The highlight of an otherwise dull trip up to Nanaimo a couple of weeks ago was the discovery of a wonderful new restaurant on Commercial Street called Mon Petit Choux. It was the basket of baguettes in the window that drew us in, and boy were we glad that it did.
This unpretentious but chic little cafe/bakery consists of a large triangular room with a red floor, blue banquettes and two walls full of windows, as well as additional seating closer to the front counter. The ceiling is high, but the space manages not to feel like an airport cafeteria thanks to Versaillesesque crown molding, stencilling, and lighting fixtures.
On the morning we visited Mon Petit Choux everyone in the family was in the need of a little comfort, and we found it in their short and sweet breakfast menu and cappuccinos. Sahsez (the picky eight-year-old) ordered the made-on-site granola, yogurt and fruit and Tobias ordered the bread pudding. I agonized over the decision between a Croque Madame, which I'd never tried, or scrambled eggs with rosti, croissant, and fruit, eventually choosing the Croque Madame. Everything was delicious, and we left having a much rosier view of Nanaimo than we would have had we been forced to eat at Smitty's, which was our unfortunate fate last year.
This past Sunday, we returned to Nanaimo and of course, we scheduled a visit to Mon Petit Choux. Then we discovered a few more things about our new favourite breakfast spot: it has been open for just five weeks, it is open from 8-4 every day except Sunday, and the server has a great memory, noticing that Sahsez and I had had haircuts since our last visit.
I couldn't bear to try something new, enamoured as I was with my Croque Madame which, I am now able to report, is just like a Croque Monsieur, but with an egg on top. The first time I ordered this, it was on baguette, the second time, on croissant. Both ways are good. The ham was black forest, the cheese was gruyere, and the egg was fried just enough to allow a nice little yolk-coating for the bread. Yum.
Sahsez branched out and tried the scrambled egg and rosti. I, of course, sampled from her plate. The eggs were nice and creamy, but the rosti was the real star here: not too salty, nice and crispy, with a real potato flavour that hashbrowns sometimes lack.
Tobias stuck with his bread pudding, which they now make with leftover croissants, meaning that you might luck out and get some hunks of chocolate in your pudding, from the previous day's pain au chocolat. It was served with fruit, cream, and a little pitcher of maple syrup.
Both times we visited Mon Petit Choux, I gazed out the window at the folks across the street, eating their breakfasts at Charlie's Restaurant and wondered "Why would someone ever go there when they could be here?" On the second visit, I noticed a sign that read "Full breakfast, only 2.95!" and had my answer.
While it's true that the prices at Mon Petit Choux are not bargain basement, I feel they are still a good value, given that the dishes are prepared with care, and the breads, pastries, and granola are all created onsite. The bread pudding was probably the best deal at 5.50. The Croque Madame was 7.95; the scrambled eggs were 8.50; the granola and yogurt was 6.50. Sahsez couldn't finish her breakfast and shared quite a bit with her brother, so really, the kids ate for 4.25 each. I guess if I were feeding more than two kids and they were big eaters, I may not be able to take them to Mon Petit Choux, but you know, I always feel that really tasty food fills you up more than bland, dull food, so provided M'hijo (my 19-month-old) doesn't start eating like a trucker, I think I'll keep taking the kids for good, delicious, but not behemoth-sized breakfasts.
Which brings me to the topic of kid-friendliness. Mon Petit Choux, by virtue of its friendly staff, open space, reasonable acoustics, and great food, is a great example of what I consider to be kid-friendly. That said, I didn't notice any highchairs (but I didn't ask, either, so perhaps they have them) and there wasn't a basket of kids toys, like they have at Ottavio. Also, no kid-specific breakfast. To me, these things aren't a big deal, but other parents may like to see them.
All in all, Mon Petit Choux is an excellent reason to get off the in-island highway and venture into downtown Nanaimo for a breakfast, a lunch, or for one of their amazing pastries and breads, including croissant, pain au chocolat, burnt-butter tarts, danishes, and of course, choux à la crème.
Mon Petit Choux
101-120 Commercial Street, Nanaimo, British Columbia
Breakfast: $5.50 - $8.50
Lunch: $7.50 - $9.00
Pastries: $2.00 - $5.00