On Monday, Sept. 21, classrooms opened their doors, the dining halls opened their tables and alongside of it all, La Madeleine opened its pastry display cases. Located in its new home at the College of Business, La Madeleine is a French bakery and café chain operating out of Dallas. Meant to serve as an alternative to fast food, this little bakery aims to serve quality food fast. The majority of their foods are cooked on location that very morning, and their apricot twists are even made in France before being shipped to Clemson.
In order to get the best review possible — and to gauge both how good and how fast this food is — two highly qualified critics took it upon themselves to test the food (and the coffee).
Rebecca West, the editor-in-chief of The Tiger, is first and foremost a lover of bread and wine. She also spent three days in Paris while studying abroad last summer, and sometime between eating a Nutella crêpe at a food cart and drinking wine beneath the Eiffel Tower at sunset, a beret sprouted from her head and she started carrying around a baguette in her bookbag. Also, she’s seen “Les Misérables,” like, four times, so she’s the real deal when it comes to expertise on French food.
Ryan Sweeney is an amatuer pantomime and also an avid traveler. During some of his world travels with his family, he strutted along the Champs-Elysées and has eaten a fair share of baguettes, croissants and the occasional crêpe. Although he abstains from wine, Sweeney has also spent a significant amount of time at various famous Chateaus, including Mouton-Rothschild, Lafite-Rothchild and Chateau Margaux. If prompted, Sweeney, a self-proclaimed history nerd and trivia junky, will be more than happy to recount the story of German soldier Gustav Klaebisch, a lieutenant who is credited with saving the Cognac industry during the occupation of France in WWII.
Between these two professional critics, they compiled their scores and thoughts on four options of food and one singular coffee.
Pain au Chocolat (8/10) as reviewed by West
It’s not really a French restaurant unless they have croissants, baguettes and the little quiches, and La Madeleine does not disappoint. From a display case full of pastries, West picked out the pain au chocolat and was later extremely grateful she got it a bit toasted. The bread itself could be a bit more moist, but the chocolate did an excellent job of adding some needed moisture to the treat. West’s sweet tooth was admittedly wishing for a stronger chocolate presence halfway through the croissant, but the pastry was warm and tasty, so it was overall a positive experience. (Whether La Madeleine or Starbucks’ pain au chocolat is better is not a question West is confident in answering without more research.)
Egg and Cheese Croissant (9.5/10) as reviewed by West
This breakfast almost made West drop her croissant. The first bite was an explosion of moist, eggy goodness, and that first spark of joy did not dim throughout the entire sandwich. The eggs put Schilletter’s mass-produced breakfasts to shame. The croissant was fluffy and buttery enough to melt in your mouth. The cheese was excellent, though they could definitely have added more (hence the missing half point). West found that this croissant was the perfect thing to warm her up both inside and out on a chilly fall morning, especially while having a socially distant picnic on Bowman Field to review pastries. If you ever want to treat yourself for breakfast on campus, go to La Madeleine.
Vegetable Sandwich (7/10) as reviewed by West
While the exact name of this sandwich is unknown, know that this was the only vegetarian option out of the lunch sandwiches displayed. La Madeleine did not let a lack of meat stop them from making this sandwich exceedingly filling, though. A simple baguette filled with lettuce, tomatoes, onion and a few other things, this sandwich is an excellent choice if you’re ever in the business school building and feeling like you could eat a plant-based horse. The tomatoes were particularly tasty, and La Madeleine did not make Subway’s mistake of drowning sandwiches in lettuce. The bread was a bit dense and hard to chew at times, and the condiments overpowered much of the taste. However, the sandwich preserves extremely well, and honestly tastes even better the next day. It’s not the most delicious option that La Madeleine offers, but it’s a good choice for any hungry college student and makes for a great leftover.
Sausage, Egg and Cheese Croissant (9.5/10) as reviewed by Sweeney
An American classic with a French twist, this sausage, egg and cheese is by far the best you’ll find on campus. Forget about going to Douthit and skip your pumpkin spice latte at Starbucks, and head over to the new business building to try this sandwich. Pick your sandwich of choice from their glass display case, and they’ll heat it to your liking. The cheese, meat and egg are all high quality. The croissant was fluffy on the inside and flaky on the outside. Put all of that together and you have an A+ breakfast sandwich. After eating this sandwich, you’ll be ready for anything your day throws at you.
Iced Mocha Latte (8/10) as reviewed by West
Admittedly, this coffee did not cause angels to descend from the sky or for fireworks to spontaneously fill the air. However, it was still a solid coffee. It wasn’t the best West has ever had, but it also was far from the worst. It was a simple order meant to taste good and to give her some extra energy, so it accomplished all of those goals. The price was low and the flavor was pleasant, but the thin layer of chocolate syrup that ended up congregating at the bottom was really the cherry on top. La Madeleine doesn’t necessarily have the wide array of Starbucks, but their coffee still definitely deserves some love and appreciation.
Overall, La Madeleine strives to provide good food quickly, and they accomplish that goal. With a friendly staff, many unique food options and a line that is exponentially shorter than Starbucks’, it seems this little bakery is a fine addition to Clemson’s campus. So if you’re ever in the business school building in need of food or you’re wanting to treat yourself with a delicious breakfast croissant, grab your PawPoints and head over to the little corner of campus that is La Madeleine.