Celebrating Success & Good Danish

Big anniversaries in this industry can be hard to come by. When a beloved local institution like Pain du Monde (PdM) reaches a milestone as incredible as a thirtieth year of business, proper celebrations are in order. 

“Green Eggs & Ham” (A delectable riff on an eggs benny with pesto and Italian ham atop a baguette.)

“Green Eggs & Ham” (A delectable riff on an eggs benny with pesto and Italian ham atop a baguette.)

I think the word “chain” has become a dirty word, and we are entirely to blame. Well, by we, I mean food people, not the collective human species. Although, since you are reading this, my assumption is you are sharing the blame by proxy. The fact is, foodies (a word I’m still not sold on, but that’s for another time) fell in love with the tiny, chef-driven kitchens that litter our landscape. Mom-and-Pop places that only can seat 25 or crank out more foie concoctions than a Bocuse tasting menu. Now, I’m all for these types of spots, but what is wrong with success? Providing your beautiful products to more people, and creating a good quality of life for yourself and your employees? Personally speaking, I think when businesses expand their name to more than one building, we have a tendency to shift them into a new folder in our brains, and that’s just plain wrong. These businesses should be celebrated for their continued efforts, growth, and commitment to consistently producing great products. When the business is a bakery, or a casual breakfast and lunch dining spot, and have done great work for thirty years, we should celebrate them even more.

PdM has been operating for three decades, staying true to its roots laid down by founder Scott McVean all those years ago. A Texas transplant who fell in love with cooking and baking, PdM was his creation. Add a great many years of farming and ranching in Montana which instilled a respect for ingredients and quality, and you have the PdM of today. Unlike some restauranteurs, McVean stays involved. You may not even realize he is sitting next to you when you eat. I should know because I didn’t know he was right next to me until after my meal when I visited the flagship venue at Fashion Island. Making my way past the sea of weathered business suits, free from their cubicles for lunch, and the scattered islands of valet parking stands, I entered the wonderfully charming PdM. Breakfast is served all day here, which, is wonderful news as I’m partial to just about anything brunch related. The lunch items, select specialties, pastries, and more all shine through. The cheese danish alone is one of the best I’ve had in a while, to the extent that I inhaled it in the parking garage next to the very judgmental gaze of a woman applying eye shadow in her BMW. That is what McVean brings to the table though, as he is a student of quality and elevating his customer’s food. Fashion Island, for me anyway, is not a place that feels like home, but, sitting in PdM, I’m comfortable. The air is relaxed, and you can put the day into perspective as you debate the proper moment to pierce the yolk atop your benny.

This is a fickle industry, with business hard to come by, and consistent quality even harder. PdM succeeds at this with all four locations, and as a brand, has been doing so for 30 years. So stop in, sit down, say hi to McVean if he is there, and exhale. Celebrate how lucky we are to live in a place where something like this has been and will continue to be, your neighborhood café, for many more years to come.