Interesting how Walnut Street has changed in the last year. (Or should that be chained?)

Susanna Foo gives way to Chipotle, an Apple store arrives, and now another out-of-towner is setting up.

Le Pain Quotidien, an elegant but informal Brussels-rooted cafe now in 19 countries, is prepping its first Philly location at 1423-25 Walnut (215-751-0570).

Monday (1/17), the doors were open for a "soft opening" (e.g free giveaway) that will end when supplies are exhausted. Wednesday (1/19) will be the first day, capping a rapid four-month buildout.

And what a buildout.

Besides installing the requisite dessert and grab-and-go cases and coffee service toward the front, LPQ stripped sections of walls down to bare brick in the high-ceilinged space.

Millwork includes Pennsylvania white pine flooring and two ornate wooden doors, reclaimed from the Basque region, affixed to the back wall. (A manager told me with a wink that he's been telling wide-eyed staff, just for kicks, that Napoleon had died behind those doors.)

There are two wooden communal tables -- one tucked semiprivately behind an enormous bookcase that contains grocery items such as jams, oils, honey, tapanades, and coffees, and the other dominating the main dining room, which also features smaller, more private tables. Waiter service will be offered.

LPQ's day starts with breakfast (breads, croissants, oatmeal, eggs/omelets), segues into lunch with soups, salads, quiches, and tartines (open-faced sandwiches), and then heads into dinner with a half-dozen entrees, all priced under $17. See the menu here. Everything is organic where possible, says management. Much bread, especially the loaves, will be trucked up daily from D.C. initially.

Rare among similar operations, LPQ will serve wine and beer. Tiny selection, but still.

Hours will be 7 a.m. until 9 p.m. Mondays to Thursdays, 7 a.m. until 10 p.m. Fridays, 8 a.m. until 10 p.m. Saturdays, and 8 a.m. until 8 p.m. Sundays.

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