Crepes with ricotta cheese are airy and graceful.
It’s always been an eclectic little shopping center. You can buy fishing lures at Dorn’s Hardware, check in for acupuncture at the Internal Medicine and Pain Clinic or deal with pain in another fashion at Le Tigre Lounge.
Le Petit Croissant appeared with little fanfare earlier this year in what felt like a long, slow soft opening that’s still evolving. The restaurant officially completed a remodeling in early September, but while the new warm and welcoming red-and-purple look is lovely, offset by patterned wallpaper depicting châteaux and fruit, the room still doesn’t look done. The floors are scuffed, the cream and sugar station less than spic-and-span, and a general sense of France by way of Bolivia pervades. But maybe that’s okay. It remains of a piece with its offbeat strip mall companions.
Le Petit Croissant is the venture of a couple with a storied tradition in Madison cuisine: Oscar Estrada, a pastry chef, and Claudia Soto, a baker. Both spent many years at La Brioche honing their respective crafts. The two have created a sandwich shop and bakery with a short, focused menu by adapting and modifying many of the recipes from their alma mater and designing another half of entirely new creations. And that La Brioche heritage shows.
Those rich, textured, warm-from-the-oven pastries! If Le Petit Croissant did nothing but baked goods, they would still be a godsend to this no man’s land next to the Beltline/Verona Road interchange. Cinnamon rolls are firm and plump and glazed with heavy cream and confectioner’s sugar. Sticky buns melt away on the tongue. A cherry compote-filled pastry is at turns tart and stickily sweet.
I don’t drink lattes much anymore — the stigma is worse than eating kale at this point — but I used to make them, and I know a good latte. This is a pretty good one. While the line of espresso separating hot milk from hot milk foam could be harder, the taste profile is European, with mildly nutty coffee bean permeation.
Along with the pastries and scones, crepes are served in two varieties: sweet (Nutella) and savory (ricotta cheese). Both are airy and graceful; close your eyes and you will feel like you’re in the French countryside. Then there’s French toast, quiche and frittatas, so we are talking about a full-on French destination here, at least in intent.
A clever breakfast sandwich is actually a bacon omelet folded into a fluffy croissant. That’s surprising in a good way, as is the “grilled cheese” sandwich that arrives with pesto, red onion, avocado and tomato. The sharp tang of cheese anchors the sandwich. There’s a lot of love grilled into this sammie.
Several concoctions could work for breakfast or lunch, like the spinach and feta croissants, freshly baked French-style baguettes, and even three-cheese bread.
And, a word about the bread: It makes the sandwiches. It’s buttery and has a lot of heft. A Reuben is served on a pumpernickel pretzel bread. A tall stack of marbled pastrami with tangy Russian dressing comes with a pickle, natch, and proves a satisfying jumbo version of the sandwich.
The signature sandwich here is the spicy turkey. Sliced turkey is paired well with bacon and pepper jack cheese, then layered with romaine, avocado and chipotle sauce. The entire affair arrives in jalapeño ciabatta bread, and it really is spicy — not just a little bit, but enough to rule supertasters right out.
But I preferred the BLT. Thick slices of cured bacon meet the crunch of romaine on lightly mayo-slathered (too much is a bad thing) hunks of fresh-baked sourdough bread. I thought, “Wow, I can’t eat this behemoth,” then wiped the plate. Sandwiches come with a simple salad side dressed with vinaigrette, passable but by far the least interesting thing about those plates. (A proper salad with berries, pecans and balsamic gastrique is fine, but unremarkable.)
While the food and service is excellent, the space needs more work. But that work is clearly in progress. Moreover, if you live in the neighborhood, it’s worth the little bit of trouble it takes to get to the shopping center for a bag of buttery baked goods and an espresso to go.
Le Petit Croissant
1310 S. Midvale Blvd., 608-807-2662, 7 am-3 pm Tues.-Sat., 8 am-2 pm Sun., $3-$9