By Srianthi perera
Any French cafe worth its salt bakes fresh baguettes and pastries on-site each morning.
La Madeleine French Bakery & Café in SanTan Village is no exception.
Early-morning patrons may be rewarded with the heavenly smell of fresh baking bread or the caramelizing sugar for a creme brulee.
They may buy the long loaf, with its characteristically crispy crust, a sweet palmier, croissant or a fresh fruit tart at Gilbert’s latest restaurant with cozy French flair. Or they may opt for a savory breakfast with Spicy Eggs Basque, Quiche Florentine or Potato Galette.
Whether they are here for a quick bite and espresso before rushing off to work or for a lingering meal ending with a sweet dessert, they can be sure that the fare was made just hours earlier. (Some pastries may be the exception because of their two-day shelf life.)
“Most of the pastries we make six, seven, eight times a day. It’s always fresh,” said Sam Salehin, director of operations, adding that the restaurant doesn’t have a microwave. “We also have hot food. As a customer, you can taste the difference.”
Established in Dallas in 1983, the brand was brought to the Valley by franchisees Paul L. Foster and his wife, Alejandro De La Vega, of El Paso, Texas, who are known for their philanthropy. Foster is the chairman of Western Refinery and De La Vega owns several Domino’s Pizzas and more than 200 Del Rio convenience store locations in Juarez, Mexico.
In the Valley, the couple also owns a La Madeleine in Chandler, while another just opened in Phoenix and more are being planned.
La Madeleine serves breakfast all day, lunch and dinner. The Gilbert location, east of Dick’s Sporting Goods and opposite Cantina Laredo Mexican restaurant in SanTan Mall, used to be a Panera Bread store.
The Chandler outlet is in the vicinity of Chandler Fashion Center, at The Met at Chandler Mall.
The 10 main breakfast offerings include Parisien Eggs, which consists of two fried eggs served on a freshly baked butter croissant with ham, bacon and Hollandaise sauce ($9.29). The aforementioned and reportedly popular Spicy Eggs Basque presents two fried eggs over a roasted bell pepper, garlic, white wine and tomato sauce and comes with a toasted baguette ($6.49).
Lighter morning fare, such as crepes, oatmeal and parfait, also is available.
Lunch and dinner entrees include the more predictable seasonal salads, soups and sandwiches, but also specialties such as salmon and fresh lentils; roasted salmon fillet over a light French lentil, kale and vegetable stew.
There’s a children’s menu as well; grilled cheese on wheatberry and chicken pesto pasta are two items from that section.
Not everything’s French, though. There are some typical American offerings, such as cheese pizza and Caesar salad with the company’s own Caesar dressing.
An entree averages at about $10.
“Everybody tells me my grandma’s food is good. She’s cooking old-fashioned, going to the store, buying whatever she can afford and then cooking the day before or the same day,” Salehin said. “Same kind of philosophy here. It’s very reasonable, nothing is super-expensive.”
Patrons coming in will first pass through the retail display of sauces, fruit spreads, French coffee roast and La Madeleine’s famous tomato basil soup, one of its bestsellers.
They would then catch sight of the lighted pastry case, with its tempting array of luscious sweets they may remember from a visit to France. Hot food is available cafeteria-style. The bustle of the kitchen is visible.
The warm interior, with its rustic beams, fireplace, brick enhancements, wood floor and casual seating, attempts to capture the simplicity of a French country cafe.
One wall carries vintage photos of Madeleine’s venerable founder, Patrick Esquerré, who 35 years ago established a casual French bakery in Dallas because he felt that women in that city needed “good bread” and he himself was missing the finer things from his home country.
Although Esquerré left the company and it was subsequently sold to current owner Louis Le Duff, he returned in 2008 as an ambassador to it.
Today, La Madeleine’s has about 80 outlets dishing out the French culinary delights.
If a trip to France is not in the works anytime soon to visit a boulangerie, maybe a trip to La Madeleine’s could suffice?
“It’s pretty good,” said Salehin.
La Madeleine French Bakery & Café, 2156 E. Williams Field Road, Suite 101, Gilbert; 480-485-8490 and 3605 W. Chandler Blvd, Suite 7, Chandler; 480-999-2095. Details: