Open 11:30 a.m.-8:30 p.m., Mon.-Fri.; 11:30 a.m.-5 p.m., Sat. No reservations accepted. Only Bloomingdale's Charge Cards accepted. Phone 893-3500.

Recently we found ourselves at Bloomingdale's at lunchtime with - oh, dear - both children. We thought of unearthing the car and heading for the nearest McD's. Instead we screwed up our courage and headed for the third floor restaurant, Le Provence. As it turned out, we did just the right thing.

Le Provence is the kind of restaurant where my mother would have probably worn her white gloves. Done up in a French auberge vein, it reeks of leisure lunch ambiance. But we chose to be undaunted and marched in with our two little guys. We found to our delight that B'dales was ready for us - with booster seats, a children's menu, and quick service.

Le Provence offers mostly what I call "ladies luncheon" food - cream soups, crepes and quiches - although any man should be satisfied with the generous hamburgers. For children, there is a foot long hot dog served with potato frills, or a double decker peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Each is served with a coke or milk for $1.75.

Our waitress suggested our two boys split one of the hot dogs. It was more than enough for both of them.

After giving our orders, we went to the salad bar, one of the best around. Le Provence inserts a little more than the usual variety into what has become a pretty standard fixture on the American restaurant scene. On the day we lunched at Le Provence, a chicken and curried rice salad, a carrot and raisin salad flavored with cinnamon and nutmeg, and marinated beets were featured along with tomatoes, olives, onions and standard greenery.

Gold stars went to the croutons - big, crisp, and homemade. A few of those on your salad, and the fresh bread and butter seemed superfluous.

The salad bar is included in the price of each entree, or you can make a meal on it alone for $3.25.

Our entrees arrived promptly, just as we finished the salad. I chose my all time fattening-French favorite - the Croque Monsieur ($3.50). It's a Gallic version of a grilled ham and cheese, i.e. it's sauced. In this case the white sauce was well flavored with a hint of wine. The whole concoction was very tasty.

My companion chose the country style burger ($3.35), which was served with a garlic butter sauce (just the right amount of the garlic) and tucked along with lettuce and tomato in an envelope of pita bread. Pickles came with both orders.

Le Provence also offers some intriguing sounding sandwiches. The prices of entrees fall between $3.35 and $3.85.

For dessert the children chose pastries from the cart. Our 2-year-old snagged a kiddie pastry which was constructed to look like the head of a pale green but very amiable monster with a big pink smile. Inside the green icing was a lot of strawberry butter cream and sponge cake - more than a two-year-old could eat. The older boy chose amore civilized piece of mocha cake.

We skipped coffee, paid our bill of $13.21, not including tip, and resolved to come back another time - maybe without the children.