Thursday, February 9, 2017

The Hunt for an Open Restaurant on a Monday Night in Rural France

Upon moving to rural France, you quickly become accustomed to the fact that you cannot count on things being open at all hours like in the US.  Most stores close by 7:30 PM each night and are closed all day on Sunday (or only open until 12:30 PM).  Same with the pharmacies, except there will be a sign indicating the rotating schedule for which pharmacy in the area has extended hours.

This also extends to restaurants.  While virtually every restaurant is open for weekday lunches, most of them are closed all day on Sunday.  Several restaurants will also close all day for one week day and, as I learned this week, very often that day is Monday.  Since Alexis has been helping me a lot, I offered to treat him to dinner (since I'm not really up to cooking).  This is sort of the American way, at least in my region - if somebody helps you move, assemble furniture, etc., you offer food and/or drink in return.  The last time he was over, he both assembled furniture AND provided the food, so it was certainly my turn to do something nice.  Of course, I offered to treat him to dinner on Monday . . . without a full realization of precisely what I had done.
Thus began the great search for an open restaurant.  As it turns out, the place that is reliably open for dinner is NOT open for dinner on Mondays (O'Napoli - picture above is a burger from there).  The other restaurant that I had in mind is only open for dinner Friday and Saturday (O City'ven - see picture below).  A quick search of the internet and a few phone calls established that virtually all restaurants in the area are closed for dinner on Mondays.  It also established that, during the winter, many of them are closed all day Sunday-Tuesday, many are open only for lunch during the week and many have random days they are closed.  One restaurant advertised a new take-out menu of 6 dishes "tout les jours" (all the days), but when I called, I was told that "all the days" apparently does not include Monday. 😒

This is not accounting for the fact that you either have to follow local places on Facebook, check their website (if they have one) or eat there weekly to learn when they will be closed for a week or two for their vacations, to completely revise the menu or to remodel.  In short, you become accustomed to the idea that you may want to make a reservation for lunch or dinner every time, just to be sure that the place will be open when you show up!
Finally, I checked one of my other favorite restaurants, Relais Pays de Civrasian.  I was in luck because their closing days are Wednesday night and all day Thursday!  I do think that I'm introducing Alexis to bad habits because the big social meal in France is normally lunch, but here I am dragging him out for dinners . . . and twice in one week at that!  You do realize why the restaurants aren't really open for dinner outside of the weekends though because they will be packed at lunch, but only two or three groups will come in for dinner - and both nights it was virtually all British people.

Once you're here for awhile, you also start to realize why they all have days they are closed and limited hours though - the people cooking and serving are usually the owners; several restaurants in the area are actually owned and operated by a married couple.  Due to some of France's laws, it can be cost-prohibitive or a regulatory nightmare to hire additional staff, so the owners have to limit the hours they are open, and have some days they are closed, simply to have a break!  Having said that, I think it is smart to be the only place in town open on a particular night . . . however, in my search for a restaurant open on Monday nights, I saw several Brits in my area with the same question, so it seems that the restaurant could have a lot more Monday night business if they got the word out that they are open!

Actually, you've heard it here folks - if you are looking for a restaurant in the Civray/Ruffec area that is open on Monday for dinner, Relais Pays de Civrasian is your place!  They have a menu of the day that is available for dinner, not just lunch, plus other fixed price menus. And the owners (and staff) have always been very nice to us, even with our awful French!

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