An LPQ Dinner


To all the med students, grad students, overachievers, students, parents, and fellow bloggers who commented yesterday: thank you. I cannot tell you how much your encouragement meant to me. Thanks especially to my rockstar med student readers who chimed in – I am so grateful for your perspective, and you give me a lot of hope for my own future.

I’m back today with less serious stuff: food. It seems that my favorite franchise restaurant—Le Pain Quotidien—is getting better and better with each of my visits. By better, I mean not only that the food seems superior, but also that the range of vegan options multiplies and gets more interesting. LPQ has always been a place I could rely on for generously sized salads, vegan soups, and vegan tartines. But now there are vegan entrees (such as a seared quinoa cake, or a roast brussels sprouts and tofu dish), salads packed with nutrient density (such as the red quinoa salad), and even vegan pastries and baked goods (the hazelnut flute and the vegan cherry flax scone are two of my faves). Soy milk is always on the menu, to pair with the superb coffee, and I’ve never been to a LPQ where they weren’t happy to offer me extra avocado with my food. That’s about all it takes for my heart to melt.

On Friday evening, Valerie and I convened at LPQ for one of our ritual dinners. Valerie’s blog slogan is “the art of healthy urban living,” and it used to be something that ended with “smiling amid urban chaos.” Both of those statements personify Valerie and her effect on people: in spite of the fact that she is a busy attorney, and I am a busy post-bacc, we manage to squeeze in meals and “micro-breaks” when we can, and whenever we do, it’s as if time has stopped for a little while. We laugh, gossip, reminisce, and talk about food: what could be healthier than that?

Valerie is a gluten free eater, and we’ve tried out a few restaurants together that have excellent GF practices: you may have seen our meal at Open City, and we’ve gone to Café Green together quite a few times. Valerie noted on Friday that LPQ was one of the first restaurants she could go to when she had just become GF where they knew what GF was, and this is still the case.

Valerie and I arrived hungry, and started with the white bean dip and the hummus:

001 (525x350)

Both were delicious. I enjoyed mixing the tomato, pesto, and white beans into the white bean dip, to give it texture and a fresh bite of herbs:

009 (525x350)

With our entrees, we each got a side salad:

003 (525x350)

My first entrée was a newish item on the menu: a quinoa cake, seared and served with tomato, avocado, and pesto. I was excited for this, but I have to confess that, when it arrived, I was surprised with it. It was breaded and fried (maybe not deep fried, but pan fried so completely that it might as well have been deep fried), and very few fresh vegetables arrived with it. (The avocado was generous.) Not one to stick out an entrée I don’t like, I sent it back and offered to pay for it—I explained that it wasn’t what I’d expected, but that it wasn’t the restaurant’s fault. Fortunately, the restaurant graciously let me change my order free of charge. I went with the buckwheat crusted, gluten free vegetable quiche, which Valerie had also ordered.

016 (525x350)

Delicious! Three layers of vegetable puree, a buckwheat crust that’s thin and light, and a roasted artichoke on top. Plus, more greens!

As awkward as it can be to send a dish back, this was one of those instances where I’m so, so glad I did: I enjoyed every bite, and wouldn’t have if I’d kept the quinoa cake. Now I get to brainstorm on how to re-create this dish on my own!

I love how gracious, accommodating, and delicious LPQ is, but what I love most of all about the restaurant is how innovative it is with vegan food. So many restaurants in DC have a token vegetarian dish or two, seemingly out of obligation, but LPQ actually embraces, explores, and excels at vegan cooking. I’m looking forward to my next visit!

And I’m also looking forward to seeing you back here tomorrow.


Top image courtesy of The Prince of Petworth blog.

This post may contain affiliate links. If you use these links to buy something I may earn a commission. Visit my privacy policy to learn more.

Categories: Uncategorized

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. I had such a lovely time. Thanks again for having time 🙂

    I am always impressed with how well LPQ does in the gluten-free domain, considering the high odds for cross-contamination. That gluten-free quiche is one of my absolute favorite dishes ever.

  2. Ah I wish LPQ in Bahrain was as vegan friendly! The best they can do is granola with soy milk. That said, I’ll definitely be making some suggestions on their comment cards next time I’m there.

  3. How lovely to have such a friend to share your experiences with! And I love seeing restaurants embracing vegan and GF diets. It makes me feel like they’re spreading the plant-based word! I’ve never really thought to send a dish back unless they messed something up. I suppose offering to pay lets them know that you’re not dissatisfied with the service. Now I know it’s “legal” if the situation ever comes up.

  4. Yessss! LPQ is definitely my all time favorite chain! I love that they carry excellent vegan food and can accomodate any crowd of eaters. And they always have a tastey vegan baked good! Very important to me 😉 glad you enjoyed it. I wish they would expand to Chicago now.

  5. Sometimes it takes a lot of guts to send back a dish, talk to a manager at the call center, or speak up in any way. Goodness knows I struggle with that. Kudos for Taking care of yourself in such a gracious manner!

  6. LPQ is much better in NY than here in the UK. There aren’t many vegan choices unfortunately, let alone a gluten-free buckwheat quiche! I hope it starts modelling itself after the US version soon, because it sounds delicious.

  7. Look like a great restaurant…we have a couple good vegan restaurants in this area, but I don’t eat out much either way…I luv to eat homemade goodies!! Have a great week!!

  8. Le pain quotidien is so much different in France and England! there are only few vegan option, BUT their salads and tartines are amazing! i cant resist going there for breakfasts, foamy cappuccinos and lovely salad dinners… an all time favourite!!

  9. The idea of pesto IN hummus is so awesome. I am going to be trying that very soon. I am glad you are brave enough to always ask for what you want, we could all take a page from your book I think.

  10. I adore LPQ! there is a location close to where i work which i both a blessing and a curse (it adds it quickly!) i actually read an article a year or so ago about the man who started lpq, the details are fuzzy but he himself had gone vegan for a period of time and he believes that it is the future of eating and the best solution for health and the planet. He basically said he kept the chicken and cheese because it would be a poor business decision to abandon them, but that his goal was to introduce people to vegan foods without the “oh look its vegan” preface. Anyways, after reading the article i have made an effort to recommend tye restaurant to friends and family as well as go often myself-

  11. Ah! I went to that one last fall for breakfast. Their steel-cut oats are so good, and I was impressed that they have agave syrup. I can’t wait to go back and try their savory foods!

  12. the vegetable tart is my favorite thing at le pain!! have you tried the vegan apple cherry cannelle? it’s sooo delicious

  13. Thanks so much for sharing, Gena! I was recently diagnosed with celiac disease and it’s great to hear there are good gluten-free options in DC. I’ll definitely have to check this place out!

  14. Gotta love it when restaurants actually keep getting better! Normally I find I have a fantastic meal, dream about it, think about how good it was, and cannot WAIT to go back…and wind up with a ho-hum meal the next time. Not awful, but usually not up to par with the first experience and usually not exceeding the first experience. Many restaurants (unfortunately) I find tend to go downhill, not uphill and get better…so that is awesome for you that LPQ is doing such a bang-up job.

    And awesome that you and Valerie have these times together. Such a gift to connect with real live friends and chat about life!

  15. Is LPQ only in New York City? The food always looks fresh and delicious. I think the quinoa cake sounds really good – was it because it was fried/breaded that you didn’t want it? I don’t think one fried food would kill you 😉

    • Hannah,

      Nope! It’s here in DC (that’s where we were Friday) and in NYC, Philly, LA, CT, and abroad. As for the fried quinoa cake, I’m really, really not a fan of fried food (I just think it’s tasteless) and the other thing was that the whole dish was the giant cake: the menu made it sound like there were also other tasty veggies, when in fact the veggies were really just a dollop of pesto. But I still like the idea of the quinoa cake 🙂


      • Oof, duh! I guess I forget sometimes that you are in D.C., haha. Hopefully LPQ will fix the menu descriptions so that they mean what they say! You should make your own version of a quinoa cake! We have done them at Karma before, with cashew cheese, and they are heavenly.

  16. I had a wonderful breakfast at LPQ in October when I was in New York, and was very pleasantly surprised. Would love to try it for lunch and/or dinner next time I’m in a city that has one of their restaurants.

You might also like