Where to Eat Your Omelette at Vancouver’s Most Parisian of French Restaurants

Not all restaurant tables are created equal. Some shouldn’t even exist on account of their terrible positioning, while others are so superior in every way that they make the other tables in the dining room jealous. Scout keeps a running account of the very best ones here.

The exterior of Au Comptoir at 2278 West 4th Avenue | Photo: Au Comptoir

Parisian cafes are known and celebrated for their squished, side-by-side table arrangements. You can investigate the dishes delivered to the people next to you, listen to their arguments and once upon a time even bask in their cigarette smoke as you try to eat and have conversations of your own. Of course you can’t smoke inside in Paris anymore, but the rest of the picture remains unchanged, which is part of why Kitsilano’s charming Au Comptoir is so appealing. It’s just so…French. It helps that much of the service staff and the ownership are from France and conspicuously speak to one another in the dining room in their mother tongue, but the interior design here plays too, especially on brains yearning for a little escape. And while it’s easy to be transfixed by the good looking restaurant’s long zinc bar and its tempting pastry cabinet, I urge all look to the right upon entry at the long banquette with its small, round tables sandwiched next to one another, for it is here that you will be the most convincingly swept away.

Au Comptoir’s long, blue-backed banquette at right. | Photo: Scout Magazine

This banquette – just six tables long – is one of the more transportive arrangements in Vancouver, on par with the greasy bar at Kintaro or one of the booths at Gotham. If you love Paris or have read A Moveable Feast way too many times, it’s the coup de foudre — a well executed facsimile that infiltrates memory and sets you up with Sartre and Semillon. But let’s say you’re not down with smelling your neighbour’s omelette or listening to him/her give a monologue on about the relative values of au courant Instagram hashtags, or property, or shoes, or yoga, or babies, or whatever — it being Kits. What happens then?

A server sets Table #1 at Au Comptoir | Photo: Scout Magazine

Then you cross your fingers for Table #1. Isolated and in the window, the small, rectangular table for two takes you away from the madding crowd while still providing a clear view of it, not to mention the full sweep of West 4th through the glass (the restaurant’s Boulevard Saint-Germain substitute, such as it is). If your party is larger than 2, try for Table #19. It’s equally isolated and in the window on the opposite side of the front door.

If neither one is available, don’t lose your composure. There are some other interesting options worthy of consideration. The first four high-stools at the bar, seats #20-#24, are excellent. They wrap around the bar’s gentle curve and offer a straight sightline to Chef Daniel McGee’s open kitchen. You’ll also be higher up than everyone else in the room, so the little Napoleon in you might be tickled imperious.

The curve of the bar, seats #20 – #24 | Photo: Scout Magazine

If that doesn’t work out and you’re properly bundled and still not one for the crush of the crowded banquette, go for one of the four outside tables: #30 to #34. You’re not allowed to drink alcohol at these side-by-side patio seats (because this is Vancouver and we’re nothing if not fundamentally ridiculous), but you can breathe the smoke of people waiting for the bus as you tuck into your bavette steak frites while pretending the cigarettes are aromatic Gauloise (rather than Green Death). With return flights to Paris from Vancouver running in excess of $1,500 even in winter, a little imagination can go a long way…

Exterior of Au Comptoir, showing patio seats #30 – #34. | Photo: Au Comptoir

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