Mexican Food in France: does it exist?

I am currently two weeks into teaching HISP 470: preservation abroad in Paris. My students have been writing wonderful posts about their experiences, focusing on topics like the rehab of Notre Dame, the variety of churches in the city, dealing with trash and recycling, etc. This post is nothing so serious, though it does discuss an important cultural issue: Mexican food.

I grew up in Paris, and I’ve been leading a course abroad here for a decade. In that entire time, I have warned students prior to their departure, to fill up on burritos and tacos, because there are none to be found in France. The dearth of Mexican gastronomic choices makes sense: Paris is very far from Mexico, and the two countries have no particular association.

Now, there has been one “Tex Mex Café” chain in France for decades, but (1) I’ve never seen anyone actually eat there, only drink and (2) it’s called “Indiana”, which tells you how much French people know about American geography and culture. I’ve been to Indiana. A tex-mex Mecca it is not.

Logo of Indiana Tex mex cafe
I would call this racist but I don’t think it is. Just woefully misinformed about anything related to Mexico, Native Americans, US geography, etc.

So you can imagine my surprise, after warning students repeatedly to get their fill of tacos prior to departure, to find a bunch of “Mexican” restaurants dotted around Paris. Was I wrong? Are tacos a thing one can eat in Paris now?

After walking by a bunch of purported Mexican places, we finally let curiosity get the better of us and stopped at “O’Tacos”.

First thing you should know: the “O’” is not some weird reference to Ireland. I believe it’s just a bastardization of “aux” which means “at”. So in other words it’s like a cute spelling of “at tacos”.

Another Mexican restaurant

Upon entering the restaurant, one gets to choose:

• Size of “taco” from M to XXL

• Meat. Choices are chicken, beef, but also chicken nuggets, merguez sausage, and chicken tenders, which is somehow different than chicken nuggets.

• Sauce. Options include mayo, ketchup, “hamburger”, harissa, samouraï, chili Thai, among others.

• Cheese and extras. Options include chèvre, pastrami, and laughing cow.

Once you’ve made your selection, your “o’taco” is made by mixing those ingredients with cheese sauce and French fries inside a wheat tortilla-like thing, then grilled.

Does any of this sound remotely like a taco to you? It shouldn’t. I don’t think a single ingredient is remotely Mexicanish or even Taco Bell-ish. At best, this is a grilled-burrito-Frankenstein-brick-of-ingredients. The result most strongly reminds me of the Rutgers University grease trucks, except not very tasty.

Cartland had a curry chicken special. Shannon noted: “Yours looks like a dirty diaper”

Cartland responded: “It tastes like regret.”

Cartland looking sadly at his food
Note the cheese covering an entire side of the o’taco. It’s really not a good look.

Daria had a chicken with cheese and hamburger sauce. She emphasized the general sogginess of the food and made this face.

Daria sticking out her tongue

Isla and Olenna both liked theirs. That said, Olenna had the kids’ meal which consisted of chicken nuggets, fries, juice, and a Kinder egg. Take that, McDonald’s happy meal! Isla had a plain chicken nugget o’taco with cheese and joyfully exclaimed “it’s like McDonald’s in a burrito!”

« This is Isla’s perfect meal »

We ended this meal experiment by trying to name this restaurant chain for an American audience. ‘Cause really, while there is nothing remotely Mexican or taco-like about this chain, it would work like gangbusters in the US. Imagine exiting a bar at 2 am and seeing one of these things? It’d be like staring into heaven. A mistake, of course, but still.

Names suggested:

  • Do you like McDonalds in a wrap?
  • R U drunk
  • No taco
  • Regret’s

My fave is the last one. Do you have a name suggestion? Add it below.

As for me: I have braved O’Tacos. I will not return. And, gratifyingly, my statement about Mexican food not existing in France stands.