Los Angeles reminds me of a patchwork quilt: a vast collection of different neighborhoods sewn together to make up one impressive and beautiful design. The contrasts between neighborhoods can be striking, each one wildly different from the next, their differences making the pattern of the quilt that much more beautiful. One of the most unique and constantly changing areas of our great city is the Downtown area. Once a bustling city center, later a dilapidated shadow of what it once was, it is now home to what some call a “renaissance” (and what others might call gentrification). No matter your opinion on the changes that have occurred in recent years, it is refreshing to see the city streets bustling once again like they did in its heyday. And we Brunchographers can certainly appreciate the fabulous foodie scene that has sprung up here - between Grand Central Market’s mouthwatering food stands and upscale brunches with jaw-dropping views at places like Perch, it’s a bit like a food-lover’s playground.
Somewhere between Downtown L.A.’s casual food stands and upscale reservation-only restaurants lies Pitchoun!, a charming French bakery and café. Coming across this sweet place in the midst of miles of concrete and stone is a warm and welcome surprise, its orange tables lined up on the sidewalk transport you to a place where life is a little bit slower and poets linger all morning over espresso and a croissant. I like to imagine that Pitchoun! is a little bit like a French version of Narnia; the locals wander in all business and seriousness, and come out cheerful and relaxed, bicycling away with a basketful of croissants and perhaps even a beret.
This wonderfully authentic French feel is undoubtedly a result of its authentically French owners, Frédéric and Fabienne Souliès. Their café is a direct reflection of their upbringings in food-centered families; their respect for food and craft is clear in Pitchoun’s artful and mouthwatering offerings. Each day at 5 am, the Pitchoun! staff begins preparation of their fresh baked breads and pastries using all natural, organic ingredients and fresh, sustainable produce - ensuring fresh goodies no matter what day of the week you pop by.
Inside, Pitchoun! is cozy and unfussy, its warm brick walls and rustic decor beckoning you to order a warm drink and stay awhile. Behind glass are stacks upon stacks of arrestingly beautiful pastries, cakes, and breads, and lovingly packaged cookies and other takeaway treats are lined up on shelves. Teams of bakers and servers buzz around the space, offering smiles and sweets to hungry customers (most of whom appear to be in a state of complete overwhelm, unsure of which indulgence to choose). The café space is equipped with plenty of tables, some cozied up alongside the fireplace, others tucked in a little garden nook outside. There’s enough room to find a seat even at Sunday brunch, though you may need to get creative to arrange a spot if you have a large group.
When it comes to sweets and treats, we’re weak (you know this already), so we started our brunch with their famously delicious Kouign-Amann. This cousin to a croissant was a perfect accompaniment to our coffee and tea while we waited for our entrees to come. It was light, flaky, buttery, and slightly sweet, and with a hint of toastiness at the bottom - I love it when a flaky pastry gets a little brown and toasted.
For our main dishes, I chose a simple classic: the Parisian Omelette. This dish was exactly what I needed - filling without being heavy, with a lovely balance between the rich Swiss cheese and light, fluffy eggs. And bonus points for the side of fresh greens (f you’re a repeat visitor to this blog, you’ll know we love to have some greens with our brunch), dressed with an absolutely perfect French-style vinaigrette.
Johnna opted for the Country Tartine - a slice of house-made country bread topped with ham, brie, cornichons, and unsalted butter. This was another simple, hearty dish that managed that balance between comfortably filling and richness.
Finally, because every good brunch ends with a little something sweet, we shared a gorgeous fig tart. Its crust was perfectly buttery and crumbly, and it was filled with a velvety-smooth cream. On top, perfect fresh figs and the cutest little chocolate coin stamped with the Pitchoun! logo. We’re a sucker for little details like this - and Pitchoun! has details in spades.
If you can manage, step out of that long line at Eggslut or walk away from that fancy brunch buffet at The Standard. Instead, take a respite from your claustrophobic city day and enjoy the comforts of France, whether for a long lunch or just a short stop for bread. Your blood pressure and your stomach will thank you.
545 S Olive Street • Los Angeles, CA 90013