Le Hamburger

Some people think Parisians are Parisian. Wrong. Parisians are New-Yorkers. As such, they love a good burger.

Burgers were once looked down upon in Paris: “On n’est pas des Americains, bordel”. Imperialism had its limits and the doors of a French restaurant were definitely one. Hamburgers was to food what Jerry Springer was to television or Paris Hilton to the woman. Something Parisians were not ready to cope with. Something America could keep to itself. But things have changed.

As Parisians started becoming New-Yorkers, what was uncool about America started no longer being despised but simply made fun of; while what was cool about America started no longer being ignored but instead being adopted.

A good burger is undoubtedly one of these cool things about America. Over the past decade, burgers started flourishing on the menu of many Paris bistrots and restaurants. A key criterion to place a Paris restaurant on the hipness scale is the number of dishes you could find at a New-York restaurant. Have a hamburger, a Caesar’s Salad and a BLT Sandwich on your menu and your restaurant will officially be hip.

Optimists would expect the French to make the burger even better. But optimists certainly do not hang out in Paris hip restaurants. Most burgers there are quite forgettable. The best part about a Paris hamburger is its price. It is virtually impossible to find a burger in Paris for less than 13 euros. Even gastronomic restaurants start offering a gastro-burger, usually with foie gras in it.

When ordering a burger, the Parisian needs to show how much of a New-Yorker he is, how comfortable he can be with the whole burger thing. So he shall rarely order “un hamburger”. Most likely, he will ask for “le burger” or, in the case of a cheeseburger for “le cheese”. The nickname “burgie” recently came up amongst younger Parisian men.

It is indeed absolute Paris fact that no Parisian woman has ever ordered a burger at a restaurant. Ever.

Lovers of timeless Paris can – after all – rest assured.

Useful tip: Burgers do not come with coleslaw in Paris – for good coleslaw, go to a traiteur.
Sound like a Parisian: « J’me ferais bien un ptit burgie… ».

37 replies
  1. Nic
    Nic says:

    “It is indeed absolute Paris fact that no Parisian woman has ever ordered a burger at a restaurant. Ever.”

    I think this is the first time I’ve read something in this blog I disagree with completely ! Go to a place like Coffee Link just off the Champs Elysées and you’ll see loads of Parisiennes eating burgers (and yes, I’m sure they are locals and not tourists !)

  2. D. Gator
    D. Gator says:

    “Most burgers there are quite forgettable.” Like every other food in hip restaurants, no?

    Nic… Parisiennes on the Champs Élysées? Impossible, there are only tourists on the Champs Élysées.

  3. Pam
    Pam says:

    Yep, the dead giveaway is that the Parisian will eat it with a knife and fork.

    Just like jogging- used to be made fun of, now a cool thing.

  4. Olivier Magny
    Olivier Magny says:

    Nic… Well, that’s a good score. As per this line, I’d tend to agree with D. Gator. For some reason, I see the mere fact of saying “je vais prendre un hamburger” as a mere physiological impossibility for the Parisienne. Social and physical hara-kiri all at once. But if you’re right, then I can only rejoice. I am all for anything that will make Parisiennes less boring and stuck up.
    John Agee… Isn’t that a bit of an US-expat-in-Paris legend? Do people really do that?
    Peter… :-) I actually love a good burger!!
    D. Gator… Oh yes… There are not many things I hate but hip restaurants is definitely one.
    Pam… Absolutely – jogging same exact pattern. Working out is starting to be the same way. Question is: will we one day see some grinding action on a Parisian dancefloor…

  5. vlr
    vlr says:

    It is indeed absolute Paris fact that no Parisian woman has ever ordered a burger at a restaurant. Ever.

    This would explain things then. I ate le burger at Joe Allen’s (I know, I know!) and the waiter asked twice if I was finished when I was only half way through the burger (granted, I was reading a magazine at the time and was not actually leaning over my plate, but still…). It was very non-Parisienne of me.*

    I hope this is html enabled!

  6. Samantha
    Samantha says:

    Hmm, I wonder if I can get away with trying to order a “burgie” the next time I’m in a Manhattan burger joint…

  7. Pam
    Pam says:

    I am not sure dirty dancing will ever catch on in Paris, but you never know…would love to see it if it happens!

    Maybe something you should start Olivier…

  8. Stefanie
    Stefanie says:

    Any recommendations of a good burger joint? The only one I know of is Indiana, but it’s not the same as the US and I really don’t like the rest of the food on their menu…

  9. Foodie Froggy
    Foodie Froggy says:

    Ah Olivier, là, je confirme que tu fais erreur. 100% parisienne je suis, 100% fan de hamburgers aussi !!

  10. Stéphan
    Stéphan says:

    well, love and hate are close feelings… what parisians hate are usually things they envy, or things they cannot face.
    Becoming New Yorkers means they are on a good way to really face what they are…
    The start of a psychotherapy ?

  11. Olivier Magny
    Olivier Magny says:

    Vlr… “Pff, j’en peux plus, c’est trop”. Full on Parisienne line!! I tried their burger and was really unenthusiastic about it.
    Samantha… Gotta live dangerously!!
    Hackamore… Hamburger à cheval plutôt? That’s like a “steak haché” with an egg on top. Nice – though I’m not sure why they call it hamburger. That being said, one of my best food memories this year was a great steak de cheval that I bought and had cooked right in les Halles de Narbonne.
    Pam… Well, I wish I could start dirty dancing but I think it’d just look like funny dancing.
    Stefanie… Honestly, I’ve been looking for a good burger in Paris but I have never found a place that truly rocked. Would love to hear what you guys think.
    FoodieFroggie… Ah, je bats ma coulpe. Le “ever” est peut être de trop. Mais un peu de grandiloquence n’a jamais fait de mal à personne! :-)
    Stéphan… Well, they like to think they are New Yorkers. But truly, most would not last 6 months in NY.

  12. peter newman-legros
    peter newman-legros says:

    Olivier – not a fan being a non-meat eater but it was more the word “burgie” that offended!

  13. craigkite
    craigkite says:

    Stefanie- I loved Indiana because they sort of missed the whole idea and went with a “Native American” theme instead of basketball and other Hoosier stuff. I had a respectable Beefeater on the rocks, there and the burgie DIDN’T suck. It was like CRApplebee’s with prettier people.
    Olivier, you and David Lebovitz must do a Parisian Burger Crawl on the newer entries into the market. His fabled essays on burgers and Paris make me feel a little better when I am grilling some dead cow to put on a bun….it is always better than the best in Paris.

  14. Laura
    Laura says:

    i’ll confirm the burgie joint around the corner from me – on ice cream island – was not loved by the kids… it seemed very much trying frenchitize the burger, and as such did a good job at it. the bun was of hash browns and the meat rare. If america did that, it might just result in a few fewer capitalists.

  15. Olivier Magny
    Olivier Magny says:

    Peter… Oh! I guess it’s affectionate.
    Craigkite… Yeah, I went with him to the last burger joint he reviewed for his blog. Conveniently located right by O Chateau’s cellar. Now Parisian burger crawl sounds a bit like La Grande Bouffe meets Jacques Tati – very odd!! One thing I’m bummed about, living in Paris: not being able to barbecue at home. This is probably one of the bets things about America: institutionalized home grilling!
    Laura… Are you trying to imply that l’Ile Saint-Louis is populated with socialists? Because I’m not buying that!

  16. Judy
    Judy says:

    A year and a half ago, my Parisian friend and her 23 year old (going on 16) son visited me in New York. They ordered burgers at a diner. The son ate it with his hands, my friend used a knife and fork! So maybe it is a generational as well as a gender thing.

  17. Eric
    Eric says:

    As a recent Expats ourselves, my friends and I frequently get burger cravings and we’ve done quite a lot of exploring. I can recommend two spots:

    On the pricier side : Le Floors, 100 rue Myrha, 18eme

    Cheaper (11 euros for burger, frites, et salade) : Le Relais Charbon, 38 rue des entrepreneurs, 15eme

    Et bien sur il y a toujours le PDG

    Don’t tell anyone!

  18. Elizabeth
    Elizabeth says:

    Entertaining article :) and during the season in which I miss BBQ and burgers the most! I mean burgies? (giggle) It’s true… real hamburgers do not exist here and were probably originally created to appease American tourists. My evidence? http://nymag.com/restaurants/cheapeats/2009/57878/ No comparison. The worst is that when you want to make a proper burger yourself, you’re handicapped by the fact that bouchers grind the leanest part of the beef, envisioning only steak haché. (If anyone knows of one who will grind me a brisket / sirloin combo and throw in some pork fat, let me know) And if it’s true that Parisian women would never eat a burger, well too bad for them. Statistically, they drink less and would also prefer to smoke.http://www.thedailybeast.com/blogs-and-stories/2010-06-20/french-women-smokers-say-better-dead-than-fat/ But there are so many other things to love about French food, why look for what’s not there. And well Parisians should not try to be New Yorkers, just as any foreigner will never be a real , true Parisien / enne

  19. Olivier Magny
    Olivier Magny says:

    Craigkite… Hmm, haven’t seen that one. Not a gigantic fan of Sideways but H&K seems like a funny one.
    Judy… Absolument. You are spot on.
    Eric… I’ve heard of Floors… yet to try it. Never been too impressed by PDG. There is such a market for fantastic burgers in Paris. Thx for the tips though.
    Elizabeth… So there is pork fat in US beef burgers?! Loving this…
    MesVitrinesNYC… Watch out: next thing you know, you’ll drink wine and be fun and engaging.

  20. Mmmmm... Burgers
    Mmmmm... Burgers says:

    I Love Burger
    20 Rue des Boulangers
    Paris, Ile-de-France 75005

    good american burger, fries, and a drink. 6 euro. learn it. live it. love it.

  21. jenny.claire
    jenny.claire says:

    so funny. We went into “Quick” on the Rue de Rivoli last year and it was full of teenage boys and their incredibly miserable girlfriends. Incidentally the boys were chowing down on their “burgies” whilst sullen girlfriends miserably sipped diet cokes…

    (I swear we only went in there to use the toilets!)

  22. Poulette
    Poulette says:

    I can categorically say, without a shadow of a doubt, that Parisian women eat burgers. Though they do also complain for about a week afterwards about their 10,000 calorie meal.

    Floors is good, a bit gourmet. But you can’t go past Coffee Parisien (Mabillon) – and inside you will find living proof of this new breed of French female burger eaters (FFBE)

  23. Accidental Parisian
    Accidental Parisian says:

    I’m partial to the burgers at Bugsy’s, 15 Rue Montalivet, in the 8th. Not cheap (well, nothing’s cheap in that neighborhood – it might be around 13 euro), but the burgers are big and juicy. Plus, they have Guinness.

  24. Francesca
    Francesca says:

    Stephanie, I am with you, I don’t like the food nor the drinks at Café Indiana, but the burgers are really good. Also Café Rendezvous across from Indiana at Denfert Rochereau has a good burger. I always order it saignant at both places.

  25. Francesca
    Francesca says:

    Just remembered another good burger. Schwartz’s Deli, 16 rue des Ecouffes, le Marais, métro St Paul / ligne 1

  26. Olivier Magny
    Olivier Magny says:

    Mmmm… Burgers… All this for 6 euros. I’m suspicious: effet Veblen.
    Jenny Claire… Gotta love 21st century French youth.
    Poulette… Je fais amende honorable. It is starting to be very obvious that I don’t frequent many Parisian girls.
    Elizabeth… I’m with you. Carpe Diem.
    Accidental Parisian… To-do list is getting long!! Thanks for the tip.
    Francesca… Schwartz’ Deli. Sounds very NY!!

  27. Athena
    Athena says:

    – Le “gastro-burger”, héhé, c’est toujours mieux que la “burger-gastro”–
    hahahahaha…. lol Colloquial Cook – that was very funny…

    I’ve never had a hamburger in Paris all the countless times I’ve been there! Am I missing something?

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