Monday, November 7, 2011

One Restaurant I Love in Arles

Looking for a light dinner on a wet and chilly October night a few years ago, a friend and I popped into Cuisine de Comptoir in Arles because it looked casual, warm, inviting—and a little hip. And, unlike all the other spots nearby, it had customers.

A long room with wood floors, bare wood tabletops, leather banquettes, a simple chrome light dangling over every table and a small open kitchen/bar in back, this all-day café specializes in the crunchy open-faced sandwiches known as tartines. The 10 choices included something for every taste: grilled foie gras with onion confit, grilled chicken breast, magret de canard with cantal, brandade (mashed saltcod and potato), Parma ham, smoked salmon and one or two appealing vegetarian options. All the tartines were served on Poîlane bread--made at the famous Parisian bakery and delivered daily--and came with a choice of homemade soup or salad. All the desserts—including a moelleux de chocolat and a baba au rhum--were homemade.

A couple weeks ago, with a few hours to kill in Arles, I went back to the restaurant for an early lunch. This time, it was a gorgeous sunny day and I made sure to arrive early to get a table. I needn’t have worried: I found just one lone customer, eating and reading the paper. “Uh-oh,” I thought. “Bad sign.” When I left just after 1 p.m., however, virtually every table was full.

The menu still offers 10 different tartines, the prices are still low and the food is still fresh and satisfying.

I had the daily special: a warm, crunchy tartine of tiny crevettes atop avocado spread, sliced into easy-to-eat pieces and served with a bowl of greens and red cabbage. Remarkably, the tartines had only inched up in price one euro. You can get a sandwich, homemade soup or salad, a glass of wine or ½ liter of mineral water and coffee for just 10.50 or 12.50, depending on which sandwich you choose. It’s a really good deal on a nice simple meal. 

I was also delighted to also see that Alexandre Perucca was still behind the counter making sandwiches and Vincent Barjolin was still serving. At one point the two partners—born and raised in Arles--had planned to expand to other cities but they’ve since decided to just sit tight. Having the owners on site keeps the quality high and makes the atmosphere far more convivial.  Alex and Vincent have hit on a perfect formula and the packed restaurant proves it. Here in Provence restaurants tend to come and go quickly so it’s nice to find one just as you left it, still doing well after a number of years, rain or shine. Here’s to Alex and Vincent’s continued success!

10, rue de la Liberté (Just off the Place du Forum)


  1. Looks like I need to go to Arles for lunch, anyone want to meet up? New layout looks great.....

  2. what a happy ending for your venture... sounds like the perfect place to refuel after a morning at the markets...

    a bientôt!


  3. Oh sign me up for lunch this looks great.

  4. You're making me hungry and I'm nowhere near Arles. I don't know what to do!

  5. Love that 'International look' that could be anywhere-San Francisco, SoHo, WLA. And 'veggie tartines' on a menu are like a magic rune to me. A Zen ping sounds in the Cosmos when simple equals divine.

  6. I like the atmosphere offers , suite to my taste

  7. Um hellooo? They are my neighbors! Now I know where to go with you and it sounds like Angela is game too! And yes, truly they have stuck to their guns. When I first ate there in 2003 (I think), they both talked about how they wanted to build something lasting for the locals and those passing through. Very admirable in a town that was at the time known for 'take the money and run' type food...

  8. I will be back! And then I'll go there and have me a tartine. Hopefully soon!

  9. Ooooh that looks YUMMY... and that place is charming!