And now to one of my favorite coffee spots ever, even if it is a chain. I’m talking about Le Pain Quotidien. There are 30 locations in New York City alone, not to mention many others throughout the United States and around the globe. And it’s no surprise why there are so many locations – Le Pain is très bien!
While the name is French (meaning “the baker’s bread”), Le Pain is actually a Belgian bakery and restaurant, serving homemade bread, pastries, espresso drinks, desserts, and organic meals (eggs, salads, soups, and tartines).
- Baker’s basket. Share this basket of fresh-made bread with your friends and top it with Le Pain’s signature spreads (marmalade, three berry jam, hazelnut chocolate, dark chocolate, white chocolate, and praline spread!)
- Gazpacho. Cold tomato soup, served in a cup or a bowl, with a side of bread.
- Steel-cut oatmeal. Chewy, hearty oatmeal topped with fresh berries and mint.
- Hot cocoa. A bowl of steamed milk served with a miniature pitcher of melted chocolate.
Le Pain is not a quiet study spot. The restaurant is set up with a large communal table (and several smaller tables) that create the perfect environment of coffee and conversation. I’ve been to Le Pain a few times by myself, with a school book or fashion magazine, just to sit and sip a latte. But if you’re alone, the waiter will usually sit you at the communal table, which feels sort of awkward next to all the little groups of chatty Cathy’s. So, go here with a friend, your brother, your grandma – just not alone.
Last week I attended the chorus call audition for Broadway’s “Evita.” The dance combination was sassy and hard and fun…but waiting for four hours beforehand? Not so fun. After the audition I walked to the Le Pain on the south side of Bryant Park (40th @ 6th) and treated myself to a mochaccino(basically a cappuccino with chocolate). Did I mention I love Le Pain? They serve their espresso drinks in porcelain bowls so you have to cup the drink with your hands. The bowls are rather thin, so the mocha warms your chilly hands just right. (In fact, Le Pain sells their signature coffee bowls at the front register along with their coffee and delicious spreads. I bought my mom one of the bowls for Mother’s Day last year). And when she visits for Thanksgiving, I want to sign-up for a scone-baking class that’s offered at the Le Pain down on Bleeker street!
If you order a traditional “coffee” at Le Pain, you’ll get your own porcelain bowl with a tin pitcher of hot coffee and a tiny dish of milk or cream. Too cute! Their coffee is aromatic and sweet (no aftertaste at all). It’s not bold, but not mild either…some perfect in-between. Whether served alone or with a pastry or meal, the coffee’s très bien.
Reasons why Le Pain Quotidien is amazing:
- It’s a chain, but each restaurant has the feeling of a quaint independent coffee house/bakery. You just feel “at home” when you walk inside.
- There are 30 locations in NYC. Yes, 30!
- All the ingredients are wholesome and organic (they also offer vegan and gluten-free options). (Sorry, Dad. That means no Diet Coke!).
- The spreads. Try them. You’ll thank me.
- Bowls of coffee. Perfect on a wintery New York morning.