La Madeleine, the French bistro and cafe with eight different locations in D.C., is a total oxymoron. While most chain restaurants are built on convenience and strive to feed the masses with food that is both quick and cheap, the ever-growing bistro has found success using a more laissez faire approach.
“Everything here is very laid back and relaxed — no rush,” said Nasrin Saadvandi, manager of the Tyson’s Corner location. Saadvandi says the cozy atmosphere is an important part of the chain’s popularity, because it allows customers to “escape” into a fantasyland.
“That and the crêpes,” she laughs, “keeps them coming back.”
True to form, neither disappoints. Besides several small, intimate tables wrapped around the patio area, the restaurant inside is broken into several smaller rooms, each boasting a unique French-inspired feel, ranging from wine-infused décor to a blazing fireplace and mantle.
“We rent out the rooms frequently for things like office meetings and parties,” added Saadvandi, gesturing to several larger rooms with wooden mantles and glass windows.
And as for the crêpes? A staple of French fare, they are la Madeleine’s signature item, made fresh daily with your choice of filling for a meal or dessert.
Of course, the main crowd at la Madeleine is the lunch crowd, looking for a comfortable place to enjoy a new book or catch up with friends over some comfort food. For that, la Madeleine has several options, offering an express do-it-yourself approach with glorified cafeteria style fare: soups, salads, hot and cold sandwiches, and muffins.
But don’t chock it up as another hum-drum sandwich shop just yet. As the name suggests, the restaurant pays homage to France and the menu not only features the melt-in-your-mouth crepes, but savory hot quiche and the ever-tempting croissants and baguettes. The “Duet Magnifique” option is a perfect lunchtime choice, offering a half sandwich and your choice of soup or petite salad.
Customers who choose to stay and eat can immerse themselves in the restaurant’s quiet but inviting atmosphere, which founder Patrick Leon Esquerré envisioned as a “post World War II French valley,” while sipping a latte or la Madeleine’s unique French roast.
Though crowds and parking around the holidays can get rough, (the Tyson’s location is right across from the Shopping Center), the carefree atmosphere in la Madeleine has a calming effect as soon as you walk through the holiday-decorated door. And if that doesn’t do the trick, one of the pastries on display in the bakery case, such as the Strawberry Napoléon, Chocolat Mousse Crêpe, White Chocolate Strawberry Cheesecake, or Lemon Tart will definitely put your mind at ease.
While the original concept for la Madeleine was a bakery and café, over the past few years it has expanded to become a bistro, especially at night where the after-five crowd can feast on a dinner menu that features hearty dishes such as Salmon with White Wine Caper Sauce ($12.99) or Rosemary Rotisserie Chicken ($9.59) served with steamed broccoli and Rice Provencal.
The privately owned corporation, founded in 1983 in Dallas, Tx. currently operates 62 locations in the U.S. and hopes to continue to expand.
With the holiday season’s stress in full swing, who wouldn’t want to go to France and sit outside a Parisian cafe, sipping tea and savoring the ambience? However, for most of us, enjoying French-inspired food and reveling in the serenity of la Madeleine is a much more feasible (and budget conscious) option. Bon appetite!
1915 Chain Bridge Road
Mon. – Thu. 6:30 a.m. – 10:00 p.m.
Fri. & Sat. 6:30 a.m. – 11:00 p.m.
Sun. 7:00 a.m. – 9:00 p.m.