Sign up for our Newsletter

Demarchelier Bistro in Greenport (Photo credit: David Benthal)

When people think about art they often think about the fine arts: drawings, paintings, sculptures and other works displayed in a museum. 

After a long day meandering through exhibits and admiring these works, one might go to a restaurant to share a meal with a friend — unaware that they’ve exchanged one form of art for another. Whether it’s paintings hung on a wall or food served on a plate, both immerse us in a special experience. The restaurant becomes the museum and hospitality is the art, created by piecing together details that make guests feel warm, welcome and longing to come back. Restaurants should strive to appeal not only to a guest’s taste buds but to their senses of sight, hearing and touch as well. 

Emily Demarchelier worked in the restaurant business her whole life. (Photo credit: David Benthal)

Emily Demarchelier is a master of hospitality. Her parents, Eric and Catherine Demarchelier, left France in 1977 to enter the restaurant business in Manhattan and have run several restaurants since. “I grew up in all of those restaurants,” she explained. “I’ve worked in the restaurant business my whole life.” Among the most notable of the family’s restaurants is Demarchelier Bistro, known for its authentic French cuisine, which opened in Lenox Hill in 1978 and later moved to the Upper East Side. Emily managed that bistro for about 13 years, until it closed in 2019. While many were disheartened to see this local spot leave Manhattan, Emily had other plans. Later that year, she opened her own version of the family restaurant on Main Street in Greenport. 

Upholding her parents’ legacy, Emily has created a bistro that has a similar look and feel to its namesake. It not only offers guests classic French fare but provides an experience that embraces all elements of good hospitality. 

“Hospitality is very much a creative industry,” she explained. “The hospitality business is really about the whole package — designing a space and giving customers the full experience, not only in the food but in the surroundings as well.” 

Creating an ambiance

Those who visit Demarchelier Bistro are greeted by a space that’s warm, inviting and uniquely French. “Everything is very old and classic,” Emily said. Vintage macramé curtains from Paris’ Montmartre Village hang in the windows, while black-and-white photographs from a Parisian flea market line the front and back walls. Fans of the Manhattan original will notice that Emily has made use of just about everything from the old space, from the refurbished bar to the brown leather banquettes. It’s a bit smaller than its predecessor — the room is filled by about a dozen tables, a bar and a small lounge next to the door. With warm lighting and dark wood, the Greenport bistro offers a cozy, intimate feel. 

“I tried to make it simpler here,” Emily said. “A little more casual, I would say.” When the weather is warm and the beaches are crowded, Emily opens the back patio to offer guests an outdoor dining experience. In the winter, fur-lined seating on the front porch creates a look that resembles a ski chalet in the French Alps. “When someone walks into the bistro, I want them to feel like they’re in France,” she said. 

The yellow walls serve as a blank canvas for paintings by her father and she switches them out now and then to keep things interesting. “My father has been painting for about 25 years and we display and sell all of his artwork on the walls,” she explained. “I always find that when I go to restaurants the little details they have on the wall or in the bathrooms, all those little things, add to the full experience.” 

“The hospitality business is really about the whole package — designing a space and giving customers the full experience, not only in the food but in the surroundings as well.” 

Emily Demarchelier

The most recent batch of paintings are colorful portraits of celebrities, inspired by and hung alongside photos taken by Emily’s late uncle, photographer Patrick Demarchelier. By the bar, she displays her brother’s black-and-white sketches of the family’s former restaurants. By incorporating these personal touches, she creates a welcoming ambiance that makes customers feel like they’re a part of the family. 

Curating a menu

Steak tartare, duck confit and a Niçoise salad are just a few of the French staples you’ll find on the menu at Demarchelier. “I wanted to do a very classic take on a French bistro. It’s very much part of my culture,” Emily explained. The menu is also consistent, which she says is the key to keeping her regulars satisfied. Instead of having a seasonal menu, she supplements her year-round dishes with rotating specials. “In the winter we do cassoulet and shepherd’s pie, which are very typical French dishes,” she said. “Any restaurant in France that’s bistro-style like this would have that.” 

The bistro also offers a variety of French wines as well as aperitifs and digestifs, alcoholic drinks typically served before or after dinner, like Lillet, Pastis and Calvados. 

“Calvados is actually a very big part of my culture,” explained Emily, whose father comes from Normandy, where the digestif is produced. Calvados is a brandy typically made from apples and pears. “We cook with it, sometimes we have desserts with it, or you can just have it on its own,” Emily said. By offering these traditional drinks, she hopes to expose customers to a unique part of her culture and give them the full French experience. 

Kiki Boucher is a longtime Demarchelier customer who’s enjoyed the restaurant’s steak tartare since it first opened in Lenox Hill. “My father took me there and it was just terrific,” she said. “Emily probably wasn’t even born then.” When Boucher moved uptown, the restaurant conveniently moved along with her, becoming her regular neighborhood spot. 

Born and raised in France, Boucher says she feels at home when she eats the bistro’s fare. Now a resident of Shelter Island, she was thrilled when Emily told her Demarchelier was moving to Greenport. “The first thing she said to me was, ‘Kiki, now you can have your steak tartare,’ ” Boucher recalled. 

Demarchelier Bistro is a little bit of France on the North Fork (Photo credit: David Benthal)

Whenever Boucher’s French friends come to visit, she makes sure to bring them to Demarchelier. “This is the only real authentic bistro restaurant anywhere near here,” she explained. “It’s a little bit of France on the North Fork.” Her absolute favorite dish is choucroute — a winter special made from sauerkraut, ham and a variety of sausages. “You really don’t find it in restaurants in the States,” she explained. “Every time Emily has it, she texts me so that I know to come in and make a reservation.” 

Establishing a connection

Whether she’s greeting guests at the door or texting them about a new special, Emily ensures that her customers feel welcomed and taken care of. 

“It’s definitely important to connect with customers, especially in a place like mine,” she said. “I want to be very much part of the community and know people’s first names and know what they drink.”

Part of the art of hospitality, she says, is striking a balance, between being present without being overbearing. “You want to connect, but you also want to give them space,” she explained. “You want to chitchat and get to know people, but you don’t want to sit with them for their whole meal.”

For French speakers living on the North Fork, the bistro offers the additional comfort of being able to speak in their native tongue. For others, it offers a unique experience of cultural immersion. “I’ve been lucky to have had a lot of French people working for me since I’ve been here,” Emily said. “People love to know about the server’s culture and where they come from.”

For regulars like Boucher, the bistro is more than just a spot for authentic French food. During the World Cup, for example, Boucher was cheering on the French team with Emily when she received some big news. “My younger son called me to say that his first son was just born, and he sent me a picture. I showed it to Emily and immediately she brought me a glass of Champagne and told everybody,” she recalled. “There’s just something really special there.” It’s moments like these that exemplify Emily’s mastery of the art of hospitality. The connections and experiences that she cultivates for her guests draw them back to the bistro again and again — and promise to continue her family legacy for years to come.