This Late-Night Delight Would Shock Any Latino, but French Tacos Are the Rave of Europe
You’re hungry in France and want something tasty, filling, and fast — like two or three tacos al pastor.
Looking around, you spot a restaurant that advertises French Tacos. What? Tacos Franceses?
You enter and order a French Tacos (it’s only one, no matter the plural) and realize the latter has as much to do with tacos as fish fingers do with digits.
Who could have imagined that a weird transformation of a beloved Latino staple would be a late-night delight in the nation known for its haute cuisine?
What is this signature French fast food born in one of the country’s most gastronomical cities — supposedly Lyon, beloved by French chef Paul Bocuse — or is Grenoble the “cuna” of this taco iteration?
Both are in France’s Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region, at the junction of the Rhône and Saône rivers. So many foods come from the area — poultry, cheeses, wine, fish — that it is a chef’s banquet.
So, how do you prepare French Tacos?
First, douse a flour tortilla with seasonings and sauces (like algérienne or texane), then pack it with meat (turkey, chicken, or beef) and stuff it with French fries — although you can order them on the side.
Then, smother it in a cheese sauce and fold it into an envelope-like package with all the ingredients inside into an envelope-like package. Finish it off by toasting it on a grill.
And, voilà, you have a French Tacos. However, it resembles a burrito, quesadilla sandwich, or stuffed panini.
No Latino would ever call this a taco. Jamás.
“It’s famous in France because it’s not expensive, it’s delicious, and (the vending shops) are always open,” said Natasha Marquez, a Venezuelan cosmetics consultant who lives in Lyon.
“Usually, French people run to get a Tacos after a night out,” she said. “It’s the nasty food that’s good for your heart!”
So where did French Tacos originate?
Everything points to the birthplace being the “Snacks” region of Rhône-Alpes (either in Lyon or Grenoble) at the start of the 2000s.
“Snacks” are like small bodega restaurants that sell take-out and can fit a limited amount of sit-down patrons.
The source of the French Tacos was probably people of North African descent that owned Snacks and lived in the suburbs of Lyon.
These establishments sell finger foods like kebabs, hamburgers, sleeves of pizza, and French tacos.
Speaking to “The New Yorker Magazine,” Loïc Bienassis of the European Institute for the History and Cultures of Food explained that “French tacos is a mutant product, France’s own junk food.”
The fast food became so popular with the younger crowd that a plethora of chain restaurants selling the meaty and cheesy pocket delicacy sprouted up with names like New School Tacos, Chamas Tacos, Le Tacos de Lyon, Takos King, and Tacos Avenue.
It became such a must among the cool adolescent crowd that it even cropped up in a song by the rap group PNL (“J’vendais l’coco, j’graillais l’tacos” (I sold coke; I wolfed down the Tacos.)
So next time you are in France, order a French Tacos. You, too, can enjoy this mutation of Mexican food for less than 10 euros. Bon Appetit.
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