The line at the just-opened north Fort Worth location of La Madeleine French Country Cafe was pretty long at 1 p.m. Friday, the second official day of business. But it moved pretty quickly, certainly faster than the traffic on southbound I-35W, which is practically out the restaurant’s front door.
This new location, adjacent to a new Starbucks in Presidio Junction (where a new restaurant seems to open every week), is a refreshing respite from the chicken joints and fast-food burgers that populate this area of north Fort Worth. Not knocking the chicken or the burgers, mind you — but sometimes you want something a little more laid-back. And even with the noise of the late-lunch crowd, La Madeleine qualifies.
The restaurant looks small on the outside, but to paraphrase Doctor Who, it’s bigger on the inside. As you walk in, your eyes will be drawn to the pastry case, which for some of us is La Madeleine’s main reason for existing. You’re funneled toward the registers, and as you walk up to them you’ll pass displays of quiches, salads and soups. It’s a good idea to pick up a menu and make a decision before all this starts, so you’ll cut down on impulse buys.
The self-serve drink station is by a Patisserie window, a feature of some of the more recently opened La Madeleines, where you can watch the pastry chefs at work; this caught the attention of many of the children who were there at lunch.
There are several scozy dining rooms, all separated from the busy ordering line and drink station. A wood-burning fireplace by our table was lit, despite the temperate weather, providing a rustic touch.
When some of the lunch crowd cleared out, we could hear classical music on the sound system, and although I’m a rock-music fan, it’s nice to hear something without lyrics played at a relatively low volume when you’re trying to have a conversation in a restaurant.
The restaurant has a patio area, although we’re not sure how refreshing it is, considering that it looks out on a parking lot and that it’s near the noise of I-35W.
Chances are you’ve eaten at a La Mad; if you haven’t, we recommend the tomato-basil soup, creamy, tangy and herbacious. A cup, regularly $4.29, came as a side to my roasted vegetabale sandwich ($8.59) for an additional 99 cents. The sandwich (zucchini, red bell peppers, button mushroom on ciabatta) was pretty sturdy for a veggie. The only misfire came with my wife’s salad sampler ($8.69, including a cup of soup): She liked the Caesar, but the cranberry and pecan “wild field” salad was curiously skimpy with the cranberries and the pecans were MIA. A mini lemon tart ($1.99) made up for that in a couple of quick citrusy bites.
There are a lot of restaurants in this area, but there aren’t too many mellow hangouts. Once the opening buzz calms down, this will be a cool place to have breakfast, or just coffee and dessert.