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Jun 22, 2008 04:41 PM

Le Pain Quotidien at Bethesda

The service overall at this location was awful. The address given at the site is not on a map yet so you have to google to find other addresses (Arlington Blvd. was close). We had to put our name on a waiting list mid-afternoon on Sunday (today). Although my friends were standing next to the hostess, she claims she called our name and we missed it. When we were finally seated, it took over 10 minutes for a waitress to come by. She didn't say anything about the delay. After ordering it took another 10-15 minutes to get our lemonades. The homemade lemonade had absolutely no sugar in it. We had to add sugar and water. Our food (two cold tartines and side of hummus) took about 45 more minutes. During this time, the waitress only came by once (about 15 minutes in) to say the food would be coming shortly. After that, nothing. After about 35 minutes, I went up to her at the stand and asked her to go check again. She replied all the orders were backed up but she would go see and apologized. She didn't check back in with for another 10 minutes and said it would be two more minutes. When the food finally arrived, it was nothing great, especially for $9-10 per tartine. My baguette and hummus was ok but again, nothing spectacular or worth waiting 45 minutes. I asked for a bag to put my baguette in. She gave me a little salad box.

I'm all about leisurely lunches but this was a little too much. Especially with all the indifference. As we were paying the bill, the waitress said this was her last day since the kitchen is always behind which leaves her with lousy tips. True? Who knows. It seems like people around us were getting their food. Either way, I think more could have been done. I tried to spot a manager-looking person but most looked bored to be there and were standing around. I didn't have the energy so wrote an email instead. In the meantime, make sure you have a lot of time if you go to this location.

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  1. I just wrote out a long post outlining our almost identical experience yesterday afternoon but somehow it got eaten! So here's the condensed version:

    No wait yesterday at around 2:30 pm. We were seated promptly. Waited about 15 minutes to be greeted by server who explained that he wasn't supposed to be our server, but he didn't know where our server went. Took orders for iced tea. In the meantime, another server came over to greet us. We told her our drink orders had been taken but we were ready to order. We were abruptly told that if another server had taken our drink orders then that person was our server and she then walked away. Iced tea arrived about 20 minutes after we ordered them.

    Server took food order (2 salads). Waited about 40 minutes for salads while watching various staff members sitting at tables eating their lunches. Salads arrived--were fine but not worth 40 minutes of waiting. In the meantime the table behind us cancelled their soup order after waiting for over 30 minutes for it.

    I totally agree with the above poster. There's nothing wrong with a leisurely lunch, but this seemed almost comical. We attributed it to the restaurant being newly opened, and it seems like it would be a nice addition to Bethesda, but not with these issues.

    In hindsight, we should have spoken with a manager (especially when we noticed the man whom we assumed to be the manager sitting down and eating his lunch while his staff seemed to be in the weeds and hungry customers were waiting for their food) but we didn't want to possibly get our server in trouble, as he seemed to be competent enough and just dealing with a very slow kitchen.

    2 Replies
    1. re: small fry

      i had a similar experience, which i will not detail, at the alexandria branch of this terrible, poorly managed, overpriced chain.

      you might as well go to au bon pain, le madeliene, or vie de france if you want faux french sandwhiches from a chain.

      1. re: kneelconqueso

        I am the General Manager of Le Pain Quotidien in Alexandria and would like to invite you back to my restaurant for a complimentary lunch. Please e-mail me at to set up a reservation. I apologize sincerely for the UN-hospitable way you were treated and would appreciate the chance to show you a different Le Pain in Alexandria. I will await your response.

    2. It just opened.

      Give them another shot in about a month - that's about how long it took Georgetown to get in the groove.

      3 Replies
      1. re: Jeserf

        The Georgetown groove is pitiful. I suffered similar service indignities as those described elsewhere in this thread . . . . and then my chicken salad came with no chicken! I vowed that would be the last time I darkened their door -- and it has been an easy resolution to keep.

        1. re: Bonz

          I've never had real service issues there.

          Then again, I'm not a stickler - I think the food is good, healthy, and convenient for the most part, and I've never had major service issues that would make me never want to return.

          1. re: Jeserf

            Not to be a "stickler" myself but...I think no chicken in the CHICKEN salad is a pretty reasonable complaint!

      2. I'm glad to hear that it wasn't just us being too picky and critical. We had a similar experience, stopped by one late afternoon around 3:30pm. It took forever to get our food, the service was scanty, the food was ok, but nothing there to wow us to want to go back. Too bad cause it could be a great addition to the area. Hopefully Management will see this and make some changes.

        1. I recently went to the one in Bethesda. My friend and I waited a full hour restaurant for our sandwiches, as which point we asked the server what the problem was- He said the kitchen was backed up. (There was only one other table seated.) He said our sandwiches would be out in 20 minutes. We said, "No thanks. We are catching a movie." His response was "I would be happy to wrap them up so you can eat at the movies!" I think he missed the point! We left. There was no apology. I would obviously not recommend this place.

          2 Replies
          1. re: chicken kabob

            I've been to the Bethesda location twice and the food and service have been very good. They clearly are still working out some kinks in the kitchen though. that seems to be the main problem. I also think that the atmosphere feels like a fast food experience but the food itself is not mass produced and takes longer than one might expect.

            1. re: startsev

              I haven't eaten in the restaurant, but I have purchased 4 loaves of bread at the Bethesda location. 2 tasted stale. 1 tasted like it was probably baked about 12 hours earlier. Only 1 tasted like it came out of the oven within the previous 6 hours, though it certainly was not still warm. If I'm paying $7.95 for a walnut boule, it had better be fresh. I won't be buying any more bread at Pain Quotidien for a very long time. There's another bakery across the street (Spring Mill) and another about 2 blocks away (Breads Unlimited). It's pretty routine to go to either of those in the morning and find that the bread you're buying is still warm, as well as cheaper. And if the loaf is not still warm, it clear from the taste and texture that it only cooled down in the last few hours. True, the 3 bakeries make different styles of bread from one another, but Breads Unlimited & Spring Mill seem to have their act together regarding selling only fresh bread as well as understanding Maryland tax law regarding bakeries (you won't be charged sales tax on a loaf of bread at either Spring Mill or Breads Unlimited).

          2. I had a similar experience at the Bethesda branch. A long, long wait for our food, our coffee never came, and when we got the food it looked good but it was surprisingly tasteless. Pale slices of meat that could be either ham or turkey or maybe some new flavorless animal. We had planned to try a pastry for dessert but didn't want to be subjected to another long wait. The wait for the check was bad enough. We paid in cash so we could leave.

            2 Replies
            1. re: Suemelk

              Unbelievable that an established chain opens a store in such a competitive market, and can't iron out the kinks even after more than a month.

              I ate at one of their stores in NYC, and it was pretty good.

              1. re: Mister Big

                Similar experience here. We were also underwhelmed by both the service and food at the Bethesda store. It seemed severely short staffed (went Saturday morning after a walk along the Crescent Trail). The staff that was on duty appeared to be poorly trained, too. The food was OK, but rather overpriced. One bright spot: the praline spread for the bread. Looked like peanut butter, but tasted divine!