Le Cav elevates tradition with a modern flair

Le Cavalier at the Green Room opened on Sept 1 with a new look, a new menu and a new chef, Tyler Akin. Patrons with family histories of celebrating special events at The Green Room will find Akin has put a new spin on a venerable tradition with an upbeat menu combining standards with innovative new dishes influenced by North Africa and Provence.

"It's a high energy informal restaurant where the food is taken really seriously and is consistent. Where you can get food that is going to fill you up," said Akin, explaining his view of a modern French brasserie located at the Hotel DuPont in Wilmington, Delaware. "Lots of atmosphere, with fun music and décor elements."

The brilliant colors of the terrazzo floor still shine over 100 years later.

The décor marries that old with the new. Gone are the heavy drapes and the wall to wall carpeting. Preserved are the carved wood paneling and ceilings, the 1930s Spanish chandeliers, and the original flooring.

"We had no idea there was hand-laid terrazzo tile under the carpet," said Akin as he proudly showed off the inlaid fan design. A bar was added to the restaurant to give it a more modern feel and cater to those who enjoy eating at the bar. The modern artwork also reflects bringing the restaurant into a new age. "They are a counterpoint to the formal baroqueness of the room."

Opening a restaurant during the pandemic brought its own set of challenges. Like all restaurants, there are increased sanitation requirements and limits to the number of guests. Adding an outdoor seating area across from Rodney Square has helped customers feel more comfortable eating out again. "The heat towers that have been super helpful already. They create a wall of heat along tables. We have wireless speakers providing music."

The biggest challenges are evident during a lunchtime walk around the hotel. Where once hundreds of office workers rushed to grab lunch, fighting traffic and waiting in long lines, today, the streets are empty. No guests linger in the hotel lobby. The theater is shuttered. Like many businesses, they are waiting out this virus, until office workers again throng the city streets, until business travelers fill the hotel, and until the curtain opens again in the Playhouse.

The new entrance allows easy access to the restaurant from 11th street in Wilmington.

"My vision is very much to honor the legacy and history that I grew up with," said Wilmington native Akin, "My goal is to make something sustainable and approachable that makes sense in 2020." Educated in the French-style at L'Academie de Cuisine outside of Washington, D.C., Akin further honed his skills at Zahav in Philadelphia before going on to open Stock, also in Philadelphia. In recent months, he and his family have moved back to the Wilmington area.

"Every single guest is a privilege," said assistant manager Wendy Schneider as she welcomed diners to "Le Cav." Many guests enjoyed the new casual vibe in khakis and golf shirts, while others still honored the tradition of wearing a jacket while dining.

Plans for the future included expanding to include breakfast, lunch, and tea. But like everything else, tea will have a modern touch. In addition to tea, Akin paints a picture of an early happy hour with cocktails or a glass of champagne paired with pastries and tea sandwiches, all styled with fresh produce and Mediterranean references.

"We try to follow the seasons as much as possible. Fresh produce just tastes better than something picked five days ago and shipped across the country," said Akin. Next week, he will be featuring SIW's fresh produce to a sold-out crowd at SIW's next Field to Fork on Oct 14. "HG [SIW's owner] has a natural approach to growing and harvesting."

In the end, the success of any restaurant is about the food, and Chef Akin does not disappoint. His fresh-baked parker rolls melt in your mouth, while his take onion soup elevates the traditional bowl to a dining delight. His ratatouille was expertly paired with the grilled Romanesco and saffron pilaf.

Le Cav is now open for dinner Tuesdays through Saturdays from 5 pm to 10 pm and for Brunch on Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Take-out, room service and delivery via grub hub are also available. More information can be found at lecavalierde.com

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About Karen Myers

Karen Myers lives in Pocopson Township and has written for several local publications. A strong supporter of our community, Karen has served on several non-profit boards, such as Pocopson Elementary PTO, The United Way of Southern Chester County, Chester County Art Association and Tick Tock Early Learning Center. She received her M.B.A. from the University of Delaware and worked in marketing and operations with a focus on banking.

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