Cary, N.C. — Finding a home in the fast-casual haven of Cary, la Madeleine French Cafe recently opened the doors to its first North Carolina location. Bordering the entrance of the Cary Towne Center mall, this Texas import has inhabited the former Mimi’s Cafe space.
Greeting you as you enter the building is la Madeleine’s market and bakery - a tempting display of sauces, coffee, breads and desserts. Just past the display, however, is when the experience starts to sour.
The ordering process is a combination of poor design and inexperienced staff trying to operate la Madeleine’s hybrid service model, where you grab select dishes immediately from their cafeteria-style serving line or order other dishes at the counter and then wait at your table.
It all leads to forgotten orders, missing ingredients and entrees getting cold while you wait for everyone’s food to arrive. Maybe the most unfortunate part was how misrepresentative the service was of the staff themselves, who were extremely kind, courteous and friendly.
If you’re able to withstand the missteps in the service, the food at la Madeleine is solid. The menu is geared toward accessible and casual French food. Marked as one of the signature dishes of the restaurant, the chicken friand’s flaky pastry and creamy mushroom filling embodied the finer touches of French cuisine while still hitting the spot as comfort food.
But our table was split on the country potato soup. The cheese was gooey and rich, sticking to the spoon as you pull it away from the bowl, but the gritty texture took away from some of the soup’s appeal.
La Madeleine offers more composed dinner entrees as well, as in the case of the roasted salmon and dill sauce. Although the dill sauce lacked much of a dill flavor, the salmon and asparagus were well cooked. Landing on the sweet spot between tender and overcooked, the salmon was an impressive feat for a fast-casual establishment.
It might come to no surprise that where this French bakery truly excelled is desserts. Among the tarts, croissants and breads is an alluring variety of cakes. The coconut cream cake came with a personal endorsement from the manager. Winning us over with an almost pudding like consistency, the moist cake even impressed the coconut naysayers at the table.
A dessert originally made famous by Hotel Sacher in Vienna, the Sacher torte is a delightfully fudgy slice of chocolate cake.
Though it's difficult to look past the restaurant’s glaring flaws, la Madeleine does offer some tasty food for your troubles.
Elliot Acosta is a blogger for the eatRaleigh Blog.