the french tacos – with an S even in the singular – has been a real culinary phenomenon in France for a decade. Not quite a Mexican taco, more of a gyros rolled up like a burrito and squeezed like a panini, this sandwich is topped with meat, fries and Gruyere sauce. Portrait of this fast-food à la française which traces its way to the land of poutine.
Like many creations of the genre, the french tacos, or tacos, or even “mattress” – which has been renamed here French tacos – was undoubtedly born from an error, a test or a burst of creativity. In any case, its origin remains unclear. Several say that the story would have started at the turn of the 2000s. A man from Vaulx-en-Velin, in the suburbs of Lyon, behind his kebab counter, would have had the idea of pairing grilled meat with fries and a sauce made from cream and Gruyere. Others give part of the credit to Salah Dardouri, the instigator of the first chain of tacos and the dish as it is marketed today. After tasting this sandwich in Lyon, he wanted to spread the good news in his native region. Thus was born Le tacos de Lyon in Saint-Martin-d’Heres, a working-class district of Grenoble. From boui-boui to snack, tacos finally appeared in the suburbs of Paris under the Mister Tacos brand, then in its center. The success was not long in coming, and today, several companies share the clientele and put up restaurant fronts, O’Tacos in the front line. It’s a classic sandwich shop and snack for the road. Tacos are to Paris what bagel-cheese is to New York. It even shades the ham and butter.
An integral part of student youth and the culture of working-class neighborhoods, tacos have become a symbol of the French conquest on the fast food scene. The documentary Tacos Origins looks back with a touch of humor on the modest beginnings of this “new king of fast-food », Which he even calls a modern myth. Sign of the times: eating a French tacos is the subject of many videos on social networks, such as TikTok.
New in Quebec
It was this frenzy that prompted Nora Abbar and her partner to open Snatch, a French taco restaurant in Montreal. Arriving in Quebec in July 2020 to try a new life adventure, the Abbar family already knew that they would open a taco restaurant. She had just left the Paris region, where “it grew on every street corner”, for fertile land almost unoccupied by this famous product. “We decided to take the train on the way,” says Nora Abbar, happy with the response from Quebecers. The one who did the cooking school in France under the guidance of Michelin-starred chef Thierry Marx sees French tacos as a gourmet dish. She makes everything homemade, including the sauces that decorate the sandwich in addition to the one with Gruyère cheese which is the signature of the dish. The meats are halal, as in the majority of restaurants that serve it, and the cordon bleu chicken is freshly prepared by Nora every day. “We put on the authentic side, homemade, to make ourselves known,” she says.
But what is it that pleases so much about this hybrid of cultures? Easy to take away, it attracts young and old alike looking for something tasty, generous and affordable. At Snatch, sandwiches named after characters from the cult film travel all over the place. Shrimps, curry-honey sauce, red onions, guacamole in one, marinated chicken, Algerian sauce, merguez and grilled peppers in another; there is certainly something for everyone. Especially since it is personalized, which strikes a chord with many gourmets.
To fully understand the enthusiasm, the author of these lines set out to discover the french tacos. In Quebec, Abdel Hamid Berrezouk also seized the chance to introduce the sandwich by opening this summer one of the first restaurants dedicated to French tacos in the capital. Paris Tacos offers the classic formula: four choices of meat, cheese sauce, fries and choices of condiments, all in a tortilla folded into a square and placed under the panini press.
As recommended by the chef-owner, the marinated and pulled chicken is combined with an Algerian sauce made from mayonnaise and spices. The result looks like a stuffed pancake. It’s warm, heartwarming, decadent. From the first bite, we know we’re going to reoffend. The Paris Tacos, like the Snatch, also offers European products and drinks, reminding us that we are in the den of fast-food French. According to Nora Abbar, Quebeckers are initially skeptical, “but once they have tasted it, they understand! If poutine is on her menu, she also created Doug, a tacos topped with marinated chicken, barbecue sauce and cheese curds; sort of homage to Quebec. “We only have our guts to succeed [cette aventure] », Launches the entrepreneur, humbly. Fortunately for her, the French living in Montreal have already become infatuated with it and are feeding word of mouth, as was done ten years ago near Lyon.
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