Boldly printed at the top of their menu, Le Pain Quotidien’s motto reads as follows: “The idea behind Le Pain Quotidien is simply to make a good daily bread, a handmade bread that makes good tartines. Bread not only to nourish the body, but the spirit as well. A bread best shared around a table, to be savored among friends.”
Proof of this credo is evident in every aspect of dining at Le Pain Quotidien.
Walking through the front doors feels like being whisked off of M Street and into a French bakery. Beautiful and impeccably arranged pastries, breads and tarts wait behind glass cases, and it takes a considerable amount of self control not to put your nose right up to the glass and stare longingly.
Still on sensory overload from the bakery, you are promptly ushered to the back. A narrow dining room makes maximum use of space by lining the walls with two-seat tables, and running one, very long communal table the length of the room.
This communal table, according to the restaurant’s website, has been a consistent and important feature of all Le Pain Quotidien sites since the first store opened in Brussels in 1990. Since then, it has “encouraged sharing of time and space” and has helped bring people together over food.
While the communal table plays nicely into Le Pain Quotidien’s philosophy of sharing bread and friends, the Georgetown restaurant is fairly small and it could be uncomfortably tight and difficult to hold conversations when the restaurant is full.
The rest of the decor is minimal: exposed brick and light wood furniture. Classical music spills softly from speakers hidden among the exposed pipes in the ceiling, and French doors open onto outside courtyard seating. The result is an atmosphere that feels simultaneously quaint and chic.
The good news is, whatever kind of meal you’re craving, Le Pain Quotidien has it. Breakfast is served into the afternoon, and lunch and dinner include sandwiches, soups, specialties and salads. They offer more kinds of coffee, tea and chocolate than Starbucks, and the menu boasts of many organic and vegan options as well.
Sandwiches are served open-faced (“tartines”) and cut into wedges – eating them with a knife and fork heightens the feeling that you are dining in a European café.
For $12.25, the prosciutto and mozzarella di Bufala with sun dried tomatoes and basil pesto is a good option. The prosciutto is not too salty, and crossed strips of sun dried tomato bring a certain level of art and craftsmanship to the dish.
It is true that you eat with your eyes first, and the people at Le Pain Quotidien really understand this concept. Greens, melon, and slices of cucumber and radish accompany both sandwiches, bringing even more color to the plate.
If you’re like me, you’ll probably be thinking about dessert once you walk through the doors (it’s no accident that the bakery is located at the front of the store). Le Pain Quotidien offers an entire small menu of them, ranging in price from $6.
Le Pain Quotidien’s staff is friendly, and although initially attentive, the service did fall off a bit near the end. The restaurant was also very empty for a Friday night, but both of these issues might be resolved as Le Pain Quotidien becomes better known in the Georgetown area.
What Le Pain Quotidien really has going for it (and what sets it apart from other Georgetown options) is its attention to detail and the fresh quality of their food. Everything tastes like it came directly from a farmer’s market. This freshness, combined with moderate prices and European charm, makes Le Pain Quotidien a very positive culinary experience.
Le Pain Quotidien is located at 2815 M St. and is open daily for breakfast, lunch and dinner.