Dining With Denise Neil

Popular College Hill restaurant getting a major update, expansion

The big new sign outside Georges French Bistro is one of the first steps in a major remodel and expansion.
The big new sign outside Georges French Bistro is one of the first steps in a major remodel and expansion. The Wichita Eagle

George Youssef’s popular Georges French Bistro in Wichita’s College Hill neighborhood is getting more space and a dramatic new look.

The only problem: The restaurant will close for up to two weeks this spring while the work is being done.

Youssef first opened the bistro in the former Bella Luna Cafe space in November 2015. It was instantly a hit and ever since has been drawing crowds hungry for his simple French bistro fare of mussels, French onion soup, escargot, steak frites and croissant bread pudding.

But the restaurant never looked exactly like he wanted it to, Youssef said.

“I want to do it as French as I can get it,” he said.

Youssef’s remodel plan involves taking out the restaurant’s front windows and turning them into retractable glass doors that can be completely open during warmer weather. He also plans to install a much larger bar. His current bar seats five people, but the new, repositioned bar will have room for many more, he said.

Recently, Youssef acquired the space next door to Georges that had previously held the Salon 316, a hair salon, and he’s turned it into a private banquet space. It adds about 1,000 square feet to the restaurant, for a total of about 4,000 square feet, and Youssef said he will utilize the new space in the remodel as well. He plans a movable wall between the current dining room and new space that can be put up in the case of a private event or taken down if he needs more dining space during a busy evening service.

He’s also getting new flooring and plans to redo the restaurant’s color scheme in black wood with gold trim. A patio expansion also is in the plan.

Youssef also recently put up a fancy new sign on the front of the building, which advertises it as an “oyster bar” and a “wine bar.” He’s had his logo redesigned and installed a bright red vestibule at the restaurant entrance, which not only adds a European look, he said, but also prevents cold air from rushing into the dining room every time someone enters.

The construction should start in late March and be complete by May 1, Youssef said. He said he’ll likely have to close the restaurant down for a week or two but promises to offer plenty of warning.

Once reopen, he plans to introduce a few new menu items, including souffles and pates. He also is considering opening at 7 a.m. to serve a simple French breakfast with items like crepes, quiches omelets and Benedicts.

Youssef said he might put on a grand re-opening event when everything’s done. I’ll let you know when he plans to close for construction.