Chevy Chase is losing a decades-old eatery: Le Matin Bakery and Zuni Cafe will be closing at the end of the week.
Owners Abbas and Debbie Larian are retiring and have put the business up for sale.
Abbas Larian, who came to the U.S. via France from Iran decades ago, opened Le Matin bakery on Aug. 9, 1982, according to Debbie.
They are the second long-time Lexington lunch spot to say goodbye to patrons in August, following Hanna’s on Lime.
The owners announced the news on Facebook Wednesday, saying “We’ve been trying to think of the best way to say this, and it seems there is no best or easy way to do it. So, here it is. Yes the rumors are true. We are retiring at the end of August. Our last day of business for the bakery/cafe will be this Saturday August 31. The wine shop will still be open on a limited basis. The owner will be selling his private collection of fine wines.”
Abbas, who is a mechanical engineer by training, learned baking from a French chef who started out at Le Matin before moving out to California. Larian watched, bought a cookbook and taught himself the techniques.
The bakery, now at 890 East High Street, started at 889 High, across the street from its present location, she said. But in 1993, the Larians opened the cafe across the street, featuring Debbie’s simple but delicious soups, sandwiches and quiches for lunch.
“The cafe, that was sort of my contribution,” Debbie said. “I was helping him the bakery after we married in 1986 ... but the cafe was all my input. I was the cook. We tried to make the cafe really health-conscious. All of our soups have always been vegetarian and gluten-free.”
And handmade, often with vegetables that they grew themselves.
In 1995, they moved the bakery into the other half of the building. In 2000, Abbas opened wine shop in the original bakery spot but it consolidated into the bakery in 2010.
Through all the moves, the bakery developed a following in the Chevy Chase neighborhood and beyond for delicious pastries and French bread, gourmet cheeses and wines.
And a bit of reputation: Abbas earned the nickname the “bread Nazi” for his refusal to sell his bread just because someone wanted it. “We have people come in all the time and ask for 20 baguettes. And he’ll say, no, you can have five,” Debbie Larian said.
That’s to ration the limited supply so there was enough for everyone, he said.
Now customers are trying to stock up. Henry Le of Lexington wanted 50 baguettes to put in the freezer, but Abbas could only do so many at a time, so Tuesday he stopped by and picked up 30, with plans to come back later in the week for the rest. Asked what he planned to do with all those baguettes, Le, puzzled, said, “Eat?”
Other customers are making the most of Debbie’s fresh soups while they can.
Tim Phillips, an associate professor at the University of Kentucky’s agricultural college, was having the gazpacho on Tuesday. He’s in there four or five times a week. Sometimes twice a day, he said, for a little something for breakfast on the way in a late afternoon snack.
He said his mother asked him what he plans to do once the place closes.
“Lose weight, or starve ... I don’t know,” Phillips said. “I’m trying to talk her into doing a cookbook, so I won’t have to starve.”