So many delicious options hit you as soon as you walk into Maison Mathis that it's hard to know where to go first – the truffle case, baked goods or straight to the waffle counter? Behind the four large windows facing Elm Street in New Haven is a cross between a stylish deli and a Belgian bistro, part of a chain that includes the Atlanta airport and Dubai. Maison Mathis' website refers to its restaurants as an "an ambassador of food culture from the heart of Europe."
The vibe: Floor to ceiling windows make up the front of Maison Mathis. White cabinet-style counters with white stone countertops give the space a clean, almost IKEA like feel colored by such details as intricately patterned blue tile floors. Seating ranges from large, family-style tables with high stools to traditional tables on a banquette, a cozy children's area tucked away behind the waffle station and many tables along the windows. It was relaxed, a perfect place for a Yale student to study.
The food: The menu is handwritten on paper each day and taped to the tiled wall near the counter where customers order, and the specials and other additions to the menu are written on chalkboards. A baked-goods area includes a case of pre-made sandwiches for a quick getaway, but there's also a counter for ordering from the menu. I ordered a Belgian hot chocolate, which I picked up at the counter, and was given a number after ordering and paying for my omelet and pumpkin-spiced waffle.
The hot chocolate was frothy, rich and not too sweet. My omelet special included turkey bacon, cheddar cheese, onions, and peppers and was a well-balanced: The cheese played a complementary rather than overpowering role, and a side of diced potatoes were well seasoned with paprika, onion and green pepper. The pumpkin spice waffle, not meant to be a meal, but rather a dessert, was light and crunchy and drizzled with a thin pumpkin caramel and powdered sugar.
The bill: Just $24 bought a filling European breakfast. The omelet with potatoes and greens was $9, the waffle was $8, the small Belgian hot chocolate ($4) and a small tea ($2.50). Breakfast sandwiches are under $4; omelets and sandwiches under $10. The restaurant serves breakfast, lunch and dinner, as well as wine and beer.
MAISON MATHIS is at 304 Elm St., New Haven. Hours are Monday through Saturday, 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Sunday 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Information: 203-752-9779, www.maison-mathis.com.