The last time I was in New York City, my friend Susan and I were on a vintage clothing hunt. There are a couple of good vintage stores around 84th and Madison, but I don't remember if we found anything worth buying in them. I do remember that across the street, we found a restaurant worth eating in and one I'll return to next time I'm in the city.
Le Pain Quotidien is a certified green restaurant that serves organic bakery items and light international dishes. The one we ate in, there are branches across the world and 17 in NYC, was warm and inviting with a large communal table running through the center of the dining area. I understand this is the norm for all their restaurants.
The fresh baked breads and pastries are delicious, but the menu doesn't stop at these yummy baked goods. There are soups (I had the vegan vegetable soup - full of large chunks of seasonal veggies and oh so flavorfull), tartines (their version of an opened faced sandwich), quiches, fine cheeses, omelettes made of organic eggs and more. They have a large selection of hot and cold beverages, too.
Along with my soup came a few slices of homemade bread. On each table are complimentary spreads for the bread. My intention was to use a little on one of my slices and just dip the rest in my soup. That was impossible once I tasted their Brunette Belgian Praline Spread. I used it liberally on all my bread, and was half tempted to sneak the jar on the table into my bag. I restrained myself.
In the U.S, Le Pain Quotidien has branches in NYC, LA, DC, and Connecticut, and I can only hope that they spread out across the country - to the Philadelphia region, perhaps. If you happen to have the chance to eat in one of their restaurants, take it.