Alone at Le Grand Comptoir
Like I said, Le Grand Comptoir is a fortunate exception to those experiences. You can go there alone at almost any time of day (except the lunch hour: too busy) and find more than a handful of individual tables to choose from.
Lest you think the restaurant is some sort of local secret, it really isn't. Recently, I went there to have dinner at around 8:30 p.m. and found not one, not two, but three separate gentlemen enjoying their evening meal and newspaper in the front section of the restaurant – each in happy solitude. I had nothing left to do but to become the fourth. The first three were middle-aged (I am not yet), classic suit-and-tie types (again, not me), and either anglophone or francophone (I am neither). Nevertheless, for all our superficial, socio-lingua-demographic differences, within minutes we each had very similar things on our tables – appetizer, main dish, half-bottle of wine (mine being Beaujolais-Village 2005, $15.95), and a newspaper or magazine (my choice: Le Courier International). It was a strangely symmetrical picture!
Le Grand Comptoir is not a terribly expensive bistro (see below for a rundown of my typical dinner check). The food is prepared simply, without too many eccentric ingredients, yet it easily can turn out to be the most delicious thing you'll have eaten in a whole week - unless, of course, you eat at Le Grand Comptoir more than once a week. The staff, which is usually composed of the manager, a waiter and a busboy, are happy to serve you either in French or in English.
I usually go for the daily special, which comes with a soup and typically costs only $12.95. If le special du jour doesn't sound too appealing to you, try the bavette (if you don't mind onions) or even the liver dish; I find that both are reliably good.
Normally, the food comes in about 10-15 minutes, and you can be on your way in about 45 minutes. After all, the French word “Bistro" comes from the Russian word for “Quickly!" I tend to linger a little longer, though - enjoying both my wine and the geopolitical article(s) I am reading. To accompany the latter I often order an espresso (not a terribly good one, but quite reasonably priced at $2.50).
All in all, my typical dining-alone check is as follows:
- Special du jour: $12.95
- ½ bottle of wine: $15.95
- Espresso: $2.50
Le Grand Comptoir
1125 Phillips Sq,
Montreal, QC, CANADA