I didn’t give much thought to Le Pain Quotidien when it first opened — it’s very pricey and seemed like just another upscale chain that gets a lot of hype because of its menu of fresh and organic meals. But over the last year I have found that it has become one of my neighborhood standbys for early breakfasts on Saturday mornings, as well as healthy lunches or a place for an afternoon meeting over a cup of tea.
Most Saturday mornings my sister and her daughter have breakfast there before going to Eastern Market to buy vegetables for the week. And on mornings when I am up early enough, I join them for some girl time. The menu provides a great selection of healthy but filling items for breakfast, and they have a pretty good kids menu that my niece loves…although it may also be the quality time with the girls that she really likes so much.
My usual pick off the menu is the ham and Gruyere omelet with fresh greens while my sister’s is the smoked salmon omelet. And my niece generally asks for the waffle from the kids menu (also on the regular menu but it’s size is perfect for little ones). Here’s the thing about that waffle – it not your everyday waffle and it’s kind of addictive. It has the consistency of brioche bread, but crispy and sweet on the outside. It’s then topped with a little powdered sugar and fresh berries. It does not come with syrup which I think is a good thing as the extra sweetness would probably ruin it. At first bite you’re not sure what to think, since it’s not what you typically expect when you bite into a waffle. But after a second bite it’s hard to not gobble down the entire thing. And with a two-year-old who doesn’t really like sharing her food, I need to either practice serious restraint or order one for myself.
If you order an omelet or something else that comes with bread, I highly recommend trying a bit of their nutella spread. It is so delicious you’ll be very tempted to buy a jar on your way home. As for some of their other menu items, they offer several omelets, fruit bowls, and a ton of very good fresh-baked pastries. I wasn’t blown away by the oatmeal — it’s a bit too creamy for my taste — but their granola and yogurt is fantastic. Their tartines, which are open-faced sandwiches are also really good. My current favorite is the ricotta with mission figs and acacia honey.
I used to always think of neighborhood standbys as divey places (like my usual favorite – Jimmy T’s), not a European-style chain. But LPQ has been a great addition to the neighborhood for us. I think it started because my sister and I often wanted a heather option, but now it has just sort of stuck as my little niece has taken such a liking to it and the chance to eat out with the grownups. It may be a chain but it’s comfortable, bright and inviting, and really quite delicious.