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May 28, 2001 10:53 PM

Laloux - Don't Bother If You're Not Canadian

  • j

I just returned from a weekend in Montreal. After having had a great experience with Laloux in 1996, I decided to return. The decor is still handsome, the food well-prepared and enjoyable if not spectacular, but the service is atrocious. We were seated in the back (I guess that is where they put all Americans). Our waitress did not crack a smile the entire evening and seemed to have a rolling mental blackout when it came time for the check. I finally asked for it after waiting for over half-an-hour. She then dillied dallied and visited two other tables (with French Canadien customers, of course) before finally returning with the check. Her disdain for Americans was apparent. Er - hello, that's discrimination. Everyone else in Montreal was pleasant and welcoming. She ought to realize she gets paid to serve all customers no matter their nationality. I will never return and will spread the word everywhere on the Internet.

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  1. s
    S. B. Cochran

    Thanks for the heads-up re: your experience. I'll be in Montreal soon and had anticipated a meal at La Laloux based on their food, but, based on your experience, I'll forego.

    I've run into this phenomenon before but not in Montreal proper. It has occurred in the hinterlands of eastern Quebec about 30% of the time. Some Quebecois seem to equate Francophone separatism with rudeness.

    10 Replies
    1. re: S. B. Cochran

      Interesting, anti-Americanism is not something we have experienced in Quebec province, though there does seem to be some friction between quebecois and anglophone Canadians. Mostly we have had friendly interactions with Quebecers who realize we are Americans. The language barrier can be tough sometimes, since few of the French speakers are bilingual (English is no longer taught in schools). I would venture to say that there might be more tension in a city like Montreal where the cultural clash is still very much alive .

      I would not write off a restaurant based on one person's experience - many things, which may not recur, can spark an incident, especially where there is not a common language or culture.

      1. re: jen kalb

        I made a trip to Quebec City and Montreal last spring. Everyone there was friendly, but as you say, in the small towns toward the US, it is impossible to get served. Better eat before you leave the city, or wait 'til you're back to a NE city.

        1. re: ironmom

          About the service at Laloux and the reactions of Quebecois in some occasions it would be very interesting to know the attitude of all these people. There is so many Americans that come here like conquerors and expect to be served with deference by those little frogs that it is not surprising that some of us get tired of that and sometimes become rudes.
          It is all a matter af respect, something very important when you are in another country.
          I do work in the tourism industry since many years and I can tell that in general American tourists are okay but unfortunatly there is an important minority that have no respect for our culture and because of that many people here are not interested to have any contacts with Americans. Even if I don't necessarely agree with this I have to admit that I understand it since I had to suffer myself in many occasions an attitude I would call racist and haughty.
          So I hope this will help you understand a little more the situation.
          Other than that montreal is a very fun place to be and most people are happy to meet visitors from everywhere!
          À bientôt!

          1. re: Paul

            I went and sat down in a restaurant on the way home from Montreal. I did not consider that a racist act. There was only one other table, which was served. We were never even approached. After 45 minutes we gave up and ended up eating hours later in Vermont.

            I guess someone was getting even with me, eh?

            1. re: Paul
              S. B. Cochran

              Yes, "it would be very interesting to know the attitude of all these people" and the point seems to be made based on the tenor of your message. I go to Montreal and its environs once or twice yearly and thoroughly enjoy the sights, sounds, people AND culture. I even attempt my rudimentary French when meeting-and-greeting in deference to the culture. But I have discovered that I cannot predict or anticipate when or where I'll run into one of the "many people here (who) are not interested to have any contacts with Americans." An Anglophone, whether American or Canadian, seems to trigger rudeness with some Francophone Quebecois. This occurs infrequently, but I have not figured out a way to predict when or with whom it will occur. I have found the cliche of the French (the real ones, in France) being rude to Americans NOT to be true. In France I have found the people to be kind, gracious and tolerant. And I have found that Canadians in Nova Scotia, Ontario and BC to be kind, gracious and tolerant. My personal experience has been that this phenomeon occurs in Quebec, albeit infrequently. My best guess is that this is an expression of some type of insecurity but I am not sure of that.

              And in response to an earlier message, this phenomenon seems to occur more often in outlying areas of Quebec than in Montreal itself probably because urbane Montrealers are exposed to other cultures and are not as provincial. Another probable factor is that Montrealers understand that tourism monies help fuel their economy and, with Quebec's overall declining economy directly due its separatist provincialism, they welcome others (and the dollars).

              1. re: S. B. Cochran
                S. B. Cochran

                P.S. Also in response to a previous posting, with the number of other quality restaurants in and around Montreal, I can assuredly avoid an establishment (in this case La Laloux) based on another's expressed experience and not feel as if I've missed a thing. True, the experience of the author of original message may have been a onetime fluke or otherwise, but I can and will heed a "heads up" when alerted. Life's too short.

                1. re: S. B. Cochran

                  We just completed a family trip to Quebec with meals at Area in Montreal, Laurie Raphael in Quebec and a stay at two country inns (Auberge Godefroy and Auberge du Lac St Pierre). I speak the most basic French (just stringing words together with no grammer) though I aways try rather than imperially expecting everyone to speak English.

                  Our reception by French speakers was uniformly gracious and I think our rudimentary efforts were generally appreciated (tho often folks switched to English to avoid further pain) -- as you get farther away from Montreal, and particularly out in the countryside, English fluency decreases.

                  In my experience, French Canadians (and French people during my trips to France) appreciate someone who makes the effort [however ineptly] to appreciate their language and culture and almost invariably respond with warmth and kindness. I can understand how Americal cultural imperialism can rub someone the wrong way (even without the particular historical language conlicts French Canada has seen over the years) and try not to come across that way.

                  IMO, the food at both Area and Laurie Raphael was extraordinary (I thought Area was fully equal to my other Montreal favorite Toque), but the ambiance at Laurie Raphael was impaired by Mr. Vizina's wife having a couple of extended (15 - 20 minute) very loud conversations with neighboring tables. I understand that she enjoys seeing her friends and regular customers, and that they enjoy the recognition, but I would have appreciated her carrying on her conversations in a less shrill and loud voice so that we could peacefully enjoy the sublime food. BTW, Mr. Vizina himself came out and visited with the couple at the immediately adjoining table for about 10 minutes, but he was so discrete that you would not have known he was there if you hadn't looked around.

                2. re: Paul

                  C'est absolument vrai.

              2. re: jen kalb

                Maybe not right off a restaurant but I am a former montrealer now living in the USA. I find it strange that quebecers like Americans but do not like Anglophones from Quebec. French quebecers are their own worst enemies. I find that most off the street french are very rude and do nothing to make people want to like them.

                1. re: jen kalb

                  not a comment pertaining directly to the mentioned experience-we've found the cultural tension that exists in montreal to be one the bases for its' dynanism-all great cities appear to have this as a basis-though most not so apparent as the linguistic/cultural polarity that exists in montreal-(think of new york,chicago, london,paris,los angeles, washington dc,etc)
                  and this cultural clash almost always results in an exciting city in which to eat-my suggestion-try for yourself-
                  one last thought-if you were in atlanta-not always considered an exciting place to eat by those who are unfamiliar with it-i would suggest a trip to the buford highway corridor, where the culture clashes scream at you for attention-and so does the native(from many lands) food -eg all sorts of mexican,chinese, not to mention malaysian, vietnamese, korean,peruvian, ecuadorian, etc...a more sporead out version of jackson heights in queens ny-
                  try for yourself....

              3. I am an American of French-Canadian descent and although married, I have kept my French surname. I also speak, read and write French (passably!). We visit Montreal several times per year. We have noticed on several occasions that if I book a restaurant in my name, speaking French, we are given a better table than if my husband makes the reservation in English. Also, when we were at the Atwater market last year, I asked a vendor the price of a flower bouquet in French. When my husband walked up and asked me "How much is it?" in English, the vendor answered again in English and tripled the price he had just given to me in French. These are little things, which certainly do not ruin a pleasurable trip, but they do happen. We're looking forward to returning next month!

                1. I'm surprised that no one else has pointed out the cultural difference that is at work here yet. In Latin culture, and especially in nicer French restaurants such as Laloux, you are entitled to spend all evening at your table enjoying the lingering conversation with your dinner mates. Normally, there will be no pressure to rush you out the door to free up the table. Thus, whenever you are ready to leave, it is expected that you should ask for the bill. No one would ever dare bring you the cheque unless you ask for it... that would be considered very crass and rude. Personally, I find it a very civilized custom.

                  I was awfully disappointed to hear people's reactions because Montreal's restaurants are one of its best features and I've never personally encountered this attitude. I wonder, though, how American waitresses would react serving a unilingual francophone in the States?

                  1. r
                    Robert Burgoyne

                    I ate at Laloux on Saturday, August 18, 2001. I'm an American male who speaks only passable French, but my client who speaks even less French made the reservation. Dinner was a very pleasant 3 hours, lasting from 8-11 PM.

                    Without any hesitation, it was one of the finest French meals I've ever eaten. The service was outstanding. The Quebecois goat cheese after dinner was to die for. The creme brulee was as good as what I ate in Paris.

                    My client, a Californian, was a little disappointed with the wine list but that happens frequently for Californians outside their homeland. However, he said the waiter's suggestions of the red wine that he did drink were fine.

                    I'll be back.