For our tenth anniversary, we went to Montreal. There we discovered a little restaurant, La Marche de La Villette, on Rue St. Paul in Old Port. It was crowded with tables, and we were uncertain about the chaotic atmosphere, but the waiter (Michel) sang delightful French songs to the patrons, and the food was delicious.

The entire experience was so wonderful that we returned several times to visit during out stay. The food was amazing every time. We were always welcomed by the staff, who recognized us with each subsequent visit and asked how we were enjoying our stay. But it was when we returned the next year that we fell in love with the place and began telling everyone about it. Not only was the food as delicious as ever (if you go, try the crepe with jambon et fromage) but they still remembered us and referred to us as their ‘friends from New York’ We returned every after that, sometimes bringing our kids. We truly missed our annual visits after moving to Utah.

[Update: We missed it so much we took an impromptu road trip across the country last July to go to Montreal and spent each lunch at La Marche).

What did this restaurant do right?

Certainly La Marche offered consistency that was often lacking from the restaurants along Jacques Cartier, who largely existed to serve the tourists. They provided a unique atmosphere. But what set them apart – and what has kept this restaurant in business over the years – is their genuine, personal treatment of their customers.

The staff at La Marche treats their patrons like old friends, welcoming them back no matter how long it has been. The owner, Lucovic, works tirelessly to provide an exceptional experience, making visitors feel like part of a family.

Everybody is talking about customer experience this year, but La Marche gets it right without thinking about it. It’s genuine.

[Update: We’ve now moved back to New York and we’re already planning trips to Montreal to see our friends at La Marche.]