As excited as I was about moving to Paris; I started to get some food anxiety. I was leaving behind my beautiful kitchen, and even more worrying was that I was leaving behind Mexican food. Or so I thought. Life without a burrito is a sad, bleak existence. In Paris you’ll only find one or two other Mexican places that actually serve up real Mexican food as opposed to its Tex-Mex, fast food imitator.
As far as I’m concerned, El Nopal is the realest deal. When you go there, you can see it’s a true Mexican spot, everyone in the tiny hole in the wall is speaking rapid-fire Spanish, and there’s great music and decor to back it up. It’s take out only, but it’s right next to canal Saint-Martin, so you can always sit and relax nearby. The menu is small but super authentic, the best options being tacos or a burrito, which they call a burrone. Carne asada, chicharrones, chorizo, and picadillo are all fillings you can choose from, with additional variations appearing each day. Best of all is the home-made salsa macha.
I’ll admit the first time I had to do a little bartering. “No, I swear, I want it really spicy.” “French Spicy?” “No like seriously Mexican, Brooklyn, eyes-watering, face-burning spicy.” And that’s just what I got, so needless to say I’ve been back twice a week every week since I moved to Paris.
At the end of the day, a solid Mexican street vendor is never about the most gourmet food or incredible ambiance, it’s about a big, comfortable, cheesy, spicy burrito when it’s raining or your cold or just plain starving… and it was exactly that burrito that has made me feel more at home in a brand new country than anything else.
UPDATE: New Location in Pigalle, Now Open! You can sit and have a margarita, too…
Where: 3 Rue Eugène Varlin (along Quai de Valmy), Paris 10. Metro: 7 Chateau-Landon, 2 Colonel Fabien. Open 12-3, 7-10, continued service Saturday & Sunday, closed Monday. | How Much: $7.70 for 3 tacos, $8.90 for a burrone, about $3-4 for Mexican beer. Cash only.
Update: New Location: 5 Rue Duperré, Paris 9 (Place de Pigalle). Metro: 2 & 12, Pigalle.