Friday, January 21, 2011

Carbohydrated: Le Pain Quotidien on Walnut St.

Somebody carries a torch for Le Pain Quotidien around here. I want you to know that this was not all me; my co-anchor, who works downtown and likes getting out of the office for lunch, abetted my madness.

I was jubilant at the opening of an very vegan-savvy and mostly organic chain on Walnut St. I attend yoga or pilates nearby a few times a week and I was just waiting for a respectable coffeehouse and healthy lunch destination for yoga buddy lunch dates and many a rendezvous with Mr. Phillips.

So where to start? Let's begin with the favorites thus far and work our way down.

I'm a lover of the communal table (Talula's, Fork Etc.) and this one is no exception. I'm also big on the fact that they will serve alcohol (coming soon) and an evening menu (featuring Seared Organic Tofu* with brussels sprouts, raisins, spicy tahini and lapsang vinaigrette).

The Asian Organic Tofu Salad with slaw and miso dressing is easily a front runner on my top salads list. Right now, I'm obsessed with all things slaw - cool, crunchy, colorful, fibrous and snappy with vinegar. Add a pile of slaw to anything and it's instantly remarkable. For 160 calories, I left full, but it does come with a side of bread.

For $12.50, I've had a better salad, but you can't exactly find this offering at any regular cafe, now can you? So, they've got me hooked if I happen to be downtown. (Similarly, the Veg Salad at Koo Zee Doo in Northern Liberties is my favorite at $12, for a larger portion, with more interesting bread and the wonderful charm that has no price).

My next choice would be the Vegan Riz Au Lait - a rice pudding made with soy milk and agave nectar. For breakfast or dessert, it is a sweet, thick pudding that is substantially filling (which is why I say breakfast).  This is Vegan Pudding Luxury.

The pastry case had Hazelnut Flutes and Apple Cannelles (both vegan), but it also had this looker of a Vegan Carrot Muffin. I was hoping to find a blueberry, but the carrot was pro. Even this day-old muffin that I purchased yesterday was still moist with juicy raisins and a glorious top. A little sweet, but perhaps just right with a Soy Latte Bowl? The soy lattes are excellent.

This Warm Fingerling Potato Salad that I made at home was accompanied by a Spelt Loaf that I picked up from Le Pain. Philly is a bread town and I must say, this is not quite as amazing as some our local vendors (Metropolitan, Four Worlds, Parc) but that may be in part because they are shipping it in from a DC location. It's still very good and the bread loaves are generous.

Mister commented that his Avocado Tartine was a bit bland but that the Black Bean Soup Special was good.

We were both a little surprised by prices, some of which are reasonable, and others that seem oddly steep. Makes you feel like you really are in New York...

I've yet to try the tartines, but I'm hoping  to like them, because so far I've been pleased. The Oatmeal and the Harvest Porridge are next on my list.

Have you found love at Le Pain?

Le Pain Quotidien, 1425 Walnut Street

M-T: 7am-9pm
F: 7am-10pm
Sa: 8am-10pm
Su: 8am-8pm
Menu at Menupages


GraciaKai said...

I'm so freaking excited to try this place! I work a block away. They are going to be seeing a lot of me come spring.

BradyDale said...

I was really excited about this place. I had been in New York and DC and had great experiences. It's really close to my office and I was looking forward to coming there in the morning to write for 20 minutes with a glass of iced coffee and a muffin.


It's all table service. All the time.

I know everyone isn't like this, but table service makes me want to leave. Even if hardly anyone is there. To me, a waittress coming over and saying "Do you have everything?" every little bit is tantamount to "aren't you done yet?"

Plus, when you sit down, they jack up the prices.

I know it's a Euro style place and in Europe, people hang around, but they still have american staff and I just don't feel comfortable. Even for my relatively short 20-30 minute stays.

I would be a lot more pumped about Le Pain if that front section was more like a coffee shop. Buy it at the counter and grab a seat. And the back was table service. That's how it LOOKS like it would be when you walk in, but it's not. and they even have table service in the early morning.

So I'm really bummed. None of the other coffee shops around there QUITE do it for me. I like the coffee at Capogiro but their food is mega-overpriced for what you get. BrewHaHa is okay but kinda far from my office.
The quality and space at Le Pain is all really pefect.
But waiters? Not so perfect. So even tho I was on pins and needles about it opening, since it finally did I have only been twice. And only sat down once. And couldn't concentrate the whole time because I felt the waittress staring at me and because she kept interrupting me even tho I could not have clearly been more totally absorbed in nothing that had anything to do with eating.


Major bummer for me. them's the breaks I guess.

The food is awesome, but I seldom have lunch dates and etc. Kind of a pain for me to get to for brunch. It's a good place to meet up with someone, I guess, but not so awesome to be on your own.

GraciaKai said...

So I can't just walk in and place an order quickly to go? That bums me out if its the case. I don't do sit down lunches while I'm at work. I need to get in and get out.

BradyDale said...

No! I'm sorry! You can order to go! No probs!
I was just hoping for a nice spot to sit down for a few. It doesn't really feel right for that to me, but if you want a coffee and a muffin to go, just hit the counter and you're cool. But if you want to take what you bought at that counter and sit down at one of the handy tables, you'll be told to take a hike.

kellywhitephillips said...

BradyDale - I agree. I think it'd work if they kept the shorter communal table that's behind the retail shelf free for people who don't necessarily need table service. Or had a small to-go counter to knock back an espresso and a croissant.

Check out newly opened Elixir across from Max Brenner at 15th in between Walnut and Locust. The space feels just right and the coffee is pro. Very casual spot that also stocks tofu hoagies and such from Marathon Grill.

Genderwarrior said...

BTW - for a $12 salad, try the mushroom goat cheese salad at Sampan. Also the edamame dumplings are AMAZING.

Anonymous said...

If you like vegan options at LPQ, I definitely recommend trying the vegan black bean hummus tartine. It is amazing. I love just adding a little of the spicy tahini sauce that comes with it. Their camomile mint iced tea was very refreshing as well. For dessert I has one of their mixed berry tarts and a soy mocha which looked so pretty it was almost a shame to drink.

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