The places you can go for a sit-down weekday breakfast in NYC fall under the category of diner or expensive. That’s just the way that it is, unless you want to get a bagel and eat it at home (which, by the way, is a delicious option). If, however, you choose to go the pricey route, you should consider Le Pain Quotidien.
This Belgian chain is everything that you think of when you hear the word “pricey.” Organic, house baked breads and pastries, and nothing chemical here (sorry Diet Coke and Splenda lovers – you are out of luck here).
The Upper West Side branch has a small bakery counter in front and a large, light dining room with waiter service in the main room. A long communal table takes up most of the space, though there are individual tables hugging the walls.
The coffee here is excellent, not too bitter but full flavored with caramel notes. The hot chocolate is also delicious, very rich and good enough for a snack on its own.
This really isn’t your average fruit salad. The fruit here is all fresh and pristine. Juicy blackberries, tart blueberries, and even some soft chunks of mango in there. The mixture changes according to the season, so you can be sure that you are getting fruit that is in season and at its peak of ripeness. Unless you are really hungry, don’t get the large – the small fruit salad is very plentiful.
All the baked items are delicious here, but the hazelnut flute is one of my favorite items. A thin, chewy baguette with a slightly sour taste is loaded with plump, sweet raisins and whole hazelnuts.
The best way to eat this is covered in the restaurant’s own praline spread. Like Nutella without the chocolate, this spread is sweet, buttery, and chock full of hazelnut flavor. It really makes breakfast seem more like dessert. The spread is very sugary, but paring it with the hazelnut flute makes for a great sweet and savory combination.
Expect to spend some money here – you really can’t get out of there for less than $15 a person. But if the lovely atmosphere, excellent service, and impeccably fresh pastries are worth it to you, then Le Pain Quotidien is the place for you.
I usually save it for when I have an important breakfast meeting. The rest of the time, I’ll meet you at my house with a bagel.