The Hungry Man Eats

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Le Pain Quotidien: A Tale of Two Restaurants

Smoked Salmon and Scallion Omelet

For those of you not in the know, “Le Pain Quotidien” is French for “The Daily Bread”. It is a European style restaurant with communal tables as well as some standard single party tables. A specialty of the restaurant is their fresh baked bread, but really all of their food is fresh and delicious.

So what exactly is up with that title? You’ll see soon enough…

Restaurant #1: Le Pain Quotidien: Delicious Food and a Warm Atmosphere

I have been to Le Pain Quotidien four times now for breakfast with a friend and the majority of the time it has been a delightful place to grab a meal. Each time I have been there has been for breakfast/brunch, so I have not yet had an opportunity to try their lunch and dinner style meals. They have some excellent omelets and I have had the good fortune to try their ham and Gruyere omelet as well as their smoked salmon and scallion omelet which is pictured at the top. Their omelets come out with a small side of greens with a vinaigrette style dressing on top, a small container of what I believe is fresh sour cream and two slices of their fresh bread, a portion of one of their baguettes and a slice of their wheat/sourdough style bread.

They do a great job with their beverages as well, their fresh orange juice tastes like it was fresh squeezed and their coffee is towards the top of my list for great tasting coffee coming from a sit down restaurant, a hot pot of their coffee goes great with any of their breakfast items and their iced coffee/latte more than holds its own flavor wise, see that work of art below…

There is a reason I have been to Le Pain Quotidien four times now, it all about their fresh food and quality ingredients. It’s one of those places where I am confident I could order anything off of their menu and enjoy it.

LPQ Iced coffee

Restaurant #2: Le Pain Quotidien: Why Do You Hate Your Customers?

I have been to Le Pain Quotidien four times now for breakfast with a friend and the majority of the time it has been a delightful place to grab a meal. Regrettably only on three of those occasions was I served food…the fourth time they could not be troubled to acknowledge the existence of my friend and I as we sat outside for 22 minutes before we gave up on them and went to Starbucks instead. Its one thing to move along to another place to eat if the first place is full and they have no room for you, but it is a failure on the part of the restaurant if you show up and have to leave because they have not succeeded in their mission to feed you.

The only thing that would give Le Pain Quotidien even the slightest excuse for their failure would be that it was Mother’s Day, however we took a quick peek inside to see how busy were and they were only about two-thirds full at 10:00 am. And even then, if it is Mother’s Day and you are open for breakfast, you better be properly staffed, otherwise you did a crappy job of being ready for the day.

Le Pain Quotidien is one of those restaurants where you seat yourself, for better or worse, it is up to the wait staff to be on the ball to know that you are there and somebody new rather than the people who are responsible for the dirty dishes that are still on the table from the last occupants that they have let sit for 20 minutes.

On the day we weren’t served, we did choose to sit outside where they had three tables, one was clear, one was occupied and one was still cluttered with the dishes of the previous party. At a minimum we figured that somebody would be out just to clear the dirty tables, especially when the occupied table left a few minutes after we arrived. No such thing, they must not have needed the dishes and silverware too bad as nobody appeared…

Of the three occasions we did get served, twice the service was great, interestingly on those two occasions we were there around 9:00 am, the poor service seems to be a bit later in the morning when the crowds pick up a bit more. When I say bad service though it wasn’t that the server was rude, sick or incompetent, it was that they were slow, slow in all stages from drink orders to bill arrival.

For a restaurant that hypes up its communal atmosphere wants to be the place you come to relax and enjoy food, it has the most unhappy looking customers of any restaurant I go to, perhaps because they are enduring some level of staff neglect.

I went and did some research to see if other people have had the same sorts of problems. As of May 19, 2014, there were 30 reviews on Yelp for the location I went to adding up to an average rating of only three stars. The breakdown is as follows:

5 Stars – 3

4 Stars – 10

3 Stars – 5

2 Stars – 6

1 Star – 6

Of the 30 reviews, 7 of them dinged the service in some way, but 8 of the reviews had complimentary things to say about the service, most of the lower ratings were for service issues, most of the higher ratings praised the food (and the service as well in a few cases).

So how about the food? We covered the good above, so here is the not so good: It is on the pricey side for what you get and serving size seems wildly inconsistent. I have had three omelets, and none of them have been the same size, the one pictured up top is the largest one I have been served, the smallest one looked like it came from a kids menu. The plate of food above was a $13.75 meal, the pot of coffee was another $3.50. Also on one of the visits, my friend selected their French toast. It was made from their sourdough wheat and when it came out it looked like something you would have seen on the cover of Gourmet magazine, it looked like it was going to be the best French toast ever. Regrettably, it tasted like you licked a magazine page, it was rather flavorless and blah, my friend sent it back.

When it comes down to it, it looks like the service is what makes or breaks your experience at Le Pain Quotidien, hope you get the first restaurant experience from above, but if it appears like you are actually getting the second experience instead, I’m sure there is a Starbucks nearby that would be happy to have you.

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