and dinner in the brasserie. The venue will serve only dinner on Saturdays and will be closed on Sundays.
The Langlades have been offered locations in suburban retail developments for the past five years but felt that downtown was the right location for the concept they've wanted to do: a casual, cheery dining room with an all-day brasserie menu featuring many of the dishes that the Brookside brasserie has developed as signature dishes: mussels, trout, organic roast chicken, soups and salads. Although the Brookside Aixois doesn't offer a formal breakfast menu (it does sell pastries and coffee), the new brasserie will offer a more robust array of choices, including omelets and pain purdu (think French toast) so downtown patrons can have breakfast meetings; the restaurant boasts a 25-seat private dining room.
The bank's parking garage will be available, but Megan says they plan to offer valet service, at least in the beginning. "We're going to see how customers respond to that," she says.
This is not the first time a French restaurant has been located in a Commerce Bank property: Back in the 1960s, the Tour d'Argent operated (along with several other ethnic venues) on the top floor of the Commerce Tower at 911 Main.