La Madeleine Country French Cafe and Bakery opened their first Little Rock location this week. Looking at the name, you'd think it was a fancy French dining establishment. However, La Madeleine is casual, quick service dining so don't be afraid to drop by on your lunch break. This Dallas based restaurant chain has over 75 locations in Texas, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Oklahoma and Virginia. This is their first Arkansas location.
All of the locations are decorated to resemble a French cafe. Some of the locations serve food cafeteria style, the new one on Markham serves like a Panera Bread, where you place an order at the counter and receive a beeper.
The restaurant was actually founded by a French-born businessman, but the food is an Americanized version of French cafe food. The cafe touts that they use fresh ingredients and bake in small batches:
From Paris to Provence we take the local favorites and introduce them to our guests. We call it French with a wink…taking the best foods of France and using the best ingredients from the U.S. we ensure the freshest products for our guests.
I sat down at La Madeleine's for lunch and dinner (dinner at their preview event). The menus are pretty similar. Soup, salads and sandwiches reign supreme. They also have pastas and quiche. For dinner, the only difference is the wine list. Surprisingly enough, the menu items that fall down on expectations are the French items, but only because I was expecting French-like food. I spent a semester in France and lived off of Croque Monsieurs. The one they offer is only vaguely like the French version, but it is basically a fancy grilled cheese and ham sandwich. It is pretty good if you don't judge it by its namesake. The French onion soup was also a miss both times, but their signature tomato soup was great. The potato soup was also quite good.
My favorite item on the menu was the turkey & Brie sandwich. It consists of smoked turkey, caramelized apples and onions with Brie and a house-made goat cheese spread baked on a sourdough roll. I would eat it again. The bread on that sandwich was delicious. Their chips and fresh fruit were also quite good.
La Madeleine has a bread bar that people who frequent other La Madeleine locations rave about. I thought it was kind of disappointing. They had three varieties of bread, two kinds of jam and butter. The bread was just plain bread, not even really good French bread. The strawberry jam was worth trying.
The desserts are house made and consist of cheesecakes, tortes and pastries with a French theme. They have mini versions of most of them so you can treat yourself at the end of your meal. The bakery counter is separate with a separate register from the food counter. I think during a busy lunch period this may get confusing. The main complaint at other La Madeleine restaurants is confusion with the ordering process. We'll have to wait and see if the Little Rock location is any better.
They are also open for breakfast, though I didn't try the location during breakfast. The breakfast menu consists of quiche, eggs Benedict and other egg dishes, croissants and pastries, crepes and fruit. You can, of course, get ham, bacon and sausage.
Prices are about in range with a typical quick service sandwich shop. Soups are about $4 for a cup. Salads are about $8. Pastas around $9. Sandwiches are $7-9. Desserts range from around $3 for a small dessert to $10 and up for larger ones.
You probably won't be disappointed if you dine at La Madeleine as long as you're not expecting authentic French cuisine. If that's what you want, you'd probably be better off with Terry's in the Heights. La Madeleine's offers a good selection of soups and sandwiches in a casual atmosphere. It's worth trying if you are looking for a solid chain.
La Madeleine is located at on 12210 W. Markham St.,near Home Depot, turn where you see the Sir Speedy sign to get into their parking lot.