Quintessentially Belgian: Le Pain Quotidien
Long wooden communal tables are illuminated by accent lighting as the smell of freshly baked bread (or perhaps homemade stew) wafts from the kitchen into the main dining area. There’s salads and soups, quinoa and lean meat. There’s patisserie, chocolate and a wide selection of organically brewed beer.
*sigh* On a typical ashen and drab Belgian day, there’s nothing better than Le Pain Quotidien.
I first discovered LPQ on my first “real” visit to Brussels almost five years ago. I was in the mood for something relatively quick and hearty, but also something that wouldn’t be doused in milk and/or butter. Strolling down rue Danseart I came across a small cafe with fantastical rustic breads in the window, along with fair trade chocolate and a sign board out front that read: “organic lentil stew and mixed green salad.”
I went in. I ate. I stayed longer than expected.
It was my first time, but you can sure as hell bet it wasn’t my last.
Since its small town beginnings in Brussels back in the early 90s, Le Pain Quotidien has gone viral; with 175 locations in 17 countries, it is setting out to achieve global domination the way Belgian way: quietly and unassumingly.
One country (and city) at a time.
I’m a sucker for their salads (green, vibrant and tasteful) along with their soups/stews (rich, warming and hearty), though it’s hard to pass up a few squares of the 75% dark chocolate or a bowl heaving with fresh berries and a couple of boiled eggs on the side.
While I’ve never been let down by the food, I think I enjoy the environment more than anything: the lighting, the decor, the mood, service and atmosphere. It’s a place where you can be alone, without really being alone. It’s a resto-bistro where you can find a sense of community – if only for the lunch hour – should you feel out of sorts everywhere else.
And it’s now my ‘go-to place’ in NYC when I need a piece of Europe to hold on to.