Byline: Holly Haber

Seeking good food in a sleek ambience at a reasonable price? Look no farther than Cafe Patrique, the latest venture of Patrick Esquerre, the French founder of the La Madeleine French Bakery & Cafe national chain.
Esquerre sold La Madeleine about three years ago, and now he’s dreamed up a curious hybrid — a restaurant that serves a global array of foods via self-service during the day with full table service at night.
“We’re like a brasserie in France that’s open all day where you can have a meal in a warm ambience,” Esquerre said.
To create the menu, Esquerre enlisted some of the leading chefs in Dallas — including David Holben of Riviera fame and Southwestern cuisine guru Stephen Pyles. They are cited on the menu for their respective creations.
With its French, Mediterranean, Asian and Southwestern dishes, the menu offers something for everyone. The most outstanding, and most expensive, menu item is the beef tenderloin with portobello and wild mushrooms in a port wine sauce by David Holben, priced at $11.95 for lunch and $16.95 at dinner.
Also tasty is the panang coconut curry chicken breast over Asian green beans by Kenneth Mills ($7.50 at lunch; $11.75 at dinner). Other options are caramelized pork tenderloin, wild mushroom risotto, Stephen Pyles’s tortilla soup, Oriental salad or smoked brisket sandwich, among others.
The wine list offers an unusual and welcome twist: bottles are sold at retail prices instead of inflated restaurant fees. Dozens of Californian and French vintages are offered in the range of $10 to $20 a bottle, while glasses are $3 to $5. Higher-priced wines from the world over are also available on the extensive list, plus 30 beer labels and several types of port.
Cafe Patrique has two locations: the flagship at Mockingbird Station shopping center just east of Central Expressway on Mockingbird Lane, and a smaller unit in Preston Forest Shopping Center.
At Mockingbird Station, Cafe Patrique has a shop at the rear that stocks most of its entrees frozen and ready to microwave, along with wine and gourmet foods.
Esquerre got the idea for frozen cuisine from his mother, who lives in Tours, France.
“She is a great cook, and the last time I went to visit her she went to the freezer and took out food for dinner,” Esquerre recalled. “She said, ‘I don’t want to spend all my time in the kitchen. I cook more than I need and put it in the freezer.”‘
Like the cuisine, Cafe Patrique’s decor is an eclectic blend of ethnic and period influences. Ornate antique brass chandeliers dangle near contemporary paper-wrapped spotlights suspended on steel cables and red and white silk Asian banners. The carpet and walls are tomato red and a bold yellow.
“We love red,” he said, recalling that his childhood home on a farm outside of Tours had red carpeting.
Dining here has an ancillary charitable benefit: a percentage of sales goes to the Gourmet Angels Foundation, a group Esquerre established to fight hunger and child abuse. The charity owns 30 percent of Cafe Patrique, he said.
He plans to invite other charities to hold meetings at the restaurant.
Cafe Patrique, 5331 East Mockingbird Lane, Dallas 75206; 214-826-7077, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday; till 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Reservations needed for eight or more.