Daily Bread: Le Pain Quotidien Opens in Park Slope

One of the great fading charms of New York City was its lack of chains. Businesses were family-run, an end-around on the high costs of labor. Every bodega, every coffee shop had its own quirks and character. Now, in post-Giuliani/Bloomberg New York, we’ve got Home Depots and 7-11s just like any suburban strip. Park Slope has enough left-wing intolerance to have staved off chains for a while, but today Fifth Avenue welcomes 185-unit leviathan Le Pain Quotidien to the neighborhood.

It’s not the first spin-off for Fifth. Many of the stretch’s destinations—Terroir, Beauty Bar, Blue Ribbon—have Manhattan roots. A branch of Calexico is on its way, and at 5pm on June 19th you can dig into the slow-cooked awesomeness of Dinosaur Bar-B-Que. These are all mini-chains, though. Park Slope isn’t used to international players.

If it has to be a chain, at least it’s a good one. Le Pain Quotidien’s food is sophisticated without being snobby (they’re Belgian-born, not French). Coffee is fresh and tasty, and the tartine toasts reflect clever combinations like ricotta, mission figs, honey, and pepper. Service is friendly, and they won’t salt you into a state of bloat. The prime Brooklyn corner they’ve grabbed has been upgraded from its Moutarde incarnation, with clunky black graphics replaced by a smooth buttermilk façade. Presumably they won’t be leaving boules in the front window for months on end.

Should you want to confront Le Pain Quotidien founder Alain Coumont about the perils of gentrification, you have a chance tomorrow. From 9 to 11am, Coumont will be in Park Slope to flog his new Le Pain Quotidien Cookbook. The book is being released today, and shows off recipes employing the healthy elegance the brand is known for. Roasted golden beetroot salads and chia seed banana muffins just might make easy fits in the land of the Park Slope Food Coop.

[Related: BlackBook New York Guide; Listings for Le Pain Quotidien, Terroir, Beauty Bar, Blue Ribbon, Calexico, Dinosaur Bar-B-Que; More by Ethan Wolff; Buy Ethan’s Book; Follow Ethan on Twitter]

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