Walking into the little Belgian bakery, Le Pain Quotidien (The Daily Bread), felt like taking a step into an undiscovered, European café. It had a cozy feeling—rustic wooden tables clustered around one large, communal table, menus placed in partially-sliced loaves of bread, and the smells of baked goods welcomed me.
The homey, bakery café on Colorado Boulevard in Pasadena prides itself on its organic food: the bread is baked fresh daily, and the ingredients range from organic chocolate to organic honey and coffee. Though it is customary to seat yourself, the service was polite and quiet. Servers linger around the restaurant instead of constantly disrupting your meal and are always ready to refill drinks. Though waiters saunter through the restaurant and are in no rush to take your orders, their hearty smiles make up for the slow service.
The assortment of organic jams and spreads were foreign, but delicious to my trans-fat-only-tongue. I tried the Brunette spread, which had a grape-hazelnut taste and went really well with the bread. Most of the rolls and breads that I tried, such as the nut and raisin flute and baguette, had a hint of sweetness, while others like the spelt flour bread had a slightly nutty flavor to it. Each slice had a crisp crust and insides that were both soft and warming.
The menu consists of soups, salads, sandwiches, and pastries, prices ranging from around $4 for organic drinks such as hot chocolate with real, melted chocolate in a small, tin pitcher, accompanied by a bowl of milk (their cups don’t have handles), to $15 for a sandwich. Still, the unusual and flavorful tastes definitely compensated for the high price.
A list of the specials are written on chalk boards, one propped outside in the outdoor patio, where I sat, and one inside, next to the counter, where customers can purchase pastries from the bakery and other organic products like tea, nougat and even wine.
There was an assortment of soups, each having a creamy texture, no dairy products and, much to my delight, no Campbell’s Soup flavors. The potato-leek soup I had was thick but not chunky, with distinct and sharp flavors like basil, thyme and bay leaf.
But for something more gourmet, there’s the Rustic Tuna and Hummus Tartine (an open-faced sandwich) made from wheat bead, organic cannellini beans, tuna, hummus, cucumbers and red onions and garnished with a sprig of dill and mesclun leaves. But ignore all the fancy ingredients—it tasted delicious. The bread was toasted but unusually soft on the tongue, the tuna was lightly seasoned with lemon juice and organic gray salt from the Atlantic, and the greens were unmistakably fresh. The sandwich was packed with flavors, the hummus, drizzled with olive oil, being the most identifiable.
The restaurant originally opened in Brussels, Belgium, where the food originated, and has now spread to 10 countries around the world, including France, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. There are also other locations in Westwood, Beverly Hills, West Hollywood, Santa Monica and Manhattan Beach. Though the food was slightly pricey and the restaurant was free of any teenagers, the comfortable atmosphere and organic food made the meal thoroughly enjoyable.
Le Pain Quotidien
88 W. Colorado Boulevard
Pasadena, CA 91105
If you enjoyed this review, check out Genevieve’s review of Solar de Cahuenga, a relaxed, crepe restaurant in Hollywood.