Belgium Brunch in New York City | Le Pain Quotidien
For Memorial Day weekend, I decided to take the gorgeous Friday morning as a personal day. Having emailed my bosses, and spent the night before doing research, I planned a day in New York City.
After catching my usual morning train, I ended up in the city. It was already sunny and warm with no breeze. I wove through people, thanking myself that I wore decent shoes and a tank top.
Of course, New York City never sleeps, so people were everywhere, even for 9:30 am. The holiday weekend had more suitcase-packed sidewalks than I expected.
I made my way up 6th Ave from 34th. I people watched as I dodged pamphlets and bicyclists. People already lounged around Bryant Park. Sugary smelling waffles called to me from the small hut nearby.
Le Pain Quotidien | The Backstory
Le Pain Quotidien is an international bakery chain. Alain Coumont founded the first Le Pain Quotidien in Belgium, where his parents owned a restaurant, and he studied the craft of baking. (According to my research, in Southern Belgium they speak French, which is why it is easy to assume that LPQ is a French Bakery).
The bakery/restaurant is inspired by Coumont's upbringing. He spent his childhood learning how to make bread and pastries. He named Le Pain Quotidien after these memories and experiences.
Le Pain Quotidien is French for “the daily bread.”
A Lucky Find
I had never heard of Le Pain Quotidien before. As I was doing my research for local, authentic restaurants, LPQ appeared on my list.
I read through their menu and found their Instagram. LPQ using organic, local, vegan, and gluten-free products on their menu. Their beautiful bread, amazing pastries, and warm decor make up my mind — I was going!
Le Pain Quotidien Style
On the sidewalk in front of LPQ's large windows were two-person tables, filled with businessmen in suits.
I entered into the small foyer. The room was long and narrow, rustic with rich wood. To my left was a staircase. Under the staircase, leather lounge chairs nestled around coffee tables. To the right, a large farm-house hutch offered honey, jam, and LPQ-branded food for sale.
At the far end of the room, a long line of people stood for bread and pastries. I didn't want to be that guy and try to sneak past them to get a photo of the pastry counter. So check out this shot from Vlad A. on Yelp:
I looked up the stairs to see if there was a dining room. There was. I climbed up to the top and searched for a two-top table that would allow me to see the entire room. I choose one in the back corner.
Le Pain Quotidien Interior
My ginger-hipster waiter left me a two-sided paper menu.
I skimmed the front (having already read the menu online), as I looked around the room.
The main wall on the right was distressed red brick. A large, framed chalkboard in the middle had the Spring menu displayed. It included items like breakfast bowls, gazpacho soup, watermelon coolers, and cold brewed coffee.
The floors were hardwood. Our tables were chunky, natural wood worn with use. They were balanced on a black iron base that looked like a lamp post.
My table was against the iron railing with mesh overlooking the staircase. The tall wall looked like stucco and was burnt brown-orange. Quilt-like tapestries decorated the wall in dark brown, green, and red colors.
By now it was 10:30ish, which is normally closer to my lunchtime than breakfast. I knew that spending my day in the MoMA meant I should probably eat something filling, but I couldn't decide.
LPQ's menu had everything. Mini pancakes, avocado toast, eggs, a bread basket with jam, and more.
"Do you know what you want?" My waiter asked.
"Well, I can't decide between the skillet eggs or the tartine."
"Are you hungry?"
I'm always hungry. "Yeah."
"Then go with the tartine."
Prosciutto, Ricotta, & Fig Tartine | $15
Tartines are open-faced sandwiches. This must've been a very long piece of bread because each triangle was a decent size.
By far, Le Pain Quotidien knows what they're doing when it comes to bread. My bread was an organic whole wheat sourdough. The crust was crunchy like rye but the actual bread was fluffy and light. It didn't get soggy from holding the toppings either.
At first, I wasn't sure how impressive this tartine was going to be. The ingredients were Italian and familiar to me, so I wasn't going to be surprised by the flavor combination. I was more interested in LPQ's arrangement and quality of ingredients.
I picked up one triangle and took a bite — it was like butter.
The prosciutto was perfect. (If you've ever had stringy prosciutto, you know what I mean). Then you have the fluffy bread (which really did taste like rich butter). On top was creamy ricotta drizzled with honey. Thin, crisp slices of fig draped with the prosciutto, and then the peppery arugula and pear.
In total, it was a light, refreshing dish. The ingredients were good quality so I didn't mind spending $15 for it.
I had my usual morning coffee before leaving the house. I was still too hot to think about having a cappuccino or anything. Instead, I ordered a treat that I saw on Le Pain Quotidien's Instagram.
French Cream Donut | $5.00
This donut is why I'm so excited to blog about Le Pain Quotidien. It was spectacular!
My photo doesn't do it justice! The French Cream donut was the size of a softball. I could see it across the room as the waiter carried it over.
I tried the filling first to see if it was actually cream and it was. The cream was luxurious and chilled, with hints of vanilla. The donut on its own was airy, fluffy, and not overly sweet. It reminded me of a cream puff.
I ate about 3/4 of the donut with cream before feeling stuffed. I scraped out the rest of the cream and ate that. This donut was a meal in itself!
Onto the MoMA | My Next Visit
In total, my bill was $20 plus tip. If I had known how decadent their pastries were, I would've ordered several and had that for breakfast.
Either way, I was happy with the quality of my tartine. The best decision I made was to try their French Cream donut. The next time I'm in the city and nearby Le Pain Quotidien, I plan to order their coffee and sit downstairs.
I left LPQ and headed down the street to the Museum of Modern Art, where I spent the rest of the afternoon visiting my favorite artists. Stay tuned for my next blog post and tell me your thoughts about Le Pain Quotidien!