Bonjour, Y’all: French Food That Speaks Your Language
by Lorraine Cherry
For many years, La Madeleine, the French country café, has been a dilemma for me. I loved their food, especially those extraordinary soups and mouth-watering pastries, but it was such a war to go there. The locations closest to us (Galleria, River Oaks Shopping Center, Rice Village) always had a huge amount of traffic. Then when you got there, the parking was horrible, the restaurants were over-crowded, and the quasi-cafeteria style service was confusing.
Well, all of these problems have been solved at the new La Madeleine located in Sawyer Heights near the Target store (the Taylor Street exit off I-10). Easy to get to, plenty of parking, simplified ordering, and a spacious interior. And a no-tipping policy.
I assume everyone has been to La Madeleine at some point. What? You haven’t? Well, there’s no time like the present. Let me tell you first about those wonderful soups. More often than not, a bowl of soup is just the perfect lunch. Hot and filling, not too much, not too little—a real Goldilocks lunch. My two favorites at La Madeleine are their cream of mushroom (thick and super mushroomy) and their world- famous tomato basil. Back story: I once went to a very elegant sit-down dinner in a beautiful home in Bellaire, and I loved the soup course so much that I asked the hostess for the recipe. She unblinkingly told me it was right off the shelf at La Madeleine (yes, they sell it in jars to take home.) When you buy it for lunch in the restaurant, that earns you the right to all of the fresh-cut bread you can eat. That’s what I call a deal!
They also make to order one of the better Caesar salads in the city (Caesar dressing and house-made croutons also available to take home) as well as a very delectable rosemary-rubbed roast chicken. And lots of great sandwiches, and crepes, and stews, and, and, and. But save room for those gorgeous desserts.
One of our favorites (so that we don’t feel so terribly guilty) is a tiny little parfait that has vanilla cream layered with fresh fruit. Just about four bites and it’s gone. I think all desserts should be this size. I’d order them more often.
Finally, if you go for dinner (or for a leisurely lunch), you can have a glass or two of wine with your meal. Their wine list is VERY limited (one each red, white, rosé) but the inexpensive wines are quite drinkable and pair well with their foods.
You can peruse their menu at: http://lamadeleine.com/lunch. Swing on by and try a little taste of French country living.