Just like Paris, for better or worse
Mon Petit Choux is a downtown café and bakery, specializing in petit dejuener (breakfast), salads and sandwiches, and bakery treats and sweets. Most of what you’d expect from a Parisian café are here, including decadent french toast, flaky croissants, croque madame, and so on. Unfortunately, the café also exhibits some of the weaker attributes of Parisian dining, namely, indifferent service and long wait times.
We first visited Mon Petit Choux a few years back and while we don’t quite remember exactly how the experience went, we do recall being sad that there were no crepes on the menu. This has since become a non-issue with the decent Ironworks Café and Creperie opening up just a few doors up Commercial Street.
Our visit this time was during the a busy Saturday brunch time. We entered the café and with no one to greet us, seated ourselves per the instructions on a sign placed near the entrance.
Inside, the café contains mostly small tables for two or three, though many families and large groups had moved things around to accommodate themselves. The décor was a rather nice grey with gold trim and mirrors and candle sconces hung from the wall. It was pleasant.
What was not so pleasant was the ambient volume. Don’t expect a quiet coffee and bite to eat. The acoustics in there amplify every baby squawk and dropped fork. When the café is full, it is LOUD.
Our casually-dressed server promptly came and took our drink orders, which came out quickly. Then our wait began. We quickly knew what we wanted to eat – breakfast strata for her and croque madame for him – but it took another server around 20 minutes (we weren’t actually timing) for to come back and take our order. It was busy, but jeez.
Orders placed, we busied ourselves arguing about politics (we do that) and enjoying our mocha and orange juice while we waited. And waited. And waited. The table next to us got fed up waiting and asked to cancel their order. They’d been waiting an hour. Not a good sign. We were hungry and getting pretty frustrated too. No one came by to let us know how close our meals were. Finally, after 40 minutes (now we WERE timing) our food came.
At this point, the only thing that could turn around what had been a pretty poor dining experience so far would be delicious food. Fortunately, Mon Petit Choux delivered just that.
While our breakfasts sound different, they were actually quite similar. For her, the breakfast strata – essentially brioche toast stacked with vegetables, a couple of sunny-side eggs, and hollandaise. For him, the croque madame – a brioche sandwich with bacon and cheese, a couple of sunny-side eggs on top, and hollandaise.
Both were delicious. The (in-house) brioche bread was incredibly buttery. The crust was flaky, almost like a croissant. Very very good. The eggs were perfectly cooked to that easy/medium consistency we look for. Both dishes were attractively arranged – presented with green onion garnish and the hollandaise off to the side. The only tiny issue with the croque madam was that the café was a bit stingy on the cheese. Altogether it was a great and decadent breakfast.
While we are praising the food, we can also praise the prices. Each of our meals was around $12. All in with drinks, tax, and a modest tip, we paid around $33. Considering you can pay $18 just for a plate of breakfast across the street at the Modern Café, we found the value here to be quite good. Unfortunately, it took another 10 minute wait in a lineup to actually pay for our food. This place just did not respect our time.
It’s a mixed bag for us. Mon Petit Choux really impressed with the quality and taste of the food, and the prices are excellent. On the other hand, the service was barely there and each step of the dining experience took forever. (Side note, there was a “help wanted” note in the window so our guess is the restaurant wasn’t operating with a full staff. Our suggestion would be to limit the number of patrons/tables, rather than allowing the place to fill up. A few happier diners beats many grouchy ones, no?)
We did note the café opens quite early, even on weekends (something we really like) and so it might be best to try to get in before the busy brunch hours. If you beat the crowds, you might have a better experience than we did. Either way, we can assure you your food will be great, no matter when you finally get it.