Like a Fine Wine: Margaux’s turns 25

The restaurant celebrates its 25th anniversary this year. The secret to its success? Imaginative fare and extraordinary service since 1992.

If you ask co-founder Steve Horowitz the origin of the name Margaux’s, he’s likely to spin you a tale of backpacking through France “on the crumbs in his pockets,” a beautiful vineyard owner, and a chance encounter with his future brother-in-law. But then he will laugh and tell you the truth—he’s never even been to France.

“We named the restaurant after Margaux, a top-of-the-line wine from the region of Bordeaux,” he says. “When we first opened up, it was a classical French nouvelle style restaurant. We loved the M and we loved the X in the name—it really fit the bill of our fare.” 

Horowitz, 50, opened Margaux’s in 1992 with his brother-in-law Richard Hege, a classically trained chef with whom he had owned a restaurant on Fire Island, New York. Hege, a Whiteville, NC native, was visiting his home state when he discovered the perfect location for a restaurant: a former sporting goods store in Brennan Station.

“It was an outdoors outfitter for the Beverly Hills hunter—they sold gold-tipped archery equipment,” says Horowitz. “Richard came down and said, ‘You really have to see the space—it has a 600 gallon aquarium, it has a fireplace, it’s got stone walls, it’s got three levels. It’s just meant to be a restaurant.’ And I said, ‘There’s no way I’m moving away from New York.’”

But move he did, leaving New York City at 25 to open the restaurant—something he never imagined he would especially since he studied marketing and advertising.

“I’ve been trying since birth to get out of the restaurant business,” he laughs. “My dad had five Hickory Pits coffee shops scattered around Manhattan. I grew up, from about 4 years old, always helping my pop—cutting Swiss cheese, forming hamburgers, serving coffee, working the cash register, delivering cornbread muffins to all the bankers around. I got into advertising for about six months, and I knew 30 seconds into it that the corporate ladder and bureaucracy of the corporate world was not for me, especially the suit and the tie.”

Creative Changes

Margaux’s celebrates its 25th anniversary this year, and many things have changed since its grand opening. London-born chef Andrew Pettifer, who has transitioned the menu from classic French to an internationally influenced fusion of French, Asian and Southern cuisines that changes daily, bought out Hege.

“It’s exhilarating,” says Horowitz. “You never know what’s coming in, and the chefs have such high standards that if something comes in and they don’t like it, it’s not going on the menu. That’s what makes the place— you never know what you’re getting, and it is always going to be fresh and interesting and super creative.”

The menu is seasonal, based on what their purveyors are offering that day. But the fare isn’t all local: a day’s menu can feature Wahoo from Hawai‘i, lobster from Maine and antelope from a ranch in Broken Arrow, TX.

“Our guests love the exotic meats,” he says. “We can’t keep them in stock—they fly off the menu. We will go from venison to antelope to bison to boar to ostrich to Sika t-bone chops. Folks are extremely adventurous and for those that are not, we still have the classic stand-bys. People who’ve been coming here for 25 years know that our menu changes daily and really appreciate the fact that we kick it up a notch with our selections.”

Where Everyone Knows Your Name

There’s another reason guests keep coming back to Margaux’s after two-and-a-half decades: the staff.

“The service is what really makes people come back,” says Horowitz. “We have so many folks that this is their Cheers, their neighborhood bar. This is where they come when they are on their own or they’re on their date night. And for the same bartender to be in place for 25 years, who knows your name and your cocktail and where you’re going to sit…that’s just comfort.”

Among those celebrating Margaux’s 25th anniversary are guests who have come to mark their own milestones over the years.

“We have, since day one, handled folks’ engagements, marriages, rehearsal dinners, baby namings—to watch these children progress to their proms and graduations is an amazing thing,” he says. “Watching folks come in and say, ‘Do you know we’re celebrating our 25th anniversary, too? We got engaged in front of your fish tank in 1992!’” I talk about that all the time with our staff, about how many amazing memories have been made here. Every day, there’s another story, there’s another highlight, there’s another memory.”

Cameron Walker

Cameron Walker

Cameron Walker is a writer, mother and Raleigh native. She earned her B.A. in communication studies from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington and her M.A. in the same from the University of Southern Indiana. She loves research, rainy days and sharing her favorite recipes on her blog, HoneysuckleAfternoons.com. Cameron is a Realtor with Better Homes and Gardens Go Realty.
Cameron Walker

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