Openings: Brasserie Gigi and Bistro Toulouse

French Bistros: Part Deux


Last month Fanny and Patrick Panella of Bin 152 opened Chez Nous. This month, two, count ’em two, other new French restaurants open: Brasserie Gigi and Bistro Toulouse.

First, Brasserie Gigi, the work of Chef Frank McMahon and owner Hank Holliday opened last Wed. April 2 in the old Mercato. Word on the street is with its arrival there’s now a reason for locals to return to the market.

The French restaurant takes its name from McMahon’s wife Gigi, but it looks as though the inspiration for the spot was the chef’s roots at Le Bernardin. The menu includes classics such as shrimp provençal, duck confit, and salad frisée lardon, as well as a raw bar with items like a shellfish tower and a dozen oysters or clams. When City Paper broke the news of the opening on March 13, McMahon said, “We’re not reinventing the wheel here. It’s all recognizable French stuff, but on the Market, we have a broad range of people that we’re appealing to."

East of the Cooper, Coleman Boulevard just got tres Français too with the arrival of Bistro Toulouse. The French restaurant and wine bar — named after the region and Impressionist painter Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (his prints will decorate the space) has set up shop at 1220 Ben Sawyer Blvd., kitty-corner to the new Harris Teeter. It officially opens Sat. April 12 at 5 p.m.

Candice Mahala and Matthew Schulz, business partners and life partners (the couple was recently engaged), met at the Culinary Institute of America in 2001. “It’s always been a dream of ours to have our own restaurant, but before the costs were prohibitive,” says Mahala. After working in D.C. — Schulz was executive sous chef at Bravo in the Hotel Lorien in Old Town Alexandria, while Mahala worked in catering at hotel companies including Hyatt, Marriot, and Omni — the duo moved to Mt. Pleasant. “We’ve both worked in French bistros. There are so many in D.C., and we thought that was missing here,” says Mahala. As far as the menu, it’s Toulouse-inspired. “Many of Matt’s signature dishes are from that region,” she says.

That includes his cassoluet. But diners can expect some different interpretations, like his twist on stuffed calamari with roasted peppers, olives, and tomato.

As for Mahala, she’s working on desserts, including a lavender crème brûlée. For the entire menu, visit  


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