Chef Greg Martin is living his dream. After years of working in the food and restaurant industry, he is now at the helm of a business of his own design, Bistro Menil.

"I never wanted to do any restaurant until I really felt that we had something interesting enough and compelling enough that people would want to go," Martin says. He approached the creation of Bistro Menil knowing exactly what he wanted it to be. "We asked ourselves, what is it that compels people to come to your restaurant?"

Inspired from trips around the world with his partner, Paul, he wanted to create an open, bright space with clean lines that would accentuate the views of Menil Park and provide an easy, high quality menu.

"Everything we serve here, I can print the recipe and hand it to the guest. I wanted that kind of approachability. Non-fussy food," Martin explains.

The menu includes pizzas, burgers and numerous dessert options. The most popular items on the menu are eggplant fries with brava sauce, duck confit, warm quinoa salad and crab cakes. "The menu is really big and has a whole lot of variety on it so that everyone can find something."

Martin has always had a passion for wine and made sure the menu he selected complimented both wine and craft beers. Bistro Menil offers cask wine and beer growlers alongside traditional bottle and by-the-glass options. The former allows customers to bring beer and wine home with them, or they can carry it to the patio or park beside the restaurant.

Martin and his partner in life and business, Paul, took advantage of even the most minuscule details to remind restaurant visitors that they‘re dining at a classic bistro. "We deliberately didn't have a tablecloth; we deliberately wanted to have a simple white napkin. This flatware pattern, this is from the 1930s. You still go to a bistro in France and see this pattern," Martin shared.

Even with careful planning and preparation there were some unexpected bumps when Bistro Menil first opened in fall of 2014. The staff is responding to comments from critics and non-critics by making changes to some aspects of the business while keeping true to their original vision. The restaurant is preparing for a big reset in mid February which will include a new spring menu along with a complete redo of the wine list and the wine program. According to Martin, the new wine list will be more accessible for customers. Martin was also bothered by the noise volume in the restaurant but didn't want to change the dynamic too dramatically.

"In Paris, a bistro is a lively place. We're a bistro," he says. "We want people to just walk by, come in and have a glass of wine or dessert." A new acoustical treatment is already in place to address the noise issue without compromising Martin's attempt to bring a European-style bistro to the Menil.

The Menil Collection is an award winning art museum that attracts visitors from around the globe. Martin and Paul hope to be able to say the same of their restaurant, which happens to be located on The Menil Collection's campus. "This is going to be an institution...people want to like it," Martin says. With their dedication and passion Bistro Menil promises to hold a steady footing in Houston's restaurant scene.

By Jenn Haight