This bakery should stick to what it's known for: pastries, and a lot of them.
Le Pain Quotidien does not stand out on the 1400 block of Walnut Street. Lost amongst banks and fashionable clothing stores, this location of the up–and–coming chain bakery is barely recognizable behind its grey, concrete façade. When I arrived outside, I felt lost and confused: was this really the all–organic bakery I’d heard so much about?
But taking a step inside eased all my qualms. Well–lit with warm yellow walls, the restaurant has an inviting atmosphere, complete with exposed red brick walls behind the counter and shelves lined end–to–end with homemade loaves of breads. Even the tables show off the restaurant’s cozy vibe; each one had a menu–holder carved out of a dome–shaped loaf of bread.
Customers sit around these sturdy wooden tables, enjoying foamy cappuccinos and generous portions of salad. Some balance novels before them as they sip their toasty drinks; others seem to represent more of corporate America on their lunch breaks. Everyone, however, is happily nibbling away at their food.
The menu promises organic ingredients, and the food does not disappoint — starting with the drinks. The mint lemonade ($3.35), with real mint leaves floating on top, is refreshing without being overly sweet. Among other hot or iced drinks, coffee lovers can also order a cappuccino ($3.95), served in a large playful mug.
The waiter was friendly and more than happy to bring out two of their most popular items. Le Pain Quotidien is best known for their tartines, which are basically open–faced sandwiches. The Grilled Chicken and Smoked Mozzarella Tartine ($10.95) is an excellent spin on a classic sandwich, served with arugula on toasted wheat bread and a drizzle of basil pesto. The arugula gives each bite a kick of flavor and complimented the texture of the smoked cheese. The Grilled Chicken Cobb Salad ($14.95) should be a meal on its own; not only was the salad huge, but it also included chicken, bleu cheese crumbles and yummy avocado slices.
The best part of the meal, of course, came at the end in the form of one Mixed Berry Tart ($6.35). The homemade pastries showcase Le Pain Quotidien’s attention to detail and dedication to good taste. With its buttery crust and light custard filling topped with fresh raspberries, blueberries and blackberries, this tart delivers. The Apricot Crumble ($5.25), though, was more of a comfort food, with a texture similar to bread pudding. Despite its rich, moist center, this dessert fell flat. It might have been better complimented by another, more crisp fruit.
No matter how successful this franchise becomes and how much their menu expands, Le Pain Quotidien remains a bakery at heart. Whether attracting brooding poets, health food enthusiasts or corporate bankers, this restaurant delivers its promise for quality and freshness — and some really, really good desserts.
LE PAIN QUOTIDIEN
1425 Walnut St.
Don’t Miss: Mixed Berry Tart
Skip: Apricot Crumble