By Kristine Hansen   Published Mar 10, 2003 at 5:40 AM Photography: Molly Snyder

A peek inside Au Bon Appetit -- where a delicious fusion of French and Mediterranean food is dished up nightly -- tells you that space is tight. The eatery, at 1016 E. Brady St., seats just 40 diners and is open for dinner only.

On one wall are hung framed newspaper and magazine articles touting the restaurant's success since opening in 1991. Each depicts the colorful story of a chef -- Rihab Aris -- fresh off of Lebanese soil, eager to fill American stomachs with tasty food, and how she quickly built up a culinary landmark in Milwaukee.

So, it was only natural that Aris and business partner Costi Helou would expand Au Bon Appetit by introducing a low-cost, take-out and catered version to the Third Ward. Plans to open in Bay View last summer never materialized.

Now two falafel balls smothered with tahini sauce, nestled in a bed of chopped tomatoes, and tucked into a warm pita, is just $3.99, and served fresh in the Third Ward during the weekday lunch period.

In late January Au Bon Appetit opened in a 1,800-sq.-ft. space on the second floor of the Phoenix Building, 219 N. Milwaukee St. "It's a great neighborhood -- there are many businesses there," says Aris, who is consistently clad in her signature red chef hat and never without a smile.

Orders are taken, and served, between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m., Tuesday through Friday. The space lacks an eat-in area and, to save time and money, disposable utensils and dishes are used.


As before, individual portions of common Mediterranean fare like hummus and tabbouleh are prepared, packaged and shipped to Pick N Save, Sendik's and Madison's Magic Mill for retail sale. Catered events include corporate luncheons and weddings.

Two items on the take-out menu that aren't available at the Brady Street restaurant are chicken ($3.99) and fish ($3.99). A marinated chicken breast is roasted and served with garlic sauce, lettuce and tomatoes. Baked fish is served with a dash of tahini sauce and a sprig of parsley. Baba ghanouj ($3.75), spicy red pepper hummus ($3.75) and hummus bethini ($3.75), and gyros ($3.99) are some of the appetizers. Three kinds of soups -- lentil, carrot and vegetables with chicken -- cost just $2.95 a bowl. Higher-priced food options ($5.95) are wara'a enab and a variety of combination plates.

For a lighter fare, consider salad; Aris and Helou's feature chicken, tabbouleh and feta for $3.75, and served with pita bread.

And, of course, baklawa ($1.25) -- filo dough stuffed with walnuts and topped with sugar syrup -- is available for dessert.

There's a delightful mix of beverages (all are $.95) to take with your lunch, including lemonade with orange blossom water, soft drinks and coffee.

Au Bon Appetit is at 219 N. Milwaukee St., on the second floor, and open from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday to Friday. Contact the restaurant at (414) 223-3222.