La Madeleine is an authentic French bakery, café and bistro with several locations in the greater Baltimore-DC metro area. In Columbia, if you follow the delicious aromas of fresh baked French pastry, you’ll find yourself in front of what looks like a country chateau. The plaza in Columbia Crossing is an unlikely place to find La Madeleine with its casual charm but gourmet sophistication, but hungry shoppers at the nearby Target aren’t likely to complain.
As you enter La Madeleine, the atmosphere is clean and cozy. Heavy doors and shutters made of dark wood give the ambiance of a hunting lodge in the French countryside; a central fireplace completes the look. The illusion is so complete that while sipping tea at La Madeleine, one would not be surprised to see a loyal hound curl up by ones feet.
At La Madeleine, relaxation is the order of the day, and classical music plays softly in the background to soothe restaurant patrons. But in spite of the fine wines, the rows of glazed pastries and savory treats, and the mouth-watering menu, Le Madeleine isn’t snooty or pretentious.
At Le Madeleine, you’ll order your meals at the counter, and take away drinks on an industrial tray. You’ll have to serve yourself soda, and pick up your own flatware. Given this cafeteria-style dining model, one might expect the food to be below par. But that’s not the case.
La Madeleine’s French onion soup puts any other watery concoction with the same name to shame. This broth has a rich and layered flavor that will ruin you for canned soups forever. The savory crepes are light and filled with the richest ingredients, made with vegetables so fresh that they snap. Best of all, La Madeleine’s most exotic fare is reasonably priced and delivered to the table hot, fresh, and in abundance.
But if you’re an unadventurous eater, La Madeleine still has something for you. In addition to old world dishes like Beef Bourguignon, the menu features some delectable salads and simple sandwiches.
For those with a sweet tooth, the pleasures of La Madeleine are not to be missed. Put your boxed cookies away in favor of tortes, fruit tarts, raspberry croissants and Strawberries Romanoff.
The combination of a relaxed atmosphere with fine dining is a rarity, and La Madeleine pulls it off well. Students with laptops would be as comfortable in La Madeleine as they would be in a coffee shop, and yet, the décor is elegant enough to appease “Ladies who Lunch.”
The staff is endlessly patient and determined that you dine at your own pace, though the infernally uncomfortable straw chairs may be their way of getting you out the door. Still, with uncomfortable chairs the only thing to complain about when it comes to La Madeleine, this restaurant should enjoy a prosperous future in Columbia Maryland.