Le Pain Quotidien is an organic Belgian café chain with locations all over the world. Seattle does not have one and I have not seen it anywhere else along the west coast (I think New York has several cafés), so this was the first experience for us in Paris. I’ve heard about the cafe through a couple of sources, and we have dined here twice for lunch. Lucky for us it’s only a few blocks from our place. The restaurant is known for their bread; hence the meaning of their name translates to daily bread. Their menu has options for brunch, sandwiches, tartines, soups, salads, and desserts. Although everything looked delicious, we were interested in their vegan options. They cleverly labeled their vegan dishes on the menu with an orange carrot sign.
The first time we visited we had our own little table nested among other tiny tables. On our second visit the host sat us at the communal table, which was an interesting experience to dine with strangers. We had fellow French diners sitting in front of us and to our sides. Solo diners browsed the cookbook on the table or flipped pages of magazines, while couples and friends dabbled in their own conversations. It was as if other people weren’t around. No big deal.
We have been impressed with the taste and quality of the food. Since Le Pain is known for their bread and tartine dishes, Nick ordered a tartine platter that came with several kinds of spread for you to spread yourself. (If you don’t already know what a tartine is, it is a slice of open-faced bread with a spread on it. The bread is usually some sort of fancy bread topped with a sweet or savory spread.) Nick enjoyed the platter very much, but found it was too much bread. He had paired it with a small pea soup that we found pretty tasty as well.
The second time around he ordered a tartine with avocado, white beans, and tomatoes; the spread was already on there. It came with a slice of lemon which he happily doused the tartine with. I tasted it and concluded it fresh and delicious. This time Nick also paired the tartine with the soup of the day, which was a carrot soup. Again, the soup was pretty good.
I, on the other hand, was a little fixated on the pot au feu de lègumes au quinoa – vegetable stew with quinoa. It came with a side of harissa and I gladly dumped and mixed the whole thing in the bowl. It was full of flavor and had good spice. I liked it so much I ordered it again the second time we were there. The stew came with two slices of bread: baguette and wheat sourdough. I did not eat the sourdough bread, but enjoyed the slice of baguette. It sure was a good piece of baguette!
For drinks, we ordered their fresh squeezed orange juice. Any chance we can get fresh unpasteurized juice, we’ll do it. It was so good; we wished we could have had a liter each. I highly recommend it.
While sitting at the communal table, we saw a sign on the wall that instructed you on how to eat the tartine in English. It was pretty much in the order that you receive your tartine dish, pick it up, and then eat it. We assumed it was for Americans and after analyzing it, we thought there must be a proper way to eat it since it was written in English. It turned out after watching our fellow French diners at the table, there is no special way. You eat it however you like. I guess the joke was on us.
As I mentioned, this place is very good and there is something for everyone. I highly recommend it. Scoping out our neighbors’ dishes and desserts, everything looked flawless—just perfect. And besides the presentation, I can vouch that you get your money’s worth with the quality and taste. If you make it out to Le Pain, bon appetit!