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When I first arrived at L'Avant Comptoir, a tiny restaurant in the bustling neighborhood of Odeon, Paris, I was confused. I had come for charcuterie and maybe a few glasses of wine, but all I could see was a crepe stand and some bottled drinks for sale.
Determined, I stepped inside to take a closer look and noticed a hanging tarp door with a painting of a pig. Pushing through the plastic, I was pleasantly surprised to find a lively restaurant on the other side.
Though L'Avant Comptoir has standing room only, the place was packed, with rows of people leaning against the wall and the bar. Squishing between two separate couples, I strategically placed myself closest to the communal basket of warm, house-baked country bread. A few slices later, one of the servers noticed my eager face, greeting me with a "bonjour" and a wine glass.
"Red or white?" he inquired, sensing my unease as I looked at the collection of opened wines.
A few more questions followed and seconds later, I was sipping on a glass of something wonderful: a wine I hadn't known existed but was somehow exactly what I was looking for.
L'Avant Comptoir has no written menus, which came as no surprise; the restaurant is the farthest thing from a conventional Parisian cafe. To order, I had to cock my head backward and look at pictures of offered dishes that were hanging from the ceiling. I settled on a plate of sliced meats, jambon (pork) croquettes, blood sausage with baked apples and a bowl of mushrooms topped with a runny egg. Confused, the server looked to my left and right, presumably to find my companion.
"It's just me," I told him with a shrug and smile, unashamed of my selections. He laughed and smiled back, offering me another basket of warm bread.