La Madeleine Country French Cafe


*** (3 stars)

Although the name implies this is a cafe, it’s really a counter serve place, albeit one with some nice outdoor seating.

The best bets are the baked goods. My chicken salad sandwich came on a very authentic croissant. The accompanying Caesar salad and fruit salad were nothing special.

Several in our party had various pastas, and all through they were watery.

Decaf coffee was certainly not the quality you’d get in France.

The employees were friendly enough, but since it is counter serve, there isn’t really much service.

La Madeleine Country French Cafe
4175 Millenia Mall Blvd
Orlando, FL 32839
(321) 332-7001

Cafe Selmarie

**** (4 stars)

Cafe Selmarie is an interesting amalgam of pastry shop, coffee shop, and restaurant.

When you enter it looks like it’s just a pastry shop with a few small tables for enjoying your purchase or sipping a cup of coffee. But proceed to the rear, and there is a fair-sized restaurant.

The menu offers American, French, Italian, and (at least the night we visited) German food, plus other eclectic international cuisines.

We shared the Brussels sprout salad, which was good, a special leek and bacon flatbread that was phenomenal (gooey topping, crisp crust), and a special German sausage plate that was also tasty.

For dessert we selected a couple of pastries from the case out front. There’s a small wine list with many selections available by the glass.

Service was friendly and professional.

The place is kid friendly, and there were quite a few families dining the Friday night we went. An adjacent open area provides outside dining when the weather is nice, and place for the kids to run around.

If you’ve not been to Lincoln Square, it’s definitely a cute neighborhood to check out.

Cafe Selmarie
4729 N Lincoln Ave
Chicago, IL 60625
(773) 989-5595

Incredibly Delicious

**** (4 stars)

This funky old house offers seating scattered around several rooms, and delightful baked goods, quiches and sandwiches.

You order at a well-hidden counter toward the rear, and the wait can be quite long because of the odd way things are set up.

But the wait is worth it, as you’ll discover when they bring your delicious croissant, cake, quiche or sandwich to your table. Everything is fresh and wonderful, and the  service is friendly.

Incredibly Delicious
925 S 7th St
Springfield, IL 62703
(217) 953-4348

Dollop Coffee & Hoosier Mama Pie Company

*** (3 stars)

Uniting two local chains, this is a place to get coffee and pie. Ironically, the best offerings aren’t either of those, they’re the sandwiches.

The large open space is bright and friendly, a good place to relax or get some work done, and there is a fair sized patio out front. Service is friendly, although it’s odd how long it takes to do something as simple as serve a slice of pie, even when you’re the only customer.

The pies are good, but they won’t change your life, and the coffee is just adequate.

But the sandwiches are delicious. I had the Ploughman, a generous serving of ham and cheddar cheese with apple slices, chutney, mustard, mayo and lettuce on a fresh baguette. The combination worked great together. If I return it will be to try the other sandwiches, especially the BLT.

Dollop Coffee & Hoosier Mama Pie Company
749 Chicago Ave
Evanston, IL 60202
(847) 868-8863

Mars’ Cheese Castle

**** (4 stars)

We passed this place on a drive to Milwaukee, and although we didn’t stop, I felt compelled to return.

It was everything I expected, and more. Actually I was expecting nothing but a tacky tourist trap. But you can’t really call it a trap, since hundreds of fans return here, again and again. Why? Because of the sheer volume of “stuff” they have.

Yes, there are T-shirts and souvenirs. But really the place is about cheese, beer, gourmet foods and wine, not necessarily in that order. They also have  a ton of hot sauces.

The beer selection alone is vast. And there were many gourmet honeys, syrups, seasonings and biscuits I’d never seen before. Unfortunately the prices are pretty much at the level you’d expect, so I didn’t actually buy anything, but plenty of people were loading up.

The cheeses I tried were actually fairly bland and forgettable, but then I’m more of a European cheese person.

Mars’ Cheese Castle
2800 W Frontage Rd
Kenosha, WI 53144
(800) 655-6147

Great Harvest Bread

** (2 stars)

The bread here is okay, but a lot of the other baked goods always seem like they needed a few more minutes to brown up, and a little bit more texture or crunch to make them interesting. But the real downside are the people behind the counter. I hate to criticize, but I’ve been here three times, and felt unwelcome on each visit, like my presence was inconveniencing them. I’ve spoken with others who agree, so it’s not just me. As a result, I prefer to shop down the street.

Great Harvest Bread
2126 Central St
Evanston, IL 60201
(847) 866-8609

Stan’s Doughnuts

***** (5 stars)

I can attest to the fact that Stan’s has been making the best donuts on the planet for forty years. My favorite is the glazed buttermilk bar, but anything with buttermilk or maple in the title is a winner. I don’t really understand why anyone would eat a donut from anywhere else. I’ve even ordered them shipped to Florida!

Stan’s Doughnuts
10948 Weyburn Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90024
(310) 208-8660

Mortensen’s Danish Bakery

**** (4 stars)

In our taste off of four different Solvang bakeries, I found that Mortensens has the butteriest tasting cookies. I particularly liked the plain round ones with the curved tops. They have a long, buttery finish that is slightly salty and not as sweet as some.

Mortensen’s Danish Bakery
1588 Mission Dr
Solvang, CA 93463
(805) 688-8373