Keith Van SickleRestaurant RecommendationsTaste

Bar-Tabac des Alpilles for Great Dining in St Remy

This restaurant, a bar-tabac (café, bar, restaurant and more),

is the beating heart of St-Rémy-de-Provence.

St-Rémy-de-Provence is famous for its Roman ruins, a Wednesday morning market, and former residents like Vincent van Gogh and Nostradamus. A stop in St-Rémy should be on every tourist’s itinerary in Provence.

My wife and I fell in love with the town on our first visit 30 years ago, and now we live here for part of the year. We appreciate the many excellent cafés and restaurants, but we go to more than any other place to Bar-Tabac des Alpilles. It’s a comfortable spot at any time of the day.

Breakfast in St Remy

Before hitting the market, we’ll stop by for an early coffee and croissant. Or to enjoy a glass of wine on the terrace on a warm Provençal afternoon. And there’s nothing like their delicious leg of lamb, roasted on the bone and carved right in the dining room.

Lamb at Bar-Tabac des Alpilles

Always Comfortable

What we especially like is the feel of the place. It’s comfortable but not fancy and is beloved by locals and tourists alike. While you are sipping your wine, you might hear Americans on one side discussing their plan to visit Avignon and, on the other side, listen to workers unwinding after a long day. Patrick, the owner, calls his place “A mix of modern tourism and local identity.” It’s family-friendly, and I often see kids there with their parents, having a Coke or a sirop.

Bar-Tabac des Alpilles

The tabac is integral to the town’s ambiance, as locals come in all day to buy a pack of cigarettes and chat with Patrick. It makes the place feel normal and natural, not one that primarily serves a foreign clientele. But at the same time, it is easy for tourists to visit, as the staff speak multiple languages, especially English. As Patrick says, “we want to make everyone feel welcome.”

A Traditional Menu

The menu is traditional, and the specialty is the leg of lamb; it was a surprise hit that Patrick stumbled on one winter’s night ten years ago. When he brought it out for the first time to carve in front of a customer, everyone in the restaurant got a whiff and switched their orders to lamb! It has been a top seller ever since and has become part of the place’s identity.

Outside at Bar-Tabac des Alpilles

Back in the day

Patrick, originally from Brittany, bought the bar-tabac 15 years ago after a career in France and Switzerland. He has slowly made improvements, like building a terrace and replacing the rickety plastic chairs, and has worked hard to maintain its local nature. The place has been part of the town’s fabric since it opened in the 1950s, and Patrick takes his responsibility seriously to keep it that way. In addition, he loves to sponsor events that unite people, like his annual pétanque tournament and the regular live music performances. As he says, “I’m always open for a party!”

Whether it’s for a cup of coffee, a glass of wine, or a memorable meal, be sure to stop by the Bar-Tabac des Alpilles whenever you are in St-Rémy.

Book Your Table

Bar-Tabac des Alpilles
21 Bd Victor Hugo,
13210 Saint-Rémy-de-Provence
Open daily
Telephone: +33 (0)4 90 92 02 17
Pets are welcome too

Image credits

Photo from outside: Keith Van Sickle
Breakfast: Keith Van Sickle
Leg of Lamb: Alpilles en Provence tourist office
Family: Keith Van Sickle
Plastic tables: Bar-Tabac des Alpilles

The largest town in the Alpilles, St Rémy de Provence, has tempting boutiques, excellent restaurants, a dynamic Wednesday morning market, and even a movie theatre. Located at the base of the mountain range, St Rémy was the birthplace of Nostradamus (1503), and many of Vincent van Gogh’s canvases feature the surrounding countryside. In other words, St Rémy’s reputation and pedestrian-friendly centre are familiar to visitors long before arriving in Provence.

But how do you get a table at a romantic restaurant? Where is the best place to walk on a hot day? With so many market vendors, where do you start? Keith Van Sickle has the answers to some of those questions and many more in his latest publication, An Insider’s Guide to St-Rémy-de-Provence. So, if you plan to be in the Alpilles this year, buy a copy of this handy 146-page reference guide filled with countless local tips.

An Insider's Guide to St-Rémy-de-Provence Book


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Keith Van Sickle

Keith and Val Van Sickle made their first trip to Provence decades ago, and it was love at first sight. After that, they came back every year until 2008, when they began a part-time life there, splitting their time between Provence and California.

Over the years, they’ve travelled all over Provence, seeing sights both well-known and obscure. Their French friends have introduced them to favourite restaurants and wineries and picnic spots and taught them funny local expressions (not all for polite company).

Keith now shares this local knowledge in his new book, An Insider’s Guide to Provence. Packed with the Van Sickles’ favourite things to see and do, it’s a must-have for anyone travelling to this glorious corner of France.

Keith previously published two books about the couple's experiences in Provence. One Sip at a Time: Learning to Live in Provence, and Are We French Yet?, both are available from Amazon.

You can see all of Keith’s blog posts at Life in Provence.

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