A couple of hours ago my friend Coralie was sitting having a coffee and a petite meringue at La Coupole in Montparnasse.  It's one of my favorite places in Paris, so she sent me a picture she took of it while she was there.

Opened in 1927, La Coupole has been restored more or less to its original splendor, when it was the largest brasserie in Paris and a hang-out between the world wars for artists, especially expatriate artists — everyone from Picasso to Hemingway.  Fans of the McNally brothers' brasseries in New York will recognize at places like La Coupole where they got the inspiration for their decor.

When I first went to La Coupole in the 1980s, the service could be brusque if your accent wasn't quite right, but once I had dinner there alone and all that changed.  French waiters have a tender regard for solitary diners, and treat them with an almost affectionate solicitude.  Dining alone can be socially awkward for some, and French waiters understand this, so they work hard to make the solitary diner feel as though he or she is the most important client in the room.  It is one of the many subtle graces that make French society so civilized, especially when food is involved.