La Madeleine

La Madeleine is a reliable, and popular, quick stop for pastries, soups, salads, French sandwiches, pizzas and heartier fare. The restaurants feature counter service, and inviting faux-French country interiors. Not incidentally, almost all of the locations have a bakery. The quality of these baked goods is evident in most of the offerings. At the very least, La Madeleine is a reliable source for which to pick up a fresh baguette or another loaf of bread for the dinner at home.

Soup and salad is the key attraction for many patrons. La Madeleine is well known for its strongly flavored Caesar Salad. It is available with chicken or salmon for a filling meal, or a small size that makes a fitting accompaniment to a sandwich or quiche. As with the other items that are availble for inspection through the glass counter, all of the half-dozen plus salads use noticeably fresh greens, vegetables and fruits. Possibly the most popular item is the Tomato Basil Soup). Creamy and robust, as the menu states, it is redolant of pureed tomatoes, cream and butter, topped with shreds of fresh basil. It can be nearly addictive, especially with some freshly ground black pepper and some of their good bread. The other soup offered daily, the French Onion, is pretty much what you would expect, and also very flavorful. The additional soups that rotate (potato, cream of mushroom, and vegetable) are also quite appetizing.

Nearly as popular as the soups and salads, the Hot Sandwiches are generally very appealing, even if these have been sitting on warming griddle for some time. Quality, fresh bread and melted cheese goes a long way. Among the best of the “small” dishes are the French sandwiches, friands and monsieurs.  The sandwiches are a good value, as these come with a choice among a small Caesar salad, a mixed green salad, a pasta salad with pesto, or the utensil- free option, packaged potato chips.

Much more than just a soup, salad and sandwich place, La Madeleine serves many satisfying French and French-style dishes. The quiches are usally very good, especially the classic Quiche Lorraine. La Madeleine has over a dozen hearty entrees including several pastas with a French-American or Provencal touch, savory crêpes with beef, chicken, pork and shrimp, Beef Bourguignon and the long-time favorite, the moist Rosemary Rotisserie Chicken. Many of these dishes are not available at some of the smaller locations.

In the morning, full French-inspired and American-style breakfasts are served. La Madeleine does a very commendable job with these, especially the ones with moist and fluffy scrambled eggs and their flavorful croissants. This is further evidenced by the usually good crowds on the weekend mornings. Though the authenticity of most of the entrees might be questioned by ex-pats from France, many seem to enjoy the results of the bakery and pastry cooks. The pastry display cases can be very tempting, both for a quick breakfast or a post-meal reward. The assorted pastries and desserts are beautiful, if nothing else. But, these usually taste as good as they look, and they are baked in-house. Among the vast array of choices, there are croissants in several varieties, a caramel pecan roll, palmier, scones, turnovers, muffins, a cinnamon twist, cakes, eclair, Napoleon, cheesecake, the Viennese Sacher Torte, Tiramisu, tarts, and cookies. To go with these, La Madeleine has better than average coffee, plus the espresso- based drinks and freshly squeezed fruit juices. Beer and wine are available.

La Madeleine
Multiple Houston-area locations

Copyright Mike Riccetti. Adapted from Houston Dining on the Cheap, and used with permission.

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