Just looking at the name, la Madeleine, and you realize that the French theme.
The local restaurant in Columbia is one of 70 franchises scattered around the country that began back in 1983 when a native Frenchman, Patrick Leon Esquerré, living in Texas was missing country French food and cafe atmosphere that he had grown up with and decided to do something about it. With support from Stanley Marcus – yup the guy whose name is part of the upscale Texas store, Neimen-Marcus – la Madeleine was born.
Its webpage attempts to define a “La Madeleine” culture (a bit different that asserting a corporate objective about selling the most burgers, eh?) “Live life to the fullest. Live it the way you choose to. This is at the heart of the la Madeleine experience.” La Madeleine offers different dining spaces. When weather cooperates, an outdoor patio is peaceful and inviting.
There’s also a dining room inside with a country French feel:
La Madeleine follows the “order at the counter, you get a number card and your food is brought to you at your table” style. The menu is not huge but is diverse – in a Country French kind of way. There are soups ($4/cup,$6/bowl – and yes, French Onion soup is a standard offering); the menu also includes a half dozen entree salads ($9 – $11), a dozen sandwiches ($8-$10 which include your choice of petite Caesar Salade, Tomato Basil Pesto Pasta Salade, or Salt & Pepper Chips), seven entrees ($10-$13). four pasta dishes (all $11) plus an assortment of French standards like Quiche Lorraine, Spinach Pochette, and Chicken Friand (all $6), And true to country French style, you can enjoy a glass of wine choosing from three “house” wines: Cabernet Sauvignon-Merlot, Chardonnay-Viognie, or a Mouton Cadet Bordeaux Rosé.
I decided on a Roasted Pear & Prosciutto salad ($8.99) There was a variation offered with chicken for $10.49 and asked how the chicken was prepared. The young man helping us at that point reached into a refrigerated cabinet and extracted a small foil wrapped packed. He carefully unfolded it and showed me what looked like some tightly compacted dark meat chicken. It unfortunately reminded me of something that I might have found tucked away at the back of my frig at home which I probably would decide not to use. I opted to skip the chicken and go just with the salad. I confess to finding a small quiche in the counter looking very appetizing and thought about adding it to my dinner but opted to skip the quiche and stay with a light dinner. My friend Tom picked the Mediterranean Paella ($10) from the “entree” section and decided to add a Potato Galette ($3).
The salad turned out to be pretty darn good! It had a mix of greens (including even some Chicory!) along with a good amount of bleu cheese, roasted pears, crisp prosciutto, roasted pecans, with a balsamic vinaigrette dressing plus a a bleu cheese and prosciutto palmier. (if that wasn’t enough, there’s counter with sliced loaves of bread with (real…) butter that you can help yourself to. (I did! though the bread didn’t quite live up to the palmier!)
Tom’s paella looked initially underwhelming like a plate of rice with a shrimp and a piece of chicken He quickly discovered that there more chicken and shrimp hidden under the rice (Considering the $10 price of this paella, the amount of chicken and shrimp was pretty generous!) Tom felt that the rice was bland and lacking in taste – he added and mixed in some butter and that appeared to do the trick for him – and voila! – he was a happy camper! Tom graciously shared some of his potato galette with me – it was very good (but then it should be for $3!). Tom also shared a taste of his chicken – it proved to be tasty and left me wondering if I shouldn’t have tried getting the chicken added to my salad (particularly when it was only an additional $1.75).
We wanted to get some things from the near by Target (you could easily walk from the Columbia La Madeleine to the large Target) so we passed on dessert. We regretted that later thinking about a selection of luscious looking mini-desserts or perhaps the possibility of having shared a Strawberries Romanoff ($4.29 for a cup, $5.29 for the larger “regular” size). C’est domage!
We enjoyed our meal at La Madeleine. The erstwhile country French interior was pleasant, the pretty patio could be charming on the right day and our reasonably priced meal ended up tasting so good that we left thinking that we’d give this another visit at some point!
FACTS: la Madeleine; Columbia; 6211 Columbia Crossing (near the intersection of Rte 95 and Rte 175), 410-872-4900; http://lamadeleine.com/ ; wine only; vegetarian options; Open 7 days a week from 6:30 am to 9 pm serving breakfast, lunch & dinner (each in its own time!); Abundant adjacent free parking; Outside patio dining in addition to inside dining room.