Graham Elliot’s distinctive white glasses frames, a long-running signature look for the MasterChef host, are not the first thing that catches my eye when I walk into Le Margot, his new restaurant in Fort Worth, although they are eye-catching. That honor goes to a gorgeous wall along the dining room covered in what appears to be horse hair in ever-deepening shades of pink and maroon.
The space, converted from its previous life as a Corner Bakery, is swimming in shades of pink and black and decor that’s both French kitsch (the etched glass plates and coupes) and ultra-modern (the moody photographs on either end of the dining room). It’s a French bistro but, true to Elliot’s style, a little quirky.
These days, Elliot finds himself in Fort Worth with a plan to rework and open multiple restaurants in his partnership with chef Felipe Armenta and Far Out Hospitality. Elliot had moved back to Texas after a stint here some 25 years ago when he worked under Dean Fearing at Rosewood Mansion on Turtle Creek and Stephen Pyles at Star Canyon. Between now and then, he opened several restaurants in Chicago (including an eponymous one awarded two Michelin Stars), earned three James Beard Award nominations, and most recently served as executive chef at Pounders in Laie, Hawaii. In his new role, he has been developing new menus at Far Out’s existing restaurants — including Pacific Table, Maria’s, Press Cafe, and Tavern — and helping to create new restaurants, including Le Margot and Cowboy Prime, a steakhouse in Midland that will open a second location at the Stockyards in the fall.
“I’ve been living here now for over eight months, and I live in downtown Fort Worth,” Elliot tells Eater Dallas. “So I’m here every day. People [may] think, ‘Oh, he’s on TV probably lives in LA. He’s here every six months.’ But I’m literally on expo or in the kitchen cooking at all these restaurants.” For the past few months, he’s primarily been at Le Margot, which opened its doors in June.
Le Margot is named after Armenta’s daughter, and Elliot envisions it as “fine dining redefined.” The menu is more inspired by classic, rustic French dishes than modern Parisian cuisine, but with a twist. Coq au vin and bouillabaisse are relegated to the specials, while tarte flambees (a selection of flatbreads) top the menu. The entrees include a Royale with Cheese that finds a cheeseburger doused in melted brie and a traditional steak frites served with “Margot butter,” which is part butter and smoked tallow mixed with parsley, cracked pepper, and lemon zest. The meat, and all the parts of the cow, used in Le Margot come from Armenta’s ranch.
Towers of both charcuterie and shellfish, as well as caviar service, offer that bougie zing, if diners are looking for it. And there’s whimsy in the cocktail list, with the Oh La La (a take on the Cosmo involving cotton candy), the Napoleon Complex (gin, St. Germain, cucumber, and lime), and the Boulevard of Broken Dreams (bourbon, vermouth, and Campari) — the latter is the title of a Green Day song and nods to Elliot’s love of music.
“Everything on the menu is three components,” Elliot says. “We don’t need to add a potato here and some kind of veggie here and whatever. It’s just super simple. And I think it’s important for us to get that across to the guests because ... people might be intimidated and think it’s fancier, it’s expensive, it’s Frenchie. But it’s loud and fun. I want to be here twice a week eating oysters and drinking at the bar.”
Elliot brought in Wyl Lima as culinary manager. Lima was previously at Sister on Lower Greenville and Temporis in Chicago. When Elliot is out of town, as he was earlier this year to film the current season of The Great American Recipe on PBS (which Tiffany Derry of Roots Southern Table also appears on), Lima handles the kitchen.
Coming later this year will be F1, a barbecue spot where guests eat smoked meats off fine china rather than the standard metal tray, and what could be described as fancier but not fussy sides — imagine an eight-bean salad with sprouting legumes, herbs, and lemons instead of pinto beans. Also in the works is an Italian place in Fort Worth that Elliot and Armenta are plotting to open in 2024.
Le Margot is at 3150 S Hulen St. in Fort Worth. Reservations are available on Tock.