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Le Pain Quotidien, Chicago IL

Last weekend was Wisconsin-palooza…a 4-day extravaganza of funtivities with friends. I’ll be doing a post that recaps the weekend as a whole, but figured I’d do restaurant reviews first.

My flight into Chicago was way bright and super early on Friday morning. My college friend Cristin lives there and I don’t see her nearly enough, so my original plan was to meet her for lunch. But unfortunately she had a super busy week at work, so that didn’t pan out. Clearly that means I’ll have to go back for a longer visit! Instead I went straight to Reg’s apartment to meet him & Kerrie.

Reg lives on the North side of Chicago, and has stunning views of the lake from his apartment. I wish it was a sunny day, but you still get the sense of how awesome it is

Le Pain Quotidien, Chicago IL - Karyl's Kulinary Krusade

I was starving by the time I got there. Surprisingly, the restaurant options within walking distance were limited. Reg was working and Kerrie was making her sign for the Garth concert, so I wanted to go somewhere kind of quick where I could get carryout. Reg said there was a new cafe just a couple blocks away, and I had seen it on my walk to the apartment, so I decided to check it out.

Le Pain Quotidien is French for The Daily Bread. It’s a cute restaurant that looks very much like a French bakery. There’s an outdoor patio out front that was packed because it was a beautiful fall day. Once inside, you can order at the counter or be seated for full service. What I also like is that even if you do the counter, they have a couple of small tables where you can enjoy baked goods or a coffee or tea. They also have a lounge seating area with couches. In the full service seating area there’s a huge family style table in the middle. There are tall windows along 2 sides of the building, providing tons of natural light.

I had never heard of this restaurant until last Friday. And then I learned that they have locations in Chicago, LA, NYC, Philly, and Washington DC. I’m surprised they don’t have any in Dallas or Houston. They would do really well there. Not only is it the restaurant, but they also sell oils, spreads, coffees, etc. I also learned that some of the locations offer baking classes! How cool is that?

They’ve got some of the menu listed on a large board behind the order counter, and then the cashier gave me a complete printed menu. As I browsed, I couldn’t help but notice the 2 displays of freshly baked goods next to the cash register.

Le Pain Quotidien, Chicago IL - Karyl's Kulinary Krusade

Of course that was the last thing I needed, but they all looked so tempting. I eventually gave in and got a coconut macaroon

Le Pain Quotidien, Chicago IL - Karyl's Kulinary Krusade

This was super rich, but really delicious. There’s nothing like the taste of toasted coconut. I think it would be outstanding served warm. But I was hungry and didn’t want to wait to get back to the apartment, so I devoured it immediately while I waited for my meal.

The menu features breakfast/brunch items, soups, salads, open-faced sandwiches, hot dishes, and platters.  A lot of the dishes are very unique and eclectic. If you’re a fast food, or regular American restaurant type person, this won’t be your style. But I think it’s a good way to expand your horizons and try things you wouldn’t normally get. I went back and forth on numerous options, and eventually settled on the oven roasted chicken and smoked mozzarella tartine

Le Pain Quotidien, Chicago IL - Karyl's Kulinary Krusade

Tomatoes, arugula, tomato salsa & basil oil served on organic whole wheat sourdough bread

I have to say, I was underwhelmed. The bread was good, but the tomato salsa being spread directly onto the bread made it pretty soggy by the time I ate it. However, that was a good 15 minutes after I left the restaurant. So it’s probably not a fair representation of the dish served straight from the kitchen. I really liked the fresh tomatoes on top. The basil oil added great flavor, I just wish there was more of it. Maybe even some on the side to dip the sandwich in. I was totally caught off guard by the big slices of mozzarella. I’m not sure what I expected, but that wasn’t it. However, it did have good flavor, as did the chicken.

I need to give this place another chance, and do the full service dine in so I can get the full experience. I feel like that’s the only fair way to get a real representation. Besides, there were several other items on the menu that I would like to try.

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