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Le Pain Quotidien--- How do they do it?

jordana Feb 18, 2007 01:15 PM

I just came from brunch at LPQ. Me and my friend split an egg salad tartine, baguette with various spreads, cappucinos and a brownie.
Everything was so fresh and delicious. I live in NYC and there are tons of independent places to get great breakfast. LPQ is a huge chain. How do they maintain such high quality in their stores?

  1. Tartinet Feb 18, 2007 01:23 PM

    My theory is that they're smart to keep their selection of fresh items fairly limited (for such a sit-down-table-service experience). They don't have to keep tons of different perishables on hand, with all their associated costs. They focus on what they know they can do really really well, and don't complicate things by trying to cater to the whims of every possible customer.

    I'm super impressed by them too. I'm not usually a fan of chains, but I can't wait for them to come to Rhode Island

    1. j
      jordana Feb 23, 2007 09:07 AM

      it just amazes me the the LPQ in paris is the same quality as the one in NYC.

      2 Replies
      1. re: jordana
        Amuse Bouches Feb 23, 2007 10:40 AM

        Which is the same quality as the one in L.A. I discovered LPQ when I was living on E 31st street and went to the one at ABC Carpet and Home. I then moved to E. 60th Street in Manhattan, and went to the one on Lexington (or is it 3rd?) and 63rd. Equally good. Then I moved west and have eaten at the ones in Beverly Hills and West Hollywood regularly. The egg salad is equally delicious everywhere I go, as is the cafe au lait. I'm also a sucker for their hazelnut spread, but that comes in a jar.

        1. re: jordana
          cbrodzina May 20, 2007 07:24 AM

          The secret is in the management. The founder of the company along with the management team is constantly checking product quality and ensuring that the product is the same everywhere you go.

        2. Dyspepsia May 20, 2007 08:03 AM

          I love this place and it seems many people don't even know about them. They have managed to avoid all of the negative attributes associated with chains.

          1. NiKoLe1625 May 20, 2007 11:31 AM

            LPQ is one of my favorite places. I especially love their Mediterranean platter! The taboule is amazing!

            1. Angelina May 21, 2007 09:27 AM

              I am so glad you posted this. I have always passed this chain because it is a chain. Shame on me....your lunch sounds delish! I live in NJ, but I am in Manhattan quite frequently so I can't wait to try!

              1. litchick May 30, 2007 02:56 PM

                I first fell in love with LPQ in Brussels, and didn't know they were a chain. When I stumbled upon one on a trip to NY last year I was beside myself with joy. The only thing they don't do as well here in the US outposts as they did in Belgium is that the Brussles one had the most amazing fresh, thick, creamy, plain yogurt -- they made it in-house and served it in little terra cotta pots. God, it was wonderful. Also, of course, all their coffee was espresso-based (no filter coffee). I make sure to hit the LPQs in NY every time I'm in town, and I only wish they'd open in Boston already!

                1. l
                  lvecch Jun 17, 2007 08:00 PM

                  I had no idea this was a chain. A friend gave me a jar of their fantastic hazelnut spread for Christmas a few years ago - an item that does not exactly scream "chain restaurant." I'll have to check it out.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: lvecch
                    lvecch Jun 19, 2007 02:24 PM

                    OK, I just looked this up: there's like nine thousand of these places in NYC, and I've somehow missed them all. Yikes.

                  2. b
                    bulavinaka Jun 17, 2007 08:15 PM

                    Our family just had breakfast at the Santa Monica location after shopping the farmers market. The food and service were outstanding as usual. And since I always have room for pastries and desserts, I picked up a half dozen goodies to go.

                    This chain truly has their act together - they are just about everything I would wish Starbucks to be...

                    1. Cat Chow Jun 18, 2007 04:40 PM

                      We need a LPQ here in the Bay Area!

                      4 Replies
                      1. re: Cat Chow
                        bulavinaka Jun 18, 2007 08:26 PM

                        You'll pay a little more for their goods, but they are so worth it... and the service is never an issue - at least that has been my experience. They focus on those two things as far as the customer contact point is concerned... no waving of their corporate flag - very subdued, in fact... most don't know they are a chain until they run across another one of their units in another city/country...

                        1. re: bulavinaka
                          liu Jun 18, 2007 08:48 PM

                          We enjoy the LPQ across from Urth over by the Blue Whale. You can sit out on the patio, and each table has an assortment of their hazelnut spreads (although sometimes later in the day they are not out on the tables). All you need is a spoon!

                          1. re: liu
                            LPQBarista Jun 27, 2007 09:42 AM

                            Company policy is that the comfiteurs are only supposed to be out with breakfast. They will generally be removed at noon during the week and 3 on the weekends, when the breakfast hours end. Afterwards they are available upon request, but as an employee I'll tell you that your server will probably be annoyed that you asked since it's an annoying amount of work to take them back out.

                          2. re: bulavinaka
                            Cat Chow Jun 19, 2007 10:57 AM

                            We had some in NYC this past winter and I loved the whole concept/idea...and the delish brunch we had! I really felt like I was in Paris (or Brussels). I'm just surprised nobody here in the Bay Area has brought them out here...yet!!!

                        2. amandine Jun 18, 2007 09:32 PM

                          I've been twice... once in Brentwood, once in Pasadena... maybe I'm not ordering the right thing? because I got some kind of tartine both times, and fresh and tasty yes, but they have the substance of a communion wafer. Fussy and expensive. I wrote them off as too froufy a place for me, and I'm a decently froufy person. Recs outside of the tartines?

                          10 Replies
                          1. re: amandine
                            bulavinaka Jun 19, 2007 10:29 PM

                            Sorry - I'm not familiar with their tartine... but I did have their individual-size pavlova on Saturday, which was quite tasty... I thought I might be disappointed as one is used to seeing pavlovas in a much larger setting, where the meringue seems to be cracking under the weight of the loads of berries set onto it. IMHO, it had just the right proportions of meringue, pastry cream, and berries. It was a nice way to finish off breakfast with the last few sips of my latte...

                            Their brownies are good - you'd expect that from a Belgian cafe...

                            They offer an almond meringue - it's large enough for two to four people to nibble on, but it's quite sweet. You'd want to have a nice cup of unsweetened coffee or tea with it...

                            The Belgian sugar waffle might be disappointing if you expect a big puffed up crispy thing. It's actually on the smaller side and quite sweet. I usually order a small side of fruit salad which goes well with it.

                            I ordered a lemon tart to go but never got to it - my mom came by - she loves lemon tarts and saw it in the clear clamshell container. Who could say no to their mom, right? I almost did, but I guess with her getting me in headlock convinced me that I'd better be the good son and hand it over. :)

                            I've had better croissants than those at LPQ - that kinda surprised me as I would think that this would be something that would be to dream of here.

                            Oh yes, the French cream-filled donut. I think it's okay. If it were offered at a donut shop, I'd be woozy for it. But by LPQ standards, I'm not too impressed with it. As much as I am a kid at heart for things with dough, cream and sugar, I really think this particular treat is for kids.

                            I do agree that they are a little expensive, but I can stomach it, given their consistancy and quality. Yes, I probably could've gone to 3 Square and had a great and unique breakfast for about maybe a little more, but sometimes I'm just in the mood to fall away from the world for a while and feel like I landed in a cozy casual cafe in Anywhere, Belgium.

                            1. re: bulavinaka
                              liu Jun 20, 2007 03:15 PM

                              Nice report, bulavinaka!
                              After she released the headlock, what did your mom think about the lemon tart? I am always on the hunt for the-kind-in-my-memory-that-I-will-never-find. Is the one at LPQ seriously lemon...or just tasteless sticky stuff?

                              1. re: liu
                                bulavinaka Jun 20, 2007 06:54 PM

                                I'll have to get back to you on that... she took it home to share it and some of Harry's Berries with one of her friends... I also picked up a soft financier which I think is vegetarian- or vegan-friendly. Considering that, it was quite good as well...

                                1. re: liu
                                  bulavinaka Jun 22, 2007 06:04 PM

                                  Hey Liu, I talked with my mom about the lemon tart, and she thought it was wonderful... not too sweet, nice lemony flavor. She likes things to be not so sweet, if that's an indicator... but I have to hedge since she ate it (not me) and with a pile of Harry's Seascape strawbs...

                                  1. re: bulavinaka
                                    liu Jun 22, 2007 08:16 PM

                                    Thanks, bulavinaka, for remembering my craving. I, like your mom, prefer my sweets not too sweet, so I will look for one of these tarts next time I am in Westwood. It will be beyond-perfect with my green tea latte (soy and no sugar) from Green Tea Terrace, just around the corner.

                              2. re: amandine
                                Amuse Bouches Jun 22, 2007 01:27 PM

                                Their sandwiches are great -- the egg salad is my particular favorite -- open faced with anchovies and capers. I like to order that or the Mediterranean plate, which has some lovely ricotta, prosciutto, melon, a pesto/tapenade spread, veggies, parmesan cheese and lots of their delicious bread (one piece of which I usually save for dessert to spread with the previously mentioned crack hazelnut spread. That stuff is SO good.)

                                1. re: Amuse Bouches
                                  bulavinaka Jun 22, 2007 05:45 PM

                                  I've been afraid to order the egg salad w/ anchovies & capers... is it very salty? It sounds devine but I'm thinking that the combination of eggs and salt might make my blood pressure boil...

                                  1. re: bulavinaka
                                    LPQBarista Jun 28, 2007 06:00 PM

                                    you can always order the egg salad without the capers and anchovies. It tastes just fine that way. Our egg salad is made with olive oil and not mayo if that helps. I would get it without anchovies anyway, as our anchovies are not that good. The capers are good, but they ARE very salty. Happy tasting!

                                    1. re: LPQBarista
                                      bulavinaka Jun 28, 2007 08:26 PM

                                      Thank you for all the info... LPQ by any standard is a great place to eat and relax...

                                  2. re: Amuse Bouches
                                    liu Jun 22, 2007 05:55 PM

                                    Oh, their egg salad as you describe it, Amuse Bouches, sounds wonderful! I'm thinking next time...

                                2. sivyaleah Jun 20, 2007 05:48 PM

                                  I stumbled into one of these in NYC a couple of months back in the West 20's - I never heard of it and didn't know it was a chain either until well after I'd eaten my breakfast. I was incredibly impressed. Delish coffee, great pastry, lovely atmosphere and good service (I opted to be waited on at one of the long "sharing" tables).

                                  Wish this was closer to my office on E. 38th Street. Hopefully they will continue to expand around town.

                                  1. n
                                    nomdeplume Jul 9, 2007 06:55 PM

                                    I had a not-so-great experience at the LPQ on 65th and Bway in NYC. The french roll was stale, as was the raisin twist and the cappuccino was forgettable, too much milk even in the small and the coffee itself lack character. But maybe I'll try them again. It seems like the pastries and entrees have gotten better reviews than the bread, which is, at the very least, ironic.

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: nomdeplume
                                      Ora Jul 9, 2007 09:02 PM

                                      OK---Interesting your bad experience was at that location. That's the weakest location I've been to as far as stock on hand and service. I tend to avoid that one in particular. Instead I go to 72 st or the one on 7th Ave & 58 St. Or, the location in the 80s on Amsterdam. I wonder if being so close to Lincoln Center is the issue---the place can be overrun with people at times.

                                      1. re: Ora
                                        litchick Jul 10, 2007 06:50 AM

                                        Ora, I agree with you. My top choice is the one on 72nd. The 58th St one is second for me only because its more crowded than the one on 72nd. Both have had good service and consistent food quality, but the 72nd St location has a bit more breathing room, and seems to have more of a local neighborhood customer base than the 58th St location (which has spillover from the Time Warner Center, Whole Foods, Central Park, and the north end of the theatre district).

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