As my quest for new healthy eateries in Chicago continues on, I’ve been meaning to try more places that accommodate both vegetarians and meat-eaters alike. While on vacation in Washington D.C. this past June, I heard of a neat spot called Le Pain Quotidien that has locations in major cities including Chicago. Although I never ate there during my visit, I knew I must stop in to the Gold Coast location as soon as possible.
Thanks to my hour-long lunch break last Wednesday, I decided I would walk over to the café and grab a quick bite to eat. Located on 10 East Delaware Place, Le Pain Quotidien is only two short blocks from my school’s downtown location. Before heading in, my initial thoughts from viewing their website were that it was similar to a Panera but healthier options, organic and fresher but still the same café feel. When I approached the building, there were numerous seats outside and a sign for seating inside as well.
The interior looks similar to a restaurant with long lamps hung from the ceiling and wooden tables but gives off the vibes of a café. I was able to choose where I sat and within moments, a waitress was ready to take my order. Before I sat down, I noticed a large chalkboard menu plastered behind a coffee bar. The first thing to grab my attention was the featured soup – a chilled mango gazpacho ($5.95). I knew I would opt for a bowl of that and one of their eye-catching tartines. The menu features 100% vegan entrees, breakfast, salads, hot plates and even gluten-free options. Even though the vegan mashed avocado tartine and the black bean hummus tartine both sounded appealing, I went with the smoked salmon variety ($14.25).
My soup came to my table first and was presented quite simply with small strips of cucumber mixed on top and a baguette on the side. A slightly thick texture paired perfectly with the light taste of the mango. I decided to wait until my tartine came out to eat the rest of it and I am glad I did. The smoked salmon arrived on a large piece of whole-wheat sourdough bread that was cut into several triangles on a platter. Avocado, radishes and cucumber slices were scattered around the toast, which were great compliments. Without a doubt the tartine could have been a meal for two but it was too good to not finish.
What I loved about the tartine was that despite the rather large price for a lunch, the salmon tasted extremely fresh. Usually since smoked salmon is paired with cream cheese, the avocado was a nice difference for once. It exceeded my expectations and then some, tempting me to come back for breakfast very soon.
Since I ate rather quick and had time to kill before my next class, I spent some time browsing the pastries in the front of the store. The pastries were piled on top of one another, ranging from chocolate croissants ($3.85) to vegan carrot cake ($4.10). Not only does Le Pain Quotidien sell croissants but also chocolate spreads, jams, organic granolas and antipasta. The fact that they sell some of the products they use in their entrees is definitely something that stood out to me. Hopefully in the future, I can try the breakfast options such as the avocado and tomato omelette ($11.40) or the organic steel-cut oatmeal with organic bananas, nuts and maple syrup ($6.20).
If you’re looking for a nice lunch down in the Gold Coast neighborhood and spending a few extra bucks is no issue, be sure to check out Le Pain Quotidien (especially if you love some wholesome, organic food).
Le Pain Quotidien’s Gold Coast location is open Monday through Sunday, 6:30am to 10:00pm. Other locations in the Chicago region include Lincoln Park and West Loop.