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),
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. Parma
A couple weeks ago, with a few hours to kill in
, 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 , however, virtually every table was full. Arles
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
--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 Arles 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! Provence
10, rue de la Liberté (Just off the Place du Forum)