Saturday, March 29, 2014

Petit Louis Bistro (Le Comptoir) - Columbia, Maryland

We've followed all the hype about Petit Louis Bistro, celebrity chef Cindy Wolf and Tony Foreman's new restaurant in Columbia. Authentic French cuisine and a lake front location makes it the right combination for the title of new Howard County sensation.  Since our travels to Quebec, Montreal and Paris, we have developed an appreciation for french foods. Therefore, we were eager to try this new restaurant.

On a recent Saturday morning, my family arrived at the restaurant close to 10 a.m. where we learned the restaurant doesn't open until 10:30 a.m.. So we wandered around the lakefront for 30 minutes. It was really cold outside and we did consider eating at Clyde's since it was open and didn't look busy, but we held out and returned to Petit Louis at 10:30 am - where we waited another 5 minutes in the cold for them to open the doors.

We ate in the little cafe called Le Comptoir that is attached to the main restaurant. It has huge glass windows that makes it easy for people to see in and employees to see out of.  We weren't happy that the employees could see us freezing outside and didn't bother to let us in until 10:35 am. It would have been nice if they let us in, even if they weren't exactly ready for us.

We didn't get a warm welcome once we were inside either. It was like attending a funeral. The place was dead silent. If you made one sound it resonated throughout the whole place which is tiny to begin with. It would have been nice to have french music playing.

Equally as awkward, Charles and I weren't sure how to order our food. Should we sit down and wait to be served or order at the counter?  We had to ask the people behind the counter who were busy preparing things. We learned we order at the counter, find a seat and then come back to the counter to get our food and drinks when it's ready.

Brioche a la Cannelle and Pain Au Chocolate 
So, what to order? We were hoping to see a huge display of French pastries like the ones we remembered from our trip to France or Quebec or even at french pastry shops in Washington, DC like Paul's. Although there was a small
  selection, they were nicely displayed.
Quiche Lorraine and Quiche Aux Legumes 

Charles and I each ordered one chocolate croissant ($3.25 each) and shared a brioche ($3.75). No drinks, just water. Both pastries were small portions, yet good but not outstanding.

My mom ordered a Cafe Au Lait ($5.50) and a Quiche Lorraine ($9.50) to share with my dad. He ordered a regular American coffee. She loved the Cafe Au Lait but said it was a small portion. Alternatively, the quiche was on the larger side. When ordering it, the counter person told my mom that she could not make the quiche hot "or it would ruin the consistency of the object."

But she would warm the quiche slightly in a microwave, but only upon request, which she requested. Unfortunately, it was a very thick quiche so the middle was cold while the outside was a little warm.  Although it was tasty, she probably wouldn't order it again. My dad's American coffee wasn't very strong, but the counter person did warn him about this.

We were still hungry after our pastries so we each ordered a Jambon ($8.75 each) - a buttered baguette with ham and cornichons (pickles). Again, the portion was small. Then, if that wasn't enough the baguette was very chewy. We had to tug with our teeth several times to take bites out of this sandwich.

So, here's our summary. We wanted to LOVE this place, really LOVE it, but we couldn't. Everything was small in this cafe - the tables, the selection, the portions, the service. The only thing that was large was the quiche and the prices. After spending about $47 for breakfast, we went home still hungry. Our parents were not happy about that.

To be fair, we will need to try the main restaurant for a better assessment. However, our initial outing to the cafe doesn't make us want to run back. For now, sadly, au revoir Petit Louis.

- Thomas

Petit Louis Bistro & Comptoir on Urbanspoon


  1. Sorry to hear you were disappointed. I have high hopes for the place, too, especially after reading other reviews. Maybe the staff was just having a bad day? I'm glad you guys were honest, though. I'd still like to give it a try, esp the restaurant part.

  2. Excellent review, men. I have not been and I'm sure I will go at some point, but your remarks on Le Comptoir seemed very honest and your assessment valid. Thanks!

  3. Cool blog guys. My girlfriends and I are always looking for new blogs. Your blog is wonderful. I'm a huge fan of "Cooking With Mr. C." and "Food 52". I will share your blog with my friends. We love to follow many blogs.

  4. Thanks for the nice compliments and for taking the time to post a comment. The Bare Midriff - that's a good point. The staff might have had a bad day - it happens. So, we'll go back again. It's really cool that we have a new follower (welcome Anonymous). We think Food 52 is awesome. We'll check out "Cooking with Mr. C". Thanks for the tip.

  5. Regarding the portion sizes, I noticed in my travels to other countries that the portion sizes are much smaller than what we are accustomed to here in the US and breakfast is usually a light meal. Since this is a French style bistro, maybe that explains the small portions?

  6. When I went, there were so many screaming kids in there, it was like a super noisy Panera Bread. I would have loved the silence to go along with our 25 dollar breakfast. I'm with you. But, those macaroons are really really good.

  7. To the portion sizes, Americans have been accustomed to high volumes of cheap food. PLB's ingredients are higher quality and the portions are smaller. To me, it's not a fault of the restaurant; it's a choice they've made inside of the larger choice to focus on food ingredient quality, prep and cooking. I love their coffee, too. Many Americans have become accustomed to Starbucks' definition of coffee (blech!) and think strong flavor = good. I love dark roasts myself, and found the cafe au lait at PLB one of the best I'd ever had. As their very friendly (and knowledgable) barista explained, it's all in the quality of the milk.

  8. Haughty attitude, small portions, big prices, mediocre food, what did you expect.

    It's run by the same people who run the Roland Park Petit Louis where the same characteristics prevail. In fact, I've heard those characteristics prevail at all Wolf/Foreman restaurants.