International bakery chain Le Pain Quotidien—known for long, family-style tables and Frenchified pastries and jams—recently opened its first Washington-area location on Georgetown’s M Street. The new branch is within walking distance of such like-minded businesses as Cosi, Marvelous Market, and the similar La Madeleine, which also has a menu of just-baked baguettes, soups du jour, flaky croissants, and field green salads.
But Le Pain Quotidien has a Euro authenticity that many competitors, with their faux French-countryside decor, don’t totally achieve. The bread company’s roots go back to Brussels, the flagship location, where quirky chef Alain Coumont tested dough recipes until he got the perfect one. Now the company has cafes all over, from Dubai to Aix-en-Provence to London’s ritzy Kensington neighborhood. Before the move into DC, production manager Casey Gleason—a Georgetown University grad—advertised positions on Alliance Française de Washington’s Web site in hopes of finding a French-speaking staff.
Since the bakery’s summertime construction, M Street pedestrians have been antsy for its opening. One Georgetown neighbor eagerly stopped Gleason to tell him she’d once lived across from the original Brussels shop. Inside, two floors are dedicated to the trademark communal seating; outside, there’s a big backyard patio. A counter up front is for takeaway Gruyère tartines and brioches. In the basement, dough proofs inside wicker baskets, just as Coumont did it back in Belgium.
We hear there are more Le Pains in the pipeline—expect to see them popping up in Bethesda, Old Town Alexandria, and Dupont Circle.
Le Pain Quotidien, 2815 M St., NW; 202-315-5420; lepainquotidien.com.