Friday, April 23, 2010

A French Cafe in the Midwest

My older sister visited Paris a few years ago and she fell in love with the city, the food and the courteous people. For months she couldn't stop talking about her trip. So you can imagine her surprise when a french cafe opened its doors right here in her hometown , Cedar Rapids, Iowa. I remember her phone call a few months ago when she told me , "When you arrive from Croatia we have to visit this place!" Since today was a rainy morning it was the perfect opportunity to be indoors and spend a nice afternoon with my sister and her boys at a french cafe.

We arrived in the middle of their lunch hour, 11am to 2pm. There was a long line in front of us, luckily there were children's books strategically placed on the shelves to keep our kids occupied. As I looked around the cafe I was worried we wouldn't have a please to sit since we arrived during a busy time. We couldn't save a table because there was a sign that specifically said, "no table saving, please sit only after you have placed your order."

When I reached the counter the lady told me to hold on as she left the counter to finish the previous order. I replied, "no problem take your time." I knew it was busy and probably a stressful time as I reassured my sister after she whispered, "she doesn't seem very courteous." The cashier returned to the register and said, "Can I help you?" I said, "Yes I would like two coffees, one apple tart, one..... then she interrupted me to ask if I was having lunch. Cheerfully I replied, "oh no, we are here to enjoy your pastries and coffee." There was silence from her part so I continued with my order I repeated, "so that was two coffees, one apple tart, one napoleon, and three madeleine cookies." She gave us our total and we paid then another lady approached the cashier, I think it was the owner Isabelle and she told me, "since you are not having lunch the only table I have available for you is by the window, I need the tables for the customers who are having lunch." I said, "sure we will take it."

The table she was offering us was for two and there were FIVE of us. I continued in my restrained voice, "we can sit the kids in high chairs." She said, "I only have one!" I mumbled , "that's ok." I was furious but I didn't want to show my anger and frustration in front of the kids. Beli then started crying and the boys wanted to sit down, but we didn't have enough chairs. I thought, "Since when does it make a difference whether your lunch consists of a salad or a cup of coffee and a pastry?" Plus, didn't their website mentioned that if you had a party of 5 you could call and reserve a table? Maybe I should have called in advance for a table.

I don't think I will be returning to visit Croissant Du Jour as I'm not prepared to be segregated to the 'coffee section' because I choose not to order from their lunch menu. Who wants to drink their cup of coffee standing up? Although, I will add that the owner after seeing my sister standing with a 3 year old in her arms did bring one extra chair to our table. That was nice of her right?

What would you have done in my situation? Am I overreacting? This was not the customer service I was expecting after living abroad and returning to the States. I can understand this sort of behavior in Croatia but not the friendly Midwest I remember from my college days.


  1. Should this owner be French?? Haha I have lived my fair share of years in France (South and Paris)and that's how some of them are. Well I would have left. that easy. If she doesn't want to do business, tough for her. And I would have told her so as well. Such ashame though :( There are some French people around as well!!

  2. Babs, that's what I thought too, is she French? I could have left, now I wonder why didn't we? I should asked for my money back (as she made this statement after I had already paid) and left the premises.

  3. she really is french just thought you would like confirmation there is a write up about the restaurant from when it opened. The short dark haired woman is the owner...We usally have a really hard time finding a table there too because they are always busy

  4. That's awful! I would have left. I only put up with that sort of attitude when I'm in Europe.

  5. Its not very typical of American places, especially in the friendly midwest.

  6. LOL, this made me laugh. It truly is a French cafe, with just the right atmosphere... Try and get a table anywhere in Paris at lunchtime if you're not actually having lunch and they bite your head right off. If the owners and waiters of your little cafe were courteous, then it would be a fake!

  7. AnonymousMay 04, 2010

    Some people forget about something: common courtesy and customer service

  8. AnonymousMay 04, 2010

    This place sounds aweful, I will not be going there!

  9. AnonymousMay 04, 2010

    The owner must not need the business

  10. AnonymousMay 04, 2010

    What bad and distasteful experience.

  11. AnonymousMay 04, 2010

    Agreed, what a distasteful experience


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